- Croatia -
Alen Brlek was born in Zagreb in 1988. He won Na vrh jezika award for the best unpublished poetry book (Metakmorfoze) in 2013. His second book, Pratišina, was published in Serbia (Kontrast, 2017). With poet Darko Šeparović, and the musician Emil Andreis he is exploring spaces and atmospheres of poetry and music within the “Zaron” project. His poems were published in a number of magazines and translated into a number of languages.
The quest of language: hidden paths, short circuits
Alen Brlek belongs to the youngest generation of Croatian poets, emerging in the middle of the second decade of the millennium. For his first manuscript, Metakmorfoze (the title, symptomatic for the author’s overall oeuvre, is a neologism pun mixing “the bullet” and canonical Ovid’s “Metamorphosis”) Brlek won “Na vrh jezika” prize, significant award for the emerging authors, resulting with his first book being published in 2014 with the mainstream Algoritam editions. His second book appeared in 2017, for the Belgrade, Serbia based publisher Kontrast. The title, Pratišina, follows the same compound principle, creating an unexpected and dense meaning within what might at the first glance seem as “regular”, maybe just slightly awkward, stuttered everyday word. “The dust” is met and blended with “the silence”, adding also the auditory resemblance of “the jungle”, bringing the exciting resonance of both domestic and worm and exotic, distant and cold, present and past, still standing and long gone, said and unsaid, present and absent. Brlek’s poetry remains deeply within the quest and mystery of the language, exploring its hidden paths and provoking short circuits, questioning its very logic. As the Russian formalists would put it: Brlek decided that it’s the last moment for the world (via words) to be seen again, not merely recognized.
The topics of the particular poems (author’s books are collections and “books” at the same time – every poem stands alone and sufficient, but highly interacting with the surrounding lyrical topography) might not seem to be in focus within the language-focused paradigm, and indeed, Brlek is far away from simply noting the daily routines – the practice quite representative for the rest of his generation. The possible, indirect political of his work works on a long run, avoiding the daily references and choosing to undermine their unavoidable ideological framework: the language. His little bombs, landmines in the thick territory of word-coining and syntax, patiently wait for their moment, and the victim appears to be not in flesh and blood, but the body count of lexicalized, worn-out meanings and metaphors, the make-see surprise being their main explosive charge.
Brlek’s poems were published in literary magazines and web-sites, and he often, having a hip-hop background, performs his work on stage. In cooperation with the musician Emil Andreis and poet Darko Šeparović he’s been since recently performing as “Zaron”, musical/spoken word project reaching out to the initially not poetry keen audiences and merging different scenes. He’s regularly publishing his new work on Facebook, and for those poems he was shortlisted for the 2017 “Post scriptum” prize, dedicated to the literature emerging in the social networks.
In an interview following the release of his second poetry volume, asked to describe his poetics, the author gave a short but clear answer: Punk’s not dead.
A DIVE / ZARON
We don’t build lighthouses, we’ve got phones –
the firebug’s urge compressed into signal.
I don’t like the bell in any form because on the other end
someone’s eyes always lose focus. Waiting is a journey
I’m teaching myself to be close to the water every time it dives,
reach out with my palms facing away from the sky because
I don’t trust the laws of the market.
I’m teaching myself to enter as if for the last time,
plant a pillow, exit as if I’d never entered at all.
To put Neptune to sleep. Cut into the night in all the right places.
Not to scratch my back every time it itches, not to forget
the details. To put more
trust in the depth of the dive.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
ARCHITECTURE / ARHITEKTURA
We should find a place, an open intention
which doesn’t deprive. Like dams
built by beavers. We should
lift the belly skywards, invite god
to lay his head down and try to sleep.
We should give up on the right angles
and other things that cannot be touched,
forever split the heart in two with our thumbs like an apple,
give the pieces to children.
We should decant, as if a flock of birds into the crown of a tree,
humans into humans.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
BLUE / PLAVO
Today is Sunday, I breathe eerily softly
like a stag with an arrow stuck in his neck. This is the place
of a thousand bloodhounds rushing into my arms.
In the morning I read the silence of sleepy birds, the sound of
dishes which is always to do with the space between two buildings
the same distance stretches from the balcony.
At noon I look in the mirror and repeat – it’s all a dream
all a dream.
Later I read deeply into what’s been said, I await symbols
and symbioses, and some other Ss. Like sky, like
At night I read about people fleeing famine and war
about the sea and the death of poetry, I cry and all things lean towards the blue.
Today is Sunday, in all things I discern you
in all things I wait for you.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
BREADLY / KRUŠNO
Suddenly, everything we do is a prayer,
all that is between us
an altar and swimming reflex. Tart
earth conquers us,
supplies the body with softness for a breadly tomorrow.
Tomorrow, your metals will forget the war,
tomorrow, my tongues will learn the art of wound cleansing.
Tomorrow, our lips will be botany and fish.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
DESCRIBING THE EXTRAORDINARY / OPISIVANJE IZVANREDNOG
Light was hollow this morning.
On the kitchen table, motionlessly,
an onion levitated, and I wanted to say
I missed the ring of your voice.
Alongside water, thoughts boiled into
sugar isn’t awake, fast,
one should fast.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
DESCRIBING THE MUNDANE / OPISIVANJE SVAKODNEVNOG
For days I’ve been trying to describe parquet. Parquet is
unvanquishable, it agrees only to scratching
and it’s always potentially full of water.
Parquet is an indescribably harrowing version of the East,
a cherriless space. A journey of palms and
feet into the pain of a lonely man.
I shall not agree to dying above parquet level,
just as I don’t agree to trams, lifts,
clocks and hate.
Parquet is an indescribably permanent absence of oxygen
and her.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
FAMILY GARDEN / OBITELJSKA BAŠTA
I shall carry you, o, roots,
even after a thousand ploughings,
God is here, drupacious,
right behind the eyes.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
HENS / KOKOŠI
These days the sky crumbles into dust
and everything ends up in the kitchen somehow.
The cold opens up softly like a cotton flower,
the hot hens I tell no one about shiver
they don’t go out, don’t sing.
Sometimes, silence carves the city into my bones
and my smile, using the dream and distance
technique it builds you a home.
Only sometimes it becomes the water from the North’s edge.
The white enters behind the eyes
tries to remember which way you tilt the plate
when there’s just a little soup in it,
what storks in love sound like
and at what temperature roof tiles are fired.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
HYPOTHESIS OF LONGING / HIPOTEZA ČEZNJE
Out of the atomic mushrooms in my chest flocks of
yellow vowels of her take flight,
with the horizon inscribed into their third eye.
Let whoever translates this poem write thus:
silence is thickest from eight to quarter past.
We are all hybrids of ancient dust and light
and we only differ in the way we dive.
all things turn white.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
MAIZE STARCH / GUSTIN
From my window I watched,
through the scope, the aerials on the city’s rooftops,
shore them of tips.
Your hot hair inscribed the big bang
into my skin, we pulled the knife
between each other’s feet
and prayed. Love is an abattoir
we march towards, tireless and calm.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
RADIATOR / RADIJATOR
Days are patient, safe and cold.
The heart is wet cotton. I get up, cotton
courses through my body as I approach the radiator
expecting a change. When nothing happens,
I return with my palms warm and I cover my back,
that soft universe which
contains innumerable definitions of freedom
(we’re free from waking till the first cup of coffee,
we’re free when we reduce everything to chemistry and biology,
when we ask about the freedom of others
when we stand in front of the mirror and we don’t choose pronouns
we’re free when we don’t think about freedom)
but, with us, everything is equally innocent and deadly.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
a portraIT / PORTRET
These are forests – wavy,
pleasantly dark forests. They say if you sleep in these forests,
in the morning you see two skies
and you can talk to the water.
They say deep beneath the forest, a pigeon
coos every time a tree falls. And fall they do every night,
precisely, well-bloodedly, and they're picked up
by people from deep space.
They say there are hills, too.
That is where children used to dig tunnels
and now they vibrate, sharply and motherly.
They say this is why the space people come. It calls. They hear.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
a portraIT / PORTRET
These are domes. Eye orbits. Mouldage. Stoves.
Those over there are temples, they say, in which a circle
has opened up into bread and drowned the world.
They say colours arose, and man was doused, birthed,
hands were bored into and gilded in unison.
That over there – the lunaffection – weaves bones
and vibrates at night like warm flesh
watered with gunpowder. It hurts, they say,
primevally.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
a portraIT / PORTRET
Those are poles. Sky deltas. Gravitation into a fruit tree.
Those are wombs of peace, woven in the tree-crown language.
They say at night anomalies ripen
in the magnetic fields, you can hear the inflow
and the pulse of the vacuum,
remembrances of the dermis fade. Ten, they say,
nude girls from dark forests have come
and drunk each other’s tears.
Those, they say, are the daughters of Aleister Crowley,
goddesses of dreams
and geometry.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
a portraIT / PORTRET
It's gaming from the dark forests. The thud of blood
in the flower of Alaska.
It's discharging Pi into the lungs. That's how
the Moon was born, they say, and the art of bending
wicker into baskets.
They say it poured out of the ninth dimension into
ours, when God's palate cracked once.
This is why humans can love, they say.
It's liquidly mothering pensive souls,
the absence of thirst.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
a portraIT / PORTRET
That's a shell. A division. Crop circles.
Over there, they say, the first dream cub took
first steps, said first words into itself 13 times,
thus arose firstfruitship. Escalated into
open arms, embraced. Disexisted.
There, they say, between two lives, lives a shepherd
who drives away his sheep every morning.
Then at night he cries, goes looking for them,
and each lost sheep
becomes a rice paddy in one of the lives.
So it feeds.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
a portraIT / PORTRET
It's Michelangelo's dream.
The final rotation of stars. 12 claustroechoes
of pain at the frequency of god.
They say he whom the sound penetrates
has wild horses in his fingers
prancing the big amblebang
to the source, where he decants himself into himself,
overcomes time and space,
and can no longer go back.
In all languages of the world, they say,
that is embrace.Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric
a portraIT / PORTRET
These are Hoffman's dreams, bones full of sugar
and electricity. Glitch "amigo".
Acid mathematician is god, om.
They say synchro in eyes. The roar of the pomegranate in the DNA.
When it grasps the space, they say, distortion
can be seen in the corners of the lips,
which is not to be forgotten.
Neo: It's like candy mind, cotton skin, cedar forest
deep under_Translated from the Croatian by Mirza Puric