The poems in Smugglers move through rapid historical shifts and meditations on personal experience, exploring the depths and limits of comprehension through the people and geography of the Balkans. Ultimately, Aleš Debeljak's urban imagination creates a mosaic—intimate and historical—of a vanished people and their country. Every poem in Smugglers is sixteen lines long—four quatrains, a common form for Debeljak. This structural regularity is reinforced by a commitment to visual balance, with each poem working as a kind of grid into which the poet pours memories and associative riffs.
At least you are blessed. Winter's here. In darkness, awake
since yesterday, I came to browse again through the titles of old
books, wobbly skyscrapers, writers of my youth and stiffened honey.
No opening hours on the door, a minor poet with no woman
sits behind files in the front. I know him from when
we all shouted in one loyal voice, collected works on sale
for a handful of cents, read the holy Kapital
like zealots. Well, okay: not exactly all. Some of us took
another road . . .
Aleš Debeljak's books have appeared in English, Japanese, German, Croatian, Serbian, Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Spanish, Slovak, Finnish, Lithuanian, and Italian translations. He teaches in the department of Cultural Studies at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia.
Brian Henry is the author of ten books of poetry and won the 2011 Best Translated Book Award. He teaches at University of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia.