Welcome to Croatian poetry - May 2004
Modern Croatian poetry has a rather long history covering almost the entire 20th century. From the very start of the century, marked by the symbolist poems of Silvije Strahimir Kranjčević (1865-1908), until recent days, the work of Croatian poets has encompassed all mainstreams, styles and schools which have appeared in contemporary Western literature and poetry.
Avantgarde poetry, developed by a number of Croatian poets, artists and writers between the World Wars – with as its most prominent exponent ‘poète maudit’ Janko Polić Kamov (1886-1910) – left a deep mark on poetry written since the 1950s. This tradition allowed poets to move away freely from the ideological constraints of social-realism, which was introduced after the Second World War by the communist government as the official style in arts and literature, as well as from any other kind of prescribed poetry.
In the second half of the 20th century, Croatian poets have shown a wide range of interests in their writing; from existential, neo-avantgarde and experimental approaches in poetry, to the recent and fashionable post-modern techniques linked with language and manners of expression in the visual medias. In general, poets of the older generation have tended more towards the various styles of existential self-understanding of the individual, of private worlds. This kind of poetry is often imbued with philosophical implications. The influence of modern French, Polish and Italian poetry cannot be overestimated. Many of such works have been translated into Croatian, and this particular poetic stream is still going strong, and is highly visible in contemporary Croatian poetry.
Poets from younger generations, on the other hand, are seeking to write in a style that is as close as possible to the rhythm and vocabulary of everyday speech. Their language is distinctly removed from the ‘poetical’ one, from artificial language and style, since they are attempting to carve out a different position in poetry. Theirs are the voices of witnesses witnessing themselves and their shared or unique, personal or social, reality.
The two poets presented here, Mario Suško (1941) and Tatjana Gromača (1971) represent two opposite poles of contemporary Croatian poetry. Suško’s poems are more hermetic, speaking of his personal experience in a way that delves deep into the human psyche and soul. Gromača is a bold new voice in national poetry, trying in her bittersweet poems to describe our new reality and to find her own place. Her vulnerability is revealed to be a common feature of the urban, nervous sensibility of a girl from the neighborhood, a girl you could probably meet in the market, at the bus station, in a city park, or at the cinema.