- Serbia -
Sonja Veselinović (Novi Sad, 1981) graduated from the Department of Comparative Literature with Literary Theory at the Faculty of Philosophy, the University of Novi Sad, in 2005, finished her magister thesis (2009), and received her Ph.D. (2014).
She works as an associated professor and teaches modern and contemporary literature and theory. S. Veselinović is the author of Prevodilačka poetika Ivana V. Lalića (Ivan V. Lalić’s Poetics of Translation, 2012), Recepcija, kanon, ciljnakultura (Reception, Canon, and the Target Culture, 2018) and numerous papers and articles. Her literary career started in 2008 with the lyrical prose Poemapreko (Poem Across). In 2009 she received a Borislav Pekić grant for the novel in progress and Isidora Sekulić Award (2014) for the lyrical novel Krosfejd (Crossfade, published in 2013). In 2020 she published Proklizavanje (Slipping), a poetry collection, and received the Award Biljana Jovanović for it. Her prose and poetry is also published in several anthologies of contemporary Serbian poetry or prose (Restart, Novosadska ženska proza, Indeks 21, Nevidljiva zebra: novosadska ženska poezija, Atari generacija). Several of her pieces are translated into Hungarian, German and English, and her latest book is also published in the Macedonian language (Пролизгување, 2022).Sonja Veselinović has been a member of the editorial team of the magazine Polja since 2007.
... The poetic indicators of Sonja Veselinović’s poetry include a subtle self-ironyas a recognizable stylistic procedure, i.e. a slightly ironic treatment of the human existence and the body, intimacy, the irony towards the possibility of being able to finish, round, and stabilize anything, both in her female lyrical subject and her in poetic form. Although the concept of slipping indicates instability, change, this is, in Sonja Veselinović’s opus, a measure of a poetic consistency. From the slipping of the identity of the lyrical subject (its ontological instability, fragmentation, and multiplicity) and slipping of the genre identity to the slipping of the identity in generaland the identity as a slipping phenomenon – all realized in Poem Across (Poema preko) – she arrives at Slippings where the world and the lyrical subject are unstable, elusive, and self-elusive, open and not rounded, but aware that as such they are possible only in playing and writing. The game of writing and the game of identity, realized in Poem Across, are now in Slippings (Proklizavanja) transformed into a creative principle, a structural principle, and a metapoetic self-awareness of the possibility of achieving aesthetic effect, both through play and its corruption. (...) Sonja Veselinović’s collection Slippingsis characterized by a poetic consistency, a line of successful, innovative comparisons that defamiliarize unusual poetic images, a narrative momentum combined with introspective-meditative depth of self-immersion, as well as with the thematization of the position and the role of a modern female subject – her possibilities to be realized on a professional, family and artistic (creative) level, a subtle and layered consideration not only of a woman’s social roles, but also of her relationship to her own body, her own past, her own memories ...
- Milica Ćuković
... Although the perspectives here are not only female – in certain poems, they refer to the re-examination of the (modern) identity in general, the existence or well-being, whether they are directed towards something bigger and (un)identified (“The House Type”) or smaller than oneself (“Bait”), whether their atmosphere is virtual (“Video Games”), real (“Well-Being”), or nightmarish(“The Nocturne”, for example) – we are still mostly “on the female continent”. The female line of the family tree is followed, and the grandmother’s life wisdom remains as a family bequest. This practice continues with the offspring, the baby in the womb, when it communicates through the body, while on the social level it is realized through understanding and acceptance (the collection ends with the poem “Basil” as a symbol of the female unity). The experience is thus not at all monotonous, nor is the perspective one-sided, since most of the poems are (self-)ironic. In addition, the critical dimension of a woman’s identity covers several aspects as well and refers to the different roles of women, both in the family and as an intellectual, in different ages – as babies, girls, mistresses, mothers ...
- Sonja Milovanović
This year’s winner of the “Biljana Jovanović”Award is the author of two enchanting lyrical novels: Poem Across (2008) is a lovely dedication to Marina Tsvetaeva, and Crossfade (Krosfejd, 2013) refers to Breton’s Nadja and Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”. It is not unexpected that, after the homage to seductive female identities, the poems in Slippings are formed by a confession analysis and the analysis of confessions. However, Sonja Veselinović does not deal with feverish statistics of her own and other people’s secrets –the surprises of intimacy in her poetry are of other, more important kid. She deals with the mimicry of the memory, the elegiac record of slips that are the causes of daily failures in the process of processing the impressions. A slight nervousness pulsates quietly, dividing everyday life into “a multitude of texts” that are waiting, on the one hand, and, on the other, a part of the day that is “without words”, into which the heroine throws herself “like into a dirty pool, / with a guilty conscience and narrowed eyes”.
Seem from this sad perspective, the quotes from Poem Acrosssound like mischievously luxurious and low-intensity suffering: “I have two elbows to color them with a plot. And at least so much measure that I don’t finish what I’m writing”. Confessions in Sonja’s poetry are actually resigned everyday inevitability, but far from being a tearing, traumatic effort, just as it is not an effort to look at another, nor to remember past happiness or nightmares. Gentleness, sadness, and peace permeate these poems, as well as a sense of patient tenderness towards one’s own overstrained body and deep caution towards the world in which it is important to maintain balance.
“My father used to call me Goldilocks, and I used to tell him: I’m not golden!” – this is what Sonja’s lyrical subject used to say back in the day; these daring word plays were a part of her strategy of associations and crucifixion of meditation in 2008 when Sonja Veselinović was the winner of the Young Poets’ Festival in Zaječar, as well as six years later when she became the winner of the “IsidoraSekulić” Award. Today, she sees the world around her with a considerable amount of skepticism, with a noble respect for the deficit of logic in hordes of fragmented memories and our biographies that inadvertently falsify not our ability to bring chaos to beautifully complex facts, but our resistance to that facts that offer us attempts to discipline our own memory. Sonja’s poetic work keeps her caring for others, for a basil saleswoman who puts her money into an improvised wallet (a freezer bag), for a blue-haired old woman who is “someone else’s Cinderella”, for a grandfather who was kicked out of the kindergarten “because he taught children to swear. / Like a modern Prometheus”.
This poetry collection, which pays homage to the poet’s role models (Frank O’Hara, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, John Ashbery), draws details from everyday life in which “passers-by have palms as itchy / as magic lamps”, where a confused and numb body is a “bell tower with an unhooked bell”, and where an awkward question wanders “like a bullet”. In the introductory poem,“Women, Perspectives”, the catalog of reactions to reality announces strategies to describe the world: when answering questions and challenges, “pluralities of the deaf” are sometimes whispered in the poet.
- Vladislava Gordić Petković
WOMEN, PERSPECTIVES / ЖЕНЕ, ПЕРСПЕКТИВЕ
Your first reaction is to refuse,
as dictated by the simple grammar
of children and ghosts,
later, during the negotiations,
you’d cross your legs, weigh up with your shoe
who is to pay how many debts and dues, and to whom,
perhaps inside you the deafened multitudes
would whisper conspiratorially,
your anger, meanwhile, you would explain
by a good upbringing or bad digestion.
However, it is certain you will accept,
because it’s impossible that you do not owe,
no sooner had you been seen
than your skin unrolled like a pulled-out receipt roll,
the cash register ka-chings every time you touch
with your tongue the upper palate for N,
the palms of the passers-by itch
like magic lamps.
There's a third thing:
you avert your gaze, draw in your shoulders,
you press your hands against the trunk,
a belfry with the bell unstuck,
apparently, I didn’t hear,
apparently, I have no idea,
apparently, the connection is bad,
until the question wanders off like a bullet
and hits another woman
still unpractised in playing dead.
ORIENTATION / OРИЈЕНТАЦИЈА
Probably there is still that residential block where you went
with the boyfriend of old on one of those tense walks
during which he would dissect your memory of others,
or maybe it was just a simple, lovers’ walk,
when with your hand you lightly brush the playground jungle gym
poking the ground with your sneaker, while you wait for him to tie his shoe
or buy some water or something to that effect.
Though, at the time, people didn't really buy water and they would somehow
survive the average walk without a plastic bottle
and come back home yearning for something.
You, perhaps, yearning for solitude. For unembargoed flashbacks.
None of your people live there, no reason to unlock the picture,
there is nothing in it but the surface, the apparition
of something that didn't really have to happen
in order for you to stand where you are.
And yet, compared to other, repeated, successive pathways,
the same conversational and other contents,
you remember this unrepeated one: between the yellow-grey buildings,
along the overpass across the tracks,
you remember it, so to speak, because you cannot entirely rely on the fact
that your mental picture hasn’t been glued over the authentic one,
like a futile spice of mystery, novelty, initiative.
Google street viewdoesn't show anything similar, and why should it?
This too should suffice.
That didn't stop you before from writing the story
of another former boyfriend, about how the local kids
broke his nose so he bled in the bus on the long way home,
precisely into that space, slippery, blurred on the margins,
selectively obscure, but evidently quite exciting.
In a place like that Branko would have made a flower sprout. 
 The reference is to the celebrated neo-symbolist Serbian poet Branko Miljković (1934-1961). In his poems the flowerrecurringly figures as a symbol of creativity and hope.
WINTER EQUIPMENT / ЗИМСКА ОПРЕМА
I remember how heedlessly
she careered from the main road into the unswept side street,
the car swerved,
and thump-thump brushed
against the cars tightly parked along the curb on both sides,
with no visible damage.
To me, in the back seat, it felt as if
I had launched without the skis on
an unexpectedly exciting downhill run,
in a flash, a story by Chekhov came back to me
about the young man who declares his love to the frightened girl
as the sled swiftly slides down the hill.
I'm not an adrenaline junkie
and I don't like the downhill run for its own sake,
but that erotic moment of Chekhov’s,
it seems to me, would give everything a purpose,
even to the skidding
off the expected route, departure, arrival, the exact time,
from well-guided conversation,
tailored clothes and fixed makeup.
Thump-thump of the soft pinball machine
comes back to me sometimes as I’m falling asleep
like something quite close to a crash,
the holding of your breath,
a guttural scream stifled a second too late.
Maybe it's finally time to take a risk
in a series of pretences that nothing happened and
delusions that something happened;
grease the sled with tallow, protect your ears from the wind,
slide towards the first big bush
into a completely different
yet inevitable embrace.
Without motive, out of pure evil, just once, spoil the game.
THE BAIT / МАМАЦ
There is no word for that state of turned up interior.
Perhaps, best of all:
like a fish still on the hook,
stretched over your filthy, child’s palm,
only its tail sticking out a little.
The scales easily rub off against your fingernails as it tingles with insanity,
first time caught.
And you, madly focused on that eye
that dissolves you through the unseemly lenses of air, and that mouth,
the wound you won't instantly and scrupulously deliver from the sting.
Now that twitch,
that impetuous attempt to peel off from your palm,
although they are so cruelly compatible,
two, three times, hopeless,
but with the moral imperative you’re reading into it,
that's what I'm talking about.
The flickering, the twitch from the diaphragm, like a forgotten hook,
out of nowhere, then the questioning,
anywhere: at the bus station,
above the sink, in front of the sun-blinded window.
It's been a long time since you stopped feeling the hook
and you slide the worm onto it indifferently,
grown up women don’t do that.
Something else, cold and dumb, glistens white on their palm,
before they put it back, always jauntily, under the glittery surface.
But the fingertips tingle for a while,
as if alive.
THE IMPRINT / ОТИСАК
Too much poetry for this year and it's only June,
and there’s going to be quite a bit of it
read anew, interpreted with a lot of straining
as with the hoe against a root, a hunk of rock, thick black soil,
at the end of the day, everything turns to a crime novel:
when I close my eyes, I see incoherent comments
of the library users on the margins,
they adhere to me, without remainder,
decalcomania caused by the harmless opening of a book,
in spite of the acrid smell of moisture and the resistance of coarse paper.
Arms and legs languidly extended, my head inclined,
as if I needed the whole body in order to understand,
and the need to scratch the nose, whisk away a fly,
rub the numb place, were pure insolence,
I suffer the torture of metaphors and images,
with the curse as solution, between my clenched teeth.
The moment before I lose
I stretch them all out between my hands like a paper people chain,
I begin to sway to an imaginary music.
We avoid each other for a while
like – after a fight –an elderly married couple,
who no longer solve anything with sex.
SOMEONE ELSE'S CINDARELLA / ТУЂА ПЕПЕЉУГА
For grandma Stana
It's decent weather,
totes and antediluvian leather bags are schlepping
their old ladies with bluish reflections in their curled hair,
behind whom I always slow down,
as I observe them walk, swinging their hands and
a thought flares up in my throat:
I'll suddenly walk around her, startle her a little,
and smile – like – it's me!
But it’s not her, of course.
She up and left
her workplace here on earth
off to collect the fat pay that
down here she never asked of anyone, for anything.
It is a thought that nevertheless allows
me to pick up my pace.
The way she hauled her brothers and sisters
from rock to mud,
and now, without complaining about the civilisation shock
or the begrudgingneighbours,
she fell off her perch,
grown thin with the thoughts devouring her insides
like in that adage
she fell back on when the need arose:
"what do you need a guy for – to chew on your bones?"
I peer sideways in the face under the hairdo,
someone else's Cinderella.
Still, why not say something:
I remember our last
you showed me the tree tops against the window
and the strange shapes inside them,
don't worry, they have stayed here between us,
I regularly chase away your ghosts,
OUR BODY / НАШЕ ТЕЛО
The demand for me keeps growing,
the crisis and scarcity andimpatience in the queue,
in response to the initially generous offer.
Tiny hands and feet and cheeks stun easily
and already I’m being duplicated,
insistently doubting the quality of the clone,
not to mention the original!
In a body made of mouthfuls
I think and think and think,
instead of creating.
Out of the bruises the spikes,
out of the scars the stings
to defend ourselves from everything I make up.
Clearly, I won't be whole again,
I have shattered myself in three
may you ever scatter the silly beating of my heart
whichever way you move.
BASIL / БОСИЉАК
I’m from Vrbovski, she says, as she expertly slips the bill
into an improvised freezer bag wallet,
shall I add some basil, she asks, I know the girl likes it,
and she says something else, which escapes me, as I furtively
stare at her big fists, on such a small body,
and I picture what she must have looked like in the school photos,
if she proudly thrust herself to the fore or if she felt relieved
when they placed her in the background,
if some caring hand carriedthese photos at all
through the gushing and pouring down of years like a waterfall,
so that she would first feel ashamed, then wave off indifferently,
and finally, fanatically peer
like into the one candle back then, once, while the wind was blowing,
for the wind must have been blowing if she lived in Banat then,
peer looking for survivors,
first of all, herself, the one who doesn't exactly match the view,
I say, what about a bunch of basil,
and I immediately tear off a leaf to crush between my fingers,
I don't know if the girl likes basil,
she only likes the aster you pack along with the basil,
I think to myself,
taking my fingers to my nose and breathing it in
like the perfume of a vanished lover,
longingly and maliciously,
when I was a girl, I used to hate basil,
now it is getting back at me through our lost time.
ON MY OFFICE / КАБИНЕТСКА
The gunk on the outside window pane
that watches, half-blind, the opposite wall
of this building – this institution,
inside it carefully collected dust
contradicts, only a little, the numb
books on the shelfs,
inside them a whirlpool of thoughts, questions,
existential ones and banal ones –
who can tell them apart –
reasons and conflicts,
inside them the irrefutable winner, the notion
that failure precedes life,
and that everything else is a price to pay,
inside it something brings pleasure and something brings terror,
which then dwindles into a slowed down scene
of morbid masturbation,
into the fragility of impression,
I take an air freshener out of my drawer –
orange scent –
I move it away from my face,
I release a long flat line.
Mercilessly, like an electrocardiograph.Translated by Bojana Vujin
WHO SAYS THAT WE SAY / КО КАЖЕ ДА МИ КАЖЕМО
Someone is still a child of imagination, I believe,
what remains to us is only recordings,
a desire for precision, for garishly horrific frames.
Still, many memories
are completely paralysed limbs,
even when you agree to write poems
about what happened.
The jumbled up facts resist
your fingers, they’re not like Play-Doh,
and while you’re rubbing together your dry, course fingertips,
second after second goes to the purgatory of memory.
Sliding by, that is all the poetics
offered by your mind,
now discordant with once obsessively followed
used this month to annul
that potential life.
Dreams and mirrors are a master’s tools.
Our tools are reading out names, following the map
and crackling the wrappings.Translated by Bojana Vujin