- Croatia -
Katja Grcić is a poet, playwright and essayist born in 1982 in Split, and currently based in Zagreb. She holds three MA degrees – in English and German studies and Dramaturgy. She has published two poetry collections to this date: the debut Nosive konstrukcije (Load-bearing Walls, 2015) and bilingual collection Ljeto/Summer in 2017, followed by a poetic prose hybrid Pisma Ziti (Letters to Zita) in 2020. In 2020 her monodrama Proljeće naše zlovolje (The Spring of Our Discontent) was published in magazine Kazalište and staged as part of Monovid-19 project at ZKM Theatre in Zagreb. She has won several awards for drama, including the prestigious Marin Držić Prize (2019) for her piece Strah tijela od poda (Body’s Fear of the Floor). She has received various artistic grants. Her poetry has been published in international magazines like Pobocza (PL), Signaturen (DE) and Perspektiven (AT), and presented at Frankfurt Book Fair, Babelsprech conference as well as international festivals like Polip (Kosovo) and Goran’s Spring (Croatia).
Katja Grcić is a poet, playwright and essayist currently based in Zagreb, Croatia. She holds three MA degrees – in English and German studies (University of Zadar) and Dramaturgy (Academy of Dramatic Arts, Zagreb). As the holder of Tempus scholarship, she attended the Centre for Translation Studies in Vienna, as well as the Südost programme at University of Graz. As an independent researcher she has published two scientific papers: Politics of Fear and Solidarity Mechanisms in Documentary Theatre: Staging Asylum in ‘6’ by Žiga Divjak and Encounters in Other Places: Performative Heterotopia in ‘The Labour of Panic’ by BADco. She translates from German and English.
Her debut poetry collection Nosive konstrukcije (Load-bearing Walls) was published in 2015, The irony as the “macrostructural figure” (I. Šunjić) and questioning of the medium of language (M. Pogačar) in her debut was later followed by the senses-oriented bilingual, self-translated collection Ljeto/Summer which appeared in 2017. As a central focal point of the collection critic Branko Maleš detects desire, placed in the “mythical season of summer” and intertwined with humor and melancholy.
In 2020 she published her poetic prose hybrid Pisma Ziti (Letters to Zita). Bachelardian elements of this feministic text and the spatiality of the rooms as “the ambiance 3D portraits” (M. Božić) are used to create “powerful and impressive visuals” (A. Tomljenović) throughout the text. “In pursuit of meaning and personal definition of freedom”, adds Tomljenović, “the author develops the set of contemplative scenes, all while brilliantly describing the characters in just a few words or sentences.” In 2020 her monodrama Proljeće naše zlovolje (The Spring of Our Discontent) was published in magazine Kazalište (Vol. XXIII No.81/82/83) and staged as part of Monovid-19 project at ZKM Theatre in Zagreb.
Katja has received various artistic grants, most notably the one by the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media in 2020 and the Zora Dirnbach grant for scriptwriters in 2021. She has won several awards for drama, including the prestigious Marin Držić Prize (2019) for her piece Strah tijela od poda (Body’s Fear of the Floor). Her prose was shortlisted for the Sedmica Prize in 2017 and her recent poetry was shortlisted for the Drago Gervais Prize in 2021. Her poetry has been published in international magazines like Pobocza (PL), Signaturen (DE) and Perspektiven (AT), and presented at Frankfurt Book Fair, Babelsprech conference as well as international festivals like Polip (Kosovo) and Goran’s Spring (Croatia).
Katja’s artistic and scientific fields of interest currently revolve around subversive aspects of fairy tales, textile in visual and performative arts, contemporary dance, value criticism, ecofeminism, dramaturgies in public space, political theatre, solidarity narratives and spatial theories. She has been regularly publishing essays covering the abovementioned themes, as well as book-length translations from German and English. The poems presented at the Versopolis webpage are a part of her new, still unfinished poetry manuscript, demonstrating a certain shift in the dominant poetic strategies, as well as more direct treatment of the referent world, sharper critic of its hegemonic mechanisms and an urge for a lyrical intervention in the still-steaming remains of a society. The verses are still unpublished in the original language, and are appearing here for the first time.
north node / sjeverni čvor
I’ve sat into the north node: a dark, cold and lasting place.
dependent clauses protest in cursive –
like drunken women they lean forward and finally speak the truth.
yet, the paper form is paltry – a trapping, a decorative
stencil into which I press all kinds of things:
Ludwig II, the woman who took the cloth,
plié I learnt at twenty-one.
I stumble on my own territory.
I listen to the petals falling off lilies.
women have foregone dresses, but not the crown.
instead of a sceptre,
here’s fasting and heresy: leave self not for a week.
we shall decant all things and turn:
air into froth, water into wine,
capricorn into cancer,
man into woman.
only verse is free / samo je stih slobodan
no hugs to be had
except those free of charge
I struggle with dialectics it struggles with me
Matija why did you lose weight
don’t say mishap
I’m a dislocated triangle they pushed into the theorem
and said: stay there,
we’ll return –
they never did
I confess to God almighty
and to you brethren:
I miss no one
can’t seem to say
I’m earth, I need air
oxymoron / oksimoron
forest, where once was sea.
park, where once were graves.
what’s walled us in, do flowers grow within?
I can never tell
flora from fauna.
every time I dream of you, something spills.
after meat, I clean my teeth with a knife (as did my forebears).
I invoke words which all understand
the most emotionally charged ones:
love, family, fabric.
I know nothing of a pentagram in the baptistery.
when children lie, means they’re afraid.
when grown-ups lie, means they’re afraid.
I like to believe I’m wiser than the day before
and that I know more.
oxymoron, an absent presence.
chrysanthemum / krizantema
he says chrysanthemum
I get over him instantly.
she turns chauvinism into an event:
always invites her girlfriends.
I used to once, but no more.
you’re blooming Simone, but scentlessly.
Petra, you’re a rock and on it I shall build
a kindergarten, a hospital and a bird house.
to be kind all the time?
no, thank you.
und für Sie?
no, thank you.
the I in the poem menstruates.
if anyone asks,
I’ll say chrysanthemum.
Ofelia fell off her bike / Ofelija je pala s bicikla
Ofelia fell off her bike and
the asphalt wove itself into her face
five Roman emperors swore to kindness
a blade of grass wished it were a rock
a stone finally took flight, without wings
or awareness of the portentousness of the act
blood is warm only when fresh
the soul is a butterfly in a national park,
protected, without knowing
when you come, you bring me gifts
the cloud is empty, the ground cracks under the pilgrims’ feet
holy is the place where we part ways
to let things go to hell / puštati stvari da idu k ͜vragu
to let things go to hell and return crestfallen and unstable,
to wait for him to: translate Faustus, mine residual ore, charter a city.
to grow your hair long in the meantime, wrap it round the world like a noose,
to be the menace of blue, a sad woman with swollen breasts.
to learn about stylistic devices:
eschew grandstanding, greed, gluttony, alliteration,
almost fuck up and give in to each one.
accept a thousand partial solutions till one appears walking on water.
like a shelter dog be afraid of the bicycle and the refuse bin,
rest on the floor, in a corpse pose, halfway from here to hanging (people
change their mind when there’s no going back)
I’m losing my talent for eroticism, becoming a scoliosis in a porno,
taking sorrow to what’s not the place at what’s not the time,
people don’t add me, they mostly subtract me, you’re too multiplied, they say
you come as Pi, constantly irrational,
who can put up with that now,
we have issues at the office, you have issues in your head.
I miss the sea (when you dive in, you never change your mind)
sister: / sestra:
came in a strange form and rather late.
mother had already turned sixty.
still, a sister.
she was all I’d (itsjustanexpression) dreamt of.
beautiful, soft, with thick curly hair.
ready to play. and play we did:
she put her hand in my hair her tongue
in my mouth her finger
in my cornea
and said, these are the rules:
pronouns he/him be
what I want you to be submit
don’t touch my
breasts fuck off.
desire – enemy territory, a stern hamartia.
I pull myself out, lungs full of water, pull myself out.
mother says: now, then? isn’t that the sister you wanted, eh?
what now? don’t like her? no pleasing you…
I pretend not to hear.
for days on end, I sit on the rock pulling the arrow out of my neck:
if I’m a deer, I’ll bleed to death
I’ll turn pink, if I’m the sky
if I’m a woman, ( )
where do I go now?
centring / centriranje
you’ve been centring yourself,
for ten, twenty years, or more.
you traverse precarious ground;
you check mate both the king and the queen
but the game is forever drawn.
you sit violently somehow
as you read about Saturn and female sexuality.
systematically, you silence yourself.
you bring God to a boil
then pour him into revocable moulds.
unstoppably, you condense.
you cannot sleep,
but at least you’re in no hurry.
you live in a tense expressing
a state of being before a state of being
but after its aftermath.
when everyone changes their mind at once,
that’s pronounced trebuchet, spelt
metamorphosis of intent.
stop flailing your genitive – after all
we all walk hanging from the same question
where are my slippers
how to love,
what to love with
you know, this is how I picture it:
at the break of dawn
I go out barefoot on the balcony,
and what do I find – a revolution:
while we slept, the world bedewed itself.
a remove / odmak
you’re a gap in my secondary literature
an inequitable equation for the new century
an irreversible touch
if there’s a system that can encompass you:
let it be lenient and imprecise
if there’s a weapon that can protect you:
let it be cold and in someone else’s hand
if there’s a love that won’t cripple you:
let it be bestowed on you every day
this is a new forest
and in it we’re lost anew
trade in sad / tužna trgovina
numismatic collections of memory sell best
great myths of small lives
bourgeois notes on times and people
cognitive distortions from the centre
and the centre is always stern
its claim on the luxury box
we condemn the clergy, for clericalism
nationalists, for nationalism
violators, for violence
we want applause for our deduction, a gallantry cross
wide, all-encompassing blind spots become
our brands –
all rights reserved
our own above all
to you we magnanimously gift the ones we don’t fancy
we’re anti-capitalists, but our capital keeps increasing
we’re feminists, but the blueprint is male
we’re anarchists, embedded in institutions
we’re here to teach you:
our justice is selective
our equality pharisaic
our intentions noble
stay safe and naive
your stupidity is fertile soil for our joint success
BAD FATHER / LOŠ OTAC
bad father likes the carnival
he changes masks year-round
finds it immensely amusing
he’s phonetically gifted
fluently bad in all the languages of the world
he rules from the shadows within
knows exactly what you want
you never get it
he’s seductive and charming
some say charismatic
when he dies
all the world’s dignitaries
attend his funeral
but the next day
he resurrects unseen
reads his own necrologies
bad father doesn’t feel a thing
it’s a point of pride
everything he cannot feel
you feel triply
bad father eats
dips them in cognac
as he sermonises on socialism
and workers’ rights
the worse he is
the more the children love him
believing that someday
they’d entrench themselves in his place
unaware that he’s long been
entrenched in them
writes a poem about bad father
with a bone-tired daughter’s hand
in the poem
she sticks a stake in his heart
he sticks her head in the oven
bad father only wants to fuck
what a woman should look like
he introduces standards
of aesthetic surgery
turns them all into mannequins
with bar codes on their napes
to those who don’t want to be mannequins
he whispers that looks don’t matter
they are his brainy lovelies
he makes them work
twice as hard
shin up the mountain
on day two of their period
write a dissertation
whilst in labour
be iron ladies
single and determined
the new old order
in his name
sons he castrates
if not directly
then through the mother
leaves them permanently latched
onto her teat
turns them into perpetual boys
little peter pans
who only want their tinker bell
bad father advocates non-violence
love and solidarity
he worries about our safety
especially since 9/11
worries so much
he kills six million
people with worry
bad father always needs
a projection screen
is a victim
of bad father
and when all the strategies fail
there is always
the victim card
that’s his trump
works every time
bad father tells you
whispers through all your windows
assures you that there are mortal sins
for which you’ll be punished
bad father is
the supreme authority
he governs through one of the two poles
those whose poles can no longer
drive him insane
he hates them more than anything
ignores them systematically
hushes them up
pretends they don’t exist
bad father is so bad
he makes the mother
look better than she is
that’s just contrast
she’s an accomplice
a passive observer
a peacekeeping mission in Srebrenica
she’s never at fault
enjoys protections under international law
doesn’t know where she was
or what she was doing
if he is bad
she must be good
if he doesn’t cry
her tears cannot
bad father gets up early
lest he misses something
he enjoys that sense of control and domination
before the world (finally) rises
bad father gives likes
to all his children
obedient ones in particular
knows what they think
and where they go
plies them with likes
so they keep coming back for more
bad father attends a protest
against bad father
invites the organisers for a cup of tea
compliments their hair styles
there are other methods
but this one without intimidation
closes the borders one day
deploys troops, unleashes dogs
welcomes you warmly the day after
helps you look for a job
bad father created the world
in his image and likeness
all things must be like him
what is not like him
he tramples down with brutality
bad father is the arbiter
of our reality
on his good days
when he isn’t so morose
it may seem to the children
he has more virtues than faults
bad father has a name
but no one calls him by it
the children refuse
to use it
he is our father
such as he is
children sometimes do
the opposite of bad father
run in a different direction
till one day in the mirror
that same deathless chimera
bad father likes nothing better than
when children argue and fight
the left spits on the right
the right twists the left’s wrists
bad father renounces all that is evil
and only when he’s drunk
he lets loose a cry –
the state, it is I!