Remembering Tomaž Šalamun

TIR Staff

We were saddened to learn of the recent passing of legendary Slovenian poet Tomaž Šalamun, who was both an Iowa Review contributor and a visiting writer at the University of Iowa's International Writing Program. Christopher Merrill, director of the IWP and one of Šalamun's translators, said in 2001, "Šalamun has exerted a great deal of influence on many younger poets, including me. He's a world-class poet. He's easily the best poet of the Balkans, and one of the best of them all." (Read Merrill's recent tribute to Šalamun on the Huffington Post.) For more on Tomaž Šalamun, please visit the Poetry Foundation.

Today we're proud to feature Šalamun's poems "Glad to Meet You, Mrs. Šašljeva" and "[daphne, lipica, stricken lands]" from our Fall 2012 issue:

Glad to Meet You, Mrs. Šašljeva

The brain, the cartridge falling from the gun onto the ice,
is today kitschy black brick. I see, Morse code, the
Museum of Modern Art, workers in boots holding
back a puddle so it gathers around the leg like stars of
the Milky Way around the heavens. The constituion
of logos is too soft, not humid enough, so I’ll babble
a bit today and tell you a true story. I definitely
know my eyes are the harbor seal and the pollen,
that I’ll build a tepee in Nova Scotia, exactly the same
my mom built us in the People’s Park in Ptuj, so
the guard had to call the City People Committee, the City
People Committee the mayor Dr. Mazlu, Dr. Mazlu
my grandfather Dr. Franjo Šalamun, and so we became
pale because of the horrid flashes of lightning, Dies
Irae, Fatherland. We ate the pheasant in total silence
and after the meal there were not the usual still hours
at the piano. My grandmother tried to save the situation
and told us we’ll have to give the chair for upholstery,
that we now live under People’s power and could please
Cilka jump upstairs to see if baberle had finished her soup.
We were also informed Dr. Korošec hurt his leg with
a shovel at the excavations, so Nini, Pupi, and
Muci have now their father with the bleeding leg, and
our subletter Miss Anica is, far out!, a professor
of Latin and Greek. And truly today you can
see her witchy epigraphics, edited jointly with her
husband Dr. Jaroslav Šašelj, in Iowa University Library
under the call number PS 3545.H117S48. What a
coincidence, right, Mrs. Šašljeva, your book looks at
mine across the shelf, totally something else
compared to Ptuj in the year 1946 when we had
to be squeezed because of that rented room.

[daphne, lipica, stricken lands]

daphne, lipica, stricken lands
stricken horses, stricken stamping
gelid humor, angels’ work, brides
I see a fox, we ride on horseback the sea of plains
we ride on a flint zone
karst people are here & teran
castle, rilke, impeccable dreams
boats, duino, robbers in black bandanas
schloss ab, lock it, lock it well
i ladri vengono come vento, sticking their breasts in the air
with their black half top hats below their eyes
a widow takes a new partner, we fall among slavs
hate tripkovich, cosulich, parvenues, electricity
italian! magna merda, lascia pan! leave us our jadranska banka
sv. jakob and the districts where people are schooled
ich habe zwei slawische mütter gehabt, climbing irons for kanin

Both poems translated from the Slovenian by Michael Thomas Taren and Tomaž Šalamun