Andriana Škunca was born in Bjelovar in 1944. In her early childhood she and her family moved to the small town of Novalja on Pag, the island to which she has dedicated almost all her poetry. She read Slavic studies and comparative literature at the Philosophy Faculty in Zagreb and currently lives and works in Novalja and Zagreb.
A poet, an essayist, and an anthologist, Škunca has written essays and criticism about the visual arts, has an interest in photography, and has held a number of solo shows. Her career as a poet dates from 1969, and she received the A. B. Šimić Prize for her first collection of poetry, Do neba bijelo, which came out that year. She has published twenty volumes so far, of poetry, essays and monographs on the visual arts. She is regarded on the contemporary Croatian poetry scene as a leading writer of prose poetry, a genre with a fertile and well-developed tradition in modern Croatian literature, going back one and a half centuries.
In 2005, Croatian Television broadcast a documentary by director Petar Krelja, portraying Škunca as a poet and an accomplished photographer. Adriana Škunca represents a poetic voice sui generis in contemporary Croatian poetry, in so far as she has transformed her fundamental lyric subject, her home island of Pag, into a unique lyric and artistic form. From her first volume of prose poems, Pag has dominated the poet's entire field of poetic vision. With Škunca, the straitened conditions of life on the island underpin a reflexive composition in which her aesthetic approximates the rules of abstract visual art. Her lyrical vocabulary is very precise and relatively small, in order to assert the essential and elemental referents in her highly aestheticised descriptions of the Mediterranean environment.
Critics have noted the unique role played in her poetry by visual sensations: “The poem is itself a picture, particularly in the case of the prose poems, the inditing of which plots the square of a painter's canvas, and painstakingly outlines upon it a grid of word-layers, blending them into the reflection of a scene, a landscape or scenery... . Andriana's poems do not simply dispute, detain or change the angle of our view of the most everyday subjects (most frequently nature and the landscape of the island), they also feed into that view the experience of what is seen. The poem becomes a circle inverting the sky and the earth, which is remodelled and refracted by other poems, leaving the traces of a previous one on each new poem.” And the sounds which haunt the isle are always present here: “Sounds pour forth in symphonic profusion: wells chime, a hidden storm calls from behind the curtains, blackbirds, goldfinches, sparrows burst into song, the shutters of a window creak.”
In a way, Škunca makes use of absences to work in spacious free verse – in her poetry these absences comprehend and transmit the intended content; the particular asceticism of expression and experience in the prose poems is a mark of her poetry as a whole.
Although she is an unashamed aesthete by education and by the sensibility she has cultivated, and hence eschews anything which might upset the lyrical composition, her poetry contains in miniature the history of daily life today on the island of Pag. Her later volumes make reference to the harsh “island life” of the past, the painful cultivation of poor soil, chronic poverty and the repeated waves of emigration of the local inhabitants around Europe and throughout the Americas.
In addition, in Andriana Škunca’s contemplative and crystal-clear poetry, her female voice is quite unmistakeable, introducing the reader to a world apart: isolation as a central characteristic of life on the island is refracted through a view of woman as the traditional “guardian of the home”, and solitude acquires extra dimensions, which speak of transcending the existence that is one’s lot, and at the same time of an affirmation of a world whose gradual vanishing her poems address. Similarly, Škunca is aware that these changes are inescapable and desirable, and her poetry is thus written with the intent of leaving a marked impression of aesthetic fascination, yet through that abstract framework it also invokes a vigorous modern environment which, in its own way, keeps pace with our times.
Do neba bijelo, Matica hrvatska i NSG Zagreb, 1969.
Kratka sjena podneva, Razlog – Liber, Zagreb, 1973.
Pomaci, tišine, Nakladni zavod Matice hrvatske, Zagreb, 1981.
Napuštena mjesta, self-published, Zagreb, 1985.
Druga strana zrcala, Grafički zavod Hrvatske, Zagreb, 1988.
Korijen, zid, kutija, Hrvatska sveučilišna naklada, Zagreb, 1992.
Naša ljubavnica tlapnja – an Anthology of Croatian Prose Poetry, co-author, with Z. Mrkonjić and H. Pejaković, Hrvatska sveučilišna naklada, Zagreb, 1992.
Zeleni prah, Meandar / Naklada MD, Zagreb; two editions, 1994, 1995.
Novaljski svjetlopis, with 50 photographs by the author, Matica hrvatska, Zagreb, 1999.
Predivo sve užih dana – Selected Poems, chosen and with an afterword by Z. Mrkonjić, Društvo hrvatskih književnika, Zagreb, 2002.
The A. B. Šimić Foundation Prize, 1969.
The Croatian Literary Association Tin Ujević Prize, 1999.
The Annual Prize of the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2003.
The Annual Vladimir Nazor Prize, 2003.
The Town of Novalja Prize, 2003.
The Goran Wreath Prize, 2006.
/> Official Site of the Student Cultural Society, Ivan Goran Kovačić, which awards the Goran Prize.