- Croatia -
Denis Ćosić was born in 1996 in Karlsruhe. He is holding a BA in Economics of Hotel Management and is about to become a professional specialist in Human Resources Management. Till this date he has published three poetry books: Neonski bog mržnje (Neon god of hate, 2019), Crveno prije sutona (Red before dusk, 2019) and Košute su plakale bez rogova (The does wept without horns, 2021). For the manuscript of Neonski bog mržnje he won an award at „Drenovci competition“ in 2018 and for the manuscript of Crveno prije sutona he won „Goran for Young Poets“ award in 2019. The first-mentioned book he also won an award at „Days of Josip and Ivan Kozarac“. His last book was awarded “Kvirin” award for the best book by an author younger than 35. His poems appeared in various anthologies, collections, magazines and web-portals in Croatia and the ex-Yu region and are translated into English, French, Macedonian and Slovenian. Denis divides his time between Croatian cities of Požega, Zagreb and Dubrovnik.
Denis Ćosić is a Croatian poet born in Karlsruhe (Germany) in 1996. He is holding a Bachelor's degree in Economics of Hotel Management and will soon become a professional specialist in Human Resources Management.
He has published three poetry books so far: Neonski bog mržnje (Neon god of hate, 2019), Crveno prije sutona (Red before dusk, 2019) and Košute su plakale bez rogova (The does wept without horns, 2021)
Ćosić debuted with two poetry books simultaneously. For the manuscript of Neonski bog mržnje (Neon god of hate) he won an award at „Drenovci competition“ in 2018 and for the manuscript of Crveno prije sutona (Red before dusk) he won „Goran for Young Poets“ award in 2019. Both collections appeared in print in 2019. For the fore-mentioned book he also won an award at „Days of Josip and Ivan Kozarac“. His third book was again awarded, this time with “Kvirin” award, for the best poetry book by an author younger than 35. His poems appeared in anthologies, collections, magazines and web-portals in Croatia and the ex-Yugoslav region, as well as translated into English, French, Macedonian and Slovenian.
Denis’s works are explicitly homoerotic, ecologically sensitive and feminist, stylistically leaning on the various avant-garde and neo avant-garde poetics, mostly expressionism and surrealism. He is among rare poets in Croatia – including the most important award for the young poets in Croatia – repeatedly accolated for poetry books that openly thematize male homosexuality.
He divides his time between Croatian cities of Požega, Zagreb and Dubrovnik and tries to travel around Europe as much as possible.
The critics have recognized and mostly favorable rated his books from the very beginning. The editor of the first of his two debuts, Franjo Nagulov, underlines that “Neon god of hate, Denis Ćosić's poetic debut, is an extraordinary aesthetic success and, consequently, a significant moment of the domestic poetic year of 2019”. The editorial blurb was supported by the critical verification, from the side of the young critic Anita Pajević, writing that “undoubtedly, these are organic texts that follow very well the author's private preoccupations, from symbolic, oneiric, homoerotic, androgynous, mythological and mystical to psychological, biological and cultural-anthropological interests.”
It is quite common for the young Croatian poets to emerge after winning “Goran for Young Poets”, the most significant poetry prize in the country, awarded by Goranovo proljeće poetry festival since 1977. Evelina Rudan, herself accolated poet and university teacher and one of the award judges, sheds additional light on the poet’s second debut, describing it as “a world that no longer has or does not yet have clear boundaries, clear definitions, a world of twilights, eclipses, sunsets and sunrises that have not yet invoked their appointment. A world that has forgotten that it once was or has not yet thought it could eventually emerge. In such a world, strong visual images in strong metaphorical connections are, in fact, the best reflection because civilization begins with sound, society begins with speech, and culture begins with naming. But the state that the lyrical narrator mediates for us is the state of the disintegration of something that once was, the state of mixing, the state of the impotence of differentiation and the state of the muted impotence of the lyrical subject himself.”
Author’s most recent book is his first one fully written in verse. The first two were either fully dedicated to prose poems, or hybrid in form. It is a book-length narrative poem embedded in a strong symbolical grid, resuming already known Ćosić’s interests and focal topics, but also introducing new ones. The editor of the book, Kruno Lokotar is stating that „from a series of mostly Jungian motifs, Denis Ćosić has woven a thick braid, a spiral that leads this long poem into the infinitely dark humane, into the depths of the collective soul, the mythical unconscious.“ The critic had backed it up with, in the words of Luka Rovčanić, the claim that: “Poetry book The does wept without horns demonstrates a much more open discourse and interest in socio-political anomalies that in the modern world tend to go unnoticed and without major consequences, bringing to the surface the things that are often kept secret. The author spoke boldly not only about the patriarchal system that stifles women's freedom, but also about the problems of identification and efforts to discipline different naming policies. In many ways, therefore, a provocative, successful book worth reading and thinking about.”
Having read the three collections published by the author to this date, one gets an impression of the elaborated vision and the direction of the lyrical path taken, in both themes and style. To turn to the critics again, and conclude with the words of Irena Matiješević: “His youth is in a way an important factor in judging his poetry, because such a radical revolt, and especially disturbing images, are a common feature of young and avant-garde poetics, but may remain a lasting feature of this great poet … ”
* * * / * * *
When frost falls, the village stutters.
The doors are sealed shut, the windows mum.
He who has no house is eaten by pigs.
He who has no pigs is eaten by the frost.
First frost is remembered,
we count days on fingers in its wake.
If we run out of fingers, it’ll be a year of drought
and dearth of male children.
If there are fingers left over, the village gathers,
– this augurs a fruitful year.
Dearth of female children, silent bellies,
a rainy yellow summer.
Such years are like the sixth finger.
* * * / * * *
Morana slices the cap of a fool’s webcap,
an orange boat for the cauldron
that spreads the scent
of turnip and overgrown field.
Morana feeds the webcap to rabbits,
the bashful balls of cloud.
They drink from the cauldron a starless sky,
a permanent winter sleep.
Their mouths incandesce and they evaporate from thirst.
Rabbit fur is made into
hats to repel the cold.
A flayed rabbit feeds a family,
supper suddenly no longer seems strange.
Morana needs rabbit kidneys,
from their shape she senses the fertility of the soil,
the nature of mothers’ wombs.
She who suffers the fate of the kidneys
sails the waters of the webcap cauldron.
She who suffers thirst is a field and a boat
with no plough, no sojourner.
* * * / * * *
Morana is a woman without a floral name,
her name is the winter she embraces.
The fathers consider her a true witch,
an old woman who withstands death.
Morana tosses bones and cutlery
to protect her crops from summer hail.
No man thanks her for it, instead
they sharpen their axes to lop off her head.
When frost falls in winter,
Morana has no more cutlery left.
She gnaws on bones in barren fields,
eats tree bark with her hands.
The elders and the fathers curse Morana
and search the plough fields for knives, spoons and
forks to feast in their misfortune,
to sate the hunger ahead.
* * * / * * *
Mother says: ‘Tomorrow doesn’t belong to you.’
Mother means: there is no time to which you’ll belong.
Just as I do not belong to the sacks of flour,
the run-down water mill or the stacks of hay.
I belong to a shadow, an eclipsed part of myself,
and it, too, vanishes when I turn off the light.
Father says: “Go to the cherry orchard and pick your supper.”
Father means: go hungry.
Our fields are dotted with mole hills
– the frozen knolls.
In the middle of the field, the rib cage of a cow gapes
like a morselless mouth.
Supper, if there is any, ought to be
spelt with a capital S.
Sister says: “This year the frost won’t last as long.”
Sister means: I don’t want to count anymore.
Counting is solace, mushroom soup,
a cow that has survived, revelry by the bonfire.
Counting keeps the village together,
keeps the fingers from being claimed by the frost.
But there’s no use of counting
it’s the same every year.
The frost lingers, the bellies are emptier,
the fathers angrier, god less convincing.
Whosoever does not wish to count, lops off his own fingers.
* * * / * * *
As its wings go up in flickering flames
glow seeps out of the butterfly’s antennae.
A woman becomes a dwindled sun
in the overripe hands of a man.
If dust is thereby removed
and it renders a creature innocent,
the creature will find itself pressed dry
in the poets’ dead troughs.
A man strives to bring each word to heel
for he who knows language, knows the woman,
he who controls it, controls her.
* * * / * * *
My disenfranchisement lies in language,
the namelessness is a sign of oppression.
The elders justify the gaps in the lexicon
by invoking the natural order of things.
A doe is a female buck, a hind a female hart.
I am a female child, not someone’s daughter.
There is no name that could put that right,
the forest is lorded over by the fathers and the sons.
God to them is a man without a mate,
the doe and the hind an old wives’ cock-and-bull tale
to fill the gaps in the nomenclature.
* * * / * * *
When god created forest,
he made the doe and the buck its rulers.
Their antlers, crowns of bone,
heralded the kingdom of game.
The buck saw that the does’ antlers
were much more beautiful than his.
Stars reposed on their tips at night,
the queen of the forest was cloaked in moonlight.
One night, as the doe was asleep,
he bit off her antlers,
hid them deep in the forest
so she couldn’t find them.
He proclaimed himself the only ruler
and scoffed at the doe.
She has since wandered the woods
in search of her antlers,
weeping, weeping till the dawn breaks,
till the heather blossoms.
* * * / * * *
Why does god allow the sacrificing of daughters
to obtain a male descendant?
Why does he fill bellies with heavy notes
and food that melds with the soil?
I often think it a mere tale of our fathers
to keeps us in fear, keep our pupils dilated.
We fall into our frightened eyes
as if into graves
for my friends,
the antlerless does.
* * * / * * *
Counting. Is what the village women do.
They count ears of maize, stalks of reed, yellow pond lilies.
Then the names of the men fallen in war,
the names of the sons and grandsons of the buried warriors.
No one thinks of me, or my future friends.
We are here to birth new coffins.
Whispery singing. Is what the village elders do.
They whisper about transience, the black of the night, the closeness of death.
Then the curse we are under, the famine and the frost,
the disappearing village swallowed by quagmire.
They do not think of themselves, or their actions.
Their whispers are torches that warm no one.
Silent naming. Is what mothers and daughters do.
They name meals, famines, a month of the year.
They see themselves in plants, borrow designations,
assign them to themselves to remember who they are.
They deny the men full control.
Their names are the weapons of nature.
* * * / * * *
When Father seduces Mother,
the cheeks are the sky before rain,
the torso a vine tendril,
the legs a shaky night.
Perhaps the eyes harvest the stars,
perhaps the hands tear up the clouds.
The aroma of mint in the air,
breaths are blizzards,
jagged and spiteful.
When Father conquers Mother,
axes rend tree trunks,
hair twines itself into ropes,
the wig heralds slavery.
Days peel off like bark.
trees are digested.
When Father possesses Mother,
the spine is crestfallen,
the limbs are mixers,
the womb a birther.
From sunup to sundown
Mother keeps a fawn
tucked bellow her bellowing belly.
* * * / * * *
The elder says: ‘He who sacrifices himself is repaid a hundredfold.’
The elder means: you will die and we won’t remember you.
Just as my father who dismissed me at birth doesn’t.
Just as he doesn’t remember my sister, the sprouted seedling,
the frog weeping in a frozen well.
A village woman says: ‘My mother has gone to the forest.’
The village woman means: my mother’s been ripped apart by my father’s fangs.
A cemetery sprawls across our fields, a mass ossuary.
In the field the wind upturns the branches in search of antlers.
None of which are meant for the does.
Brother says: ‘The frost will leave after you leave.’
Brother means: a great thaw is upon us.
The frost has no respect for women, it sends the village into hibernation.
The counting of fingers is the writing of winter sleep.
Whosoever counts all the fingers, wakes up before the rest.
Whosoever counts not one, sleeps beneath the plough fields.
Virginia / Virginia
A summer star rests in me. The night took a knife, severed a freckle from a star and put it under my tongue.
I run my fingernails down my forearm, scraping slaked lime. Stellar wounds emerge, each akin to the freckle I’ve received. Slowly, spreading across my skin, with sudden flares I disappear into the corona of my body.
The earth wicks in the anaemia of July, the clay solidifies, the sky is lit ochre.
The body becomes an eternal lighthouse.
Every night, when fireflies encamp in my hair, I light a path between our islands.
Probiosis / Probioza
I often arrange small fruit on myself, from my neck down. Round my belly-button I make a forest circle. I say: this space I save for you, the way I was once connected with my mother I want to be connected with you. Then I crush it all with my palms and I ripen in the sun.
Blue is the colour of the placenta, in it sleeps the cub of the universe wrapped in hellebore hair. The child climbs towards the brim of the bubble holding on to the beam of the birth cord. If the child were a date, it would be the sheen of a tit’s feather. If the child were a rosehip, it would dwell on the dried out husk of an insect. If it took lodgings in my thigh, it would be a sign pointing to the existence of a cluster of grapes.
Blood travels to the stomach with the force of a waterfall. When it floods the abdomen, it pops the belly button out and the child sprouts into a circle.
Thrive, darling baby, thrive, you shout and spit on the scion. Out of your inflamed slime, a strange child protrudes – we name it birthcordia.
The Well / Bunar
The memory of you blooms in dim colours. You’ve lowered me into the well for I should drink still water.
The sun has baked the mud on the bricks. You’ve left me here to chew the red sky flickering on the surface of hooves.
Fingernails from the clouds have put you together. When you slacken the rope, I trip over the well’s rim. This will be my dungeon where I will awaken to slack hands which don’t pull my body out. It isn’t watched by drowned eyes, the sky above them isn’t red before dusk.
And the darkness spills on the bricks and I become the darkness. The well will bury your hands, they will have the strength left to wick out the water, meld with the mud on the bricks.
No one will find me in the deserted village. No one needs land, no one needs water, no one needs my body. All of that nothing will birth wilderness.
Gloamer / Sumračnjak
It wasn’t easy losing him.
He was slender – he’d enter the trunk of an oak. He was tall – we looked at his head in the crown of the tree. He was on the tip of the needle – we pricked our fingers and held him on our palms.
He had all the colours in his eyes and with every look he taught me a new shade. I wanted to be like him, dredge up canals along the river and meld the roots with the fish. Unlock the padlocks from the railing, toss all those loves, be a drop of the stream for him to drink me.
He was spacious – stars collapsed within him. He was present – we hugged his leafy arms. He was mine – a thin streak of sunlight on the horizon.
The sunset I managed to miss.
Flowery and Fruity / Voćan i cvjetan
how to turn a two-hump camel into a single-hump, without killing the camel?
rub half a lemon on your skin
disinfect your eyes with UV light
flagellate yourself with a bundle of nettles
you say: ‘male bees bee only once in their lives and then their stingers break’
you say: ‘I like to read urban prose whilst wearing urban clothes’
you say: ‘let’s cook up some crack, smoke it off foil, innit’
I’ve always loved destruction as a boy I built mud cities dug water canals it would take a few hours to finish it all in the end I’d pour a lot of water over the city and in a few seconds everything would be flooded I derived pleasure from that momentary relief a sense of power and control the primordial instinct of man is to destroy
I dreamt I’d beaten up a 50-year-old geezer for trying to pull you I dreamt of a nuclear plant exploding I dreamt we were flatmates and we talked normally and a neighbour was having a go at me for smoking cigarettes by her window
you say: ‘if god created man in his own image, what does he need the testicles for, he’s alone and doesn’t have to procreate? or is it that god actually has both a vagina and testicles and is a hermaphrodite? hence the folk saying that such people were touched by god.’
you say: ‘our dog can go by Salazar or Neon or Otter or Electra or Orion’
you say: ‘I thought I could change the world, but the world has changed me’
to forfeit the power of managing your desires
to love me like Mexico loves the desert
to slice discs of cactus and tickle my nipples
I say: ‘one morning you wake up and you’ve got no idea
who the person you used to love is or why you loved them’
I say: ‘with you I’d build towers on the riverfront’
I say: ‘death on you smells of jasmine’
My Walls Have Seen a Massacre of Mosquitoes / Moji su zidovi vidjeli masakr komaraca
I’ve borrowed two sewing needles and I push them into the wall socket because men like to push things into holes
it’s hard to take seriously someone who obsessively penetrates other people’s crotches, but there’s one hole he just cannot fill
at night when thoughts create surreal worlds he screams through his skin and feels as though someone were ripping up his rib cage
neighbours don’t hear him for neighbours have ears only for screams of their own
he never talks about it and no one ever brings it up
until one day they all die of emptiness and meld with the dayless expanse of the universe
of all of life’s breaths the neon one with the aroma of hashish is my favourite
some deal with sorrow by drowning it in alcohol some beat their wives when they come home
I sail across the ripples of my thoughts and I only lay a hand on myself
at night when the body is motionless in bed he conjures up parasitic images of kitsch
his friends can’t see them as they’re blind to the visions and colours of others
no one ever paints the life he lives behind shut eyelids
when the eyes dream a colour darker than black
darkness rips the titanic cobwebs that have intertwined in my head into your likeness
I mark my rage with different flavours – yours is bitter coffee and self-destruction
at night when everyone runs into the caves of their eclipsed minds
you shine under the sulphur lamp and breathe, dead as you are
though we’re not earthen we go to each other’s funeral
and one day we really feel the bitterness of benumbed buds
my walls have seen a massacre of mosquitoes
it’s insufferable being in a room that oozes countless suicides
at night when feral cats shine from the bushes and birds whisper a funeral march
neighbours hang themselves from their roof-beams