An original collection of work by the great Serbian poet of the twentieth century.
Vasko Popa is widely recognized as one of the great poets of the twentieth century, a riddling fabulist, whose work, taking its bearings from the songs and folklore of his native his Serbia and from surrealism, has a dark gnomic fatalistic humor and pathos that are like nothing else. Charles Simic, a master of contemporary American poetry, has been translating Popa’s work for more than a quarter century. This revised and greatly expanded edition of Simic’s Popa is a revelation.
Dark and fabulist, tender and unsparing, and sparkling with folklore and fractured modernity, Popa's poems offer allegories at once global and deeply Slavic. "You pace back and forth/ Along your private infinity," he writes, departing from the socialist realism that surrounded him. Simic, who has been translating Popa (1922 1991) for almost three decades, calls the poet's work "a mix of native and foreign influences and the product of own ingenuity." This selection organizes work from across Popa's lifetime into 11 sections, outlining an oeuvre at home among unreal objects, fantastic animals, bleak poverty, disturbing games, trembling mortality, and the insidious specter of larger, darker motivations driving nearly everything. "What's up now," he asks in "In the Moonlight:" "It's as if flesh snow like flesh/ Is beginning to stick to me." He demurs: "I don't know either/ It's as everything is starting again/ With an even more terrifying beginning// You know what/ Can you bark." While some of the later poems lack the inventiveness of his middle and early work, this offering nevertheless reveals an icon of the 20th century, torquing language and time back toward something fearful and animalistic.