- Slovakia -
Veronika Šramatyová, born in 1977 in Zvolen, has been pursuing fine arts and poetry since late 90s. In 2010 she received a doctorate at the Department of Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava under the supervision of professor Daniel Fischer. She later taught at the department herself (2015-2017). In 2009, she published her poetry debut Untitled (Ars Poetica, Bratislava) and she is currently about to publish her second collection of poetry. She exhibits both home and abroad and her paintings have been included in numerous significant contemporary art collections. She lives in the countryside close to Bratislava.
The starting point, the point of déjà vu, the point of untitled
Šramatyová, Veronika. 2002. Untitled. Bratislava : Ars Poetica. Edition Ambit.
In the bookstore, I received an untitled collection in return for a five-euro bill. In it, I found a nameless subject included in the price. Untitled is the subject’s attribute; the author usually stays within the boundaries of a theoretical relationship, she does not specify it and thus, any of us could become the subject. She refuses to identify the subject, erasing both their identity and even their gender – apart from a small exception found in a single poem. The author, and me by her side, largely participating in her poetry through my reading experience, treats the subject as a concept, a precisely divided single half of a relationship.
The journey to the heart of this volume leads through the world of nature and through the world of reflection on one’s own work, one’s creative process as well as its outcome – the poem III and the final verse of the poem V: “it’s enough for today”, which I perceive not just to be the formal ending, but also a climax of this text. I halt at the bipolar images, not too frequent but all the more refreshing: “naked from the root, naked at the roots” or “lifted by a straw / laid down by a straw”.
Only now do we discover the “we”, man and woman – or is it woman and woman? Man and man? The subject’s and the object’s identities are veiled, unimportant, unnamed, untitled. It’s a phenomenon with no side effects, with no limiting gender. At the end of the day, the identity of the subject and the object is truly not important. The author captures my attention in seemingly marginal verses, out of which the most striking – and, in my opinion, the best – one is: “all roads lead / today and without asking”. It immediately forces a curious human being such as myself to ask the question: Where? How is it without asking, when my whole perception is pierced by a question? This image is striking in the moment, yes, but also in the scope of the whole work, because it introduces the leitmotif of the road. Once the internal world of the subject and the external world start to intermingle, we discover that the outer one is a mere metaphor of the inner one. It’s a paradox that the initial road ends at the starting point of another road, one on the inside. The author lets go of my hand and the subject turns their attention inward. I must follow them… on the road. The starting point is a house, in which one finds order, law and balance, all flowing into homogeneity found in the introduction to poem IX. However, homogeneity is not the assurance that the subject seeks, imperfect and boring without the external element that would naturally disrupt it, without the second half necessary for a relationship; it is like a nightmare, “trees branching out / standing in my way / I dodge them / in an incomplete sentence”.
Later, in the part titled onomatopoeia, we find an introspection on a relationship, a search for its “essence”. The subject views the relationship as a personal, lasting connection, “growing into relationships” that makes us forget, because we do want to forget and overwrite old memories with new ones. We focus on the imminent past, not the distant one. With the theme of growing into something, the author begins to toy with both me and the subject on the static and dynamic axes. In one second I’m in motion, swept by the poem’s tempo, while in another I stand frozen in a single image… and the same goes for the subject on the level of “content”. Both elements are present; “the inability to take a step” indicates the static nature and limitations of movement and freedom within the relationship, and yet it stems from the inherent dynamics of the human life: “during changes / enforced by the unchanging maintenance of bodies”.
These dynamics force me to return to the leitmotif of the road on which I find myself standing alongside the subject. I can, or rather, we both can go forward on the road, searching for “ourselves” inside of ourselves, but that is thwarted by the second half; it easily makes us give up our personal goals and the relationship itself assumes the gravitational field of a black hole. However, we may walk off the road, conforming to the other half and seeking “a more three-dimensional agreement:”, “a grain of assurance” achieved through verbal – here, we see a sentence being employed as a synecdoche – and nonverbal, internal and external communication and their strange conflict: “reality / named, yet unmarked / marked, yet unnamed”. Thus, the subject oscillates between the statics and dynamics of life and the relationship, while the status quo – explicitly expressed in the title of the poem hommage à homepage (homage to the homepage) – is challenged by the newly discovered reality, “newly discovered / coordinates”, and even considered a regression, when it “grows / into autotelic story”.
The importance of the theme of relationship – now on a visibly physical and erotic basis – does not allow the subject to put this theme on the backburner. I find myself on the road once again as it leads along a stream; in the poem torn from the stream I see a natural flow of life events and the fact that with each step, the subject and the rest of us as subjects are faced with other options, new perceptions, feelings, crossroads and decisions. However, each step is a déjà vu; “the echo in time” is a point of contact with the past, it signals our willingness to enter the same river only because we hope that the river is nevertheless different. After all, “desire transforms memory”.
I am reaching an elementary plane; it is necessary to explicitly describe “that something”, because the author’s theory will only become believable once it is well-founded. The theme is expressed in more concrete terms in the mini-cycle day without corrections; the second half of a relationship is established as male, “his shadow” – but truly solely in this one place in the whole collection. This poem, a static snapshot that I’m facing, is immobilized by the subject’s memories, immobilized by alienation… or is it even a breakup? Either way, the release of tension arrives almost as a deus ex machina, once “a sudden power outage shrouds / levels the overloaded / spots on our / faces”.
What follows is the part untitled, its title revealing a diffusive character of the past, an inability to apply the lived experience in order to change the river we have stepped into – while it still remains the same without our intervention. At this point, untitled becomes the point of déjà vu that we experience over and over again… we are simply incorrigible. I discover that after returning to this point on the road, I won’t be able to escape it in any other direction; I feel a sense of disillusionment; me and the subject observe that our past approaches were wrong and did not provide us with any empiricism.
I am thus going back even further, physically to the very start of the journey, to motifs of nature, and figuratively to the point of déjà vu, to the point that is untitled. The road is thus not framed explicitly by time and implicitly by motives of nature. It is a vicious circle and the only way out for the subject is to keep walking on the road towards inner knowledge. I walk by their side – what else is there for me to do with two poems left in the book? I catch a glimpse of excerpts from the environment, the internal environment expressed by the external one; I see a procession of the seen, a recapitulation refreshed by the form that adapts to the subject’s state of mind through its zonation, free associativity and mélange of motives… or is it possible to deduce from the overlap between meaning and form – which is realized and stylized by the author and not the subject – that at the end of the day, the subject is pointing to the author herself?
We unintentionally find ourselves back by the river and back in faith in illusion. However, something does feel different; we have finally managed to use our own inner world to analyze the point of déjà vu, the point of untitled, and can expect a conscious, rational and purposeful disillusion, a withdrawal from the vicious circle and a final confirmation of the progress on the road to inner knowledge.
Despite the fact that the title of the collection suggests something intangible and maybe slightly chaotic, the author eventually presents a holistic concept of how to solve the problem of the relationship. Just like our own lives, the collection Untitled leads from one place to another, and despite a strong sense of déjà vu, it does not become stuck in the lived-through and now purposeless limbo.
BY MATÚŠ MIKŠÍK
Spring I / jar I
The hotbed affords
proliferation of last seasons’s life
Rodents finish off winter
reserves, expand their tunnels
to propagate the new breed of virus
as a fervent male force chops
aeons into series of habitable
shorter pieces, and moves to stoke
a woman keeps digging her garden,
with a respite here and there,
aligns the beds
and, as nature dictates,
picks out only the healthiest seeds.Translated by Martin Solotruk
v skleníku bujnie
hlodavce dojedajú zimné
zásoby, ofenzívne rozširujú
chodby a choroby
rozhorúčená mužská sila rúbe
letopočty na množstvo malých
kratších častí, postupne prikladá
žena s občasnými prestávkami
okopáva, narovnáva hriadky
od prírody vyberá iba tie
/ sezóna I
as if it all started just yeasterday
in unique embrace we
float as two tectonic
crusts, we sit on hot springs
to the surface of real narrative
truth is essentialised here, affects
genuinity of selection, with variables
of deficit determining stability
of emotions, monitoring of pride
is, though paradoxically, yet to affect
its proliferation, it emanates from the core,
gathers into one element that adheres
to any posture or face
and surfaces as long
engrained tragedies ecstasies
or yet again freshly plowed
field, current forecast
of emotional response foresees
season’s peak.Translated by Martin Solotruk
akoby to začalo len včera
v unikátnom spojení masívne
sa presúvame ako dve tektonické
dosky; zostávame pri zdroji
vytvárame obmedzenia vstupom
do krajiny reálnej narácie
pravda sa tu cizeluje vplýva
na rídzosť výberu; variabilita
deficitu zas podmieňuje stabilitu
citu; monitorovanie pýchy
paradoxne nezasahuje do jej
množstva; z jedného vystupuje
a v jedno sa spája priľnuteľná
na akúkoľvek polohu alebo tvár
presakuje na povrch ako dávno
zaštepené tragédie eufórie
opätovne ako čerstvo rozorané
pole; aktuálna predpoveď
emocionálnej odozvy prognózuje
/ tepelné mosty IV
nezávisle od počasia závisle
od počatia záveternou stranou
chránime priestor odteraz
už nie iba dočasných prísteliek
dlhšie momenty stotožnenia
prerušujú iba krátke deje
náhlej túžby po zmene
pod tlakom toxických návalov
vedomia a nevedomia občas
spoločne izolujeme strach