- Slovakia -
Eva Luka, is a poetess and a writer. She has been writing poetry from childhood, and has won a number of literary contests for children and adults. She studied interpreting-translating, English and Japanese at Comenius University and then she spent eight years in Japan, studying, interpreting, teaching English and especially working on her PhD thesis in Japanese literature (Abe Kóbó, Suna no onna, The Woman in the Dunes, Ósaka University). After her stay in Japan she spent four years in Spain, teaching English and Japanese. She has translated a lot of poems and short stories from English and Japanese into Slovak. Her own first collection of poems Divosestra (The Wild Sister) was published in 1999 and attracted the attention of readers and critics (for this book Luka gained Rubato Award, Krasko Award, Literary Revue Award, Haľamová Award). Her second book Diabloň (The Devil Tree) was published in 2005 and the third one, Havranjel (The Ravenangel) in 2011. Luka's poems have been translated into many world languages, including for example Hindu. She works on several prosaic books and plans to publish a novel for children with her own illustrations. In present she teaches at Trnava University, Slovakia.
Eva Luka is a poet and a sensualist, who, in spite of linguistic abstractions, experiences poetry in a physical way. Her poems often have their origin in intense emotional experiences, wherein a particular instance is enriched by a dream, visions and fantastical pictures with an archetypal background. Her poems do not lack causality, but the large influence of emotions and the focus on subconscious testimony weakens the poetic logic. Luka’s poetry can be easily described as a definition of depth psychology. She usually tries to capture instinctually dynamic relationships dealing with emotions and will. She stimulates in the reader points embedded deep within and which are at the polar opposite of one’s rational centre. She activates those layers which form a person but which do not have their own language of verbal expression. The readers’ reaction is radical and excited, just like Luka was before and during the process of writing.
Luka’s poetry contains both existential and tragic dramatic tones. In her first two books, there is still an unclear origin for these tones, which are obscured by a secret or connected to an intuitive perception. However, later on menacing images increasingly appear, specifically in the tragic experiences of the death of a partner and children (Diabloň, Havranjel). The most common motifs are poison and blood: these are on the border between life and death and often predetermine this boundary. However, not even in this case are the motifs clear and closed. Throughout Luka’s work, meanings change and maintain their neutral hue of signification (e.g. poison in a small dose as a medicine and the bloody ‘sacrificial’ woman during childbirth). However, more often they embody symbols of final loss and waste.
Luka’s poetry has a particular way of addressing the issue of womanhood, which is shown in the dual lens of a universal gender role ('fried’, ‘wild sisters’), in particular everyday experiences with such an identity and its biological dimension and determination, motherhood, sexuality, partnership with a man and life after its loss. Luka depicts the woman’s world in a direct manner, without fear of breaking aesthetic conventions or social taboos (e.g. physicality, instinct, desire and erotic climax). Her naturalistic and in places raw exposure is systemic and related to the fact that her poems are oriented towards the fullness of ideas and experiences. This creates a sensual stimulation and an associative connection in the accumulation of works. Luka is not a poet who offers a thrifty testimony; she overuses adjectives and appositions; she uses these to offer nuances and saturate images. Luka does not ‘release’ her poems easily. She makes her texts as long as they need to be in order to bring forth their dramatic element and emotionality, and to allow for the creation of a rhythm of verbalised images which abruptly shatter when the core point is made.
The collections Hlbokozelená žena/Deep Green Woman and Divosestra/Wild Sister expand Luka’s thematic preoccupations to include her poetic travel accounts from Japan, where she studied Japanese language and literature from 1993 to 1995 and 1998 to 2002. Gradually, however, the influences of the exoticness of East Asian culture fade away (Diabloň). In the collection Havranjel this preoccupation is replaced by texts where Luka poetically defines objects – see the poems Tráva/Grass, Motýľ /Butterfly, Kameň/Stone, Slnečnica/Sunflower and others. This group of poems has helped Luka realise her place in the world and though an active engagement with it therapeutically undergo new aesthetic experiences which balance out personal tragedy.
Ravenangel / Havranjel
he comes to me with laboured
wings, drenched with rain. I make a place
for him in my bed, on my thighs feeling
the coldness of his embrace; I strive
to hug his black-sad head to my breast.
It takes so long to become used to the burden, which
he grants me as a gift, it takes so long to warm
my solitary legs. With resignation
my pale skin accepts the transparent moistness of water,
of a ravenangel’s sperm and spit. Who’s to say where he wanders when
night has fallen? What might have happened to him, cast out
against his will into the horror of life? I forgive him
this coldness, this…dampness; relieved
of my daily grind I accept everything.
I try to feel his
pulse, to stroke
his exhausted nape.
He brings me nothing, except slime,
sleep with its very own after-taste,
traces of bitter-tender efforts through which
he hopes to overcome futility
and the night.
In the morning I find by my head
a shed, grey feather. I draw a bath,
slowly, as when they lower, on thick ropes
into a grave, a last
posthumous rose. I open
The ravenangel regards me
from the wilderness of the day;
and at midday I sense in me
black children pushing forward
into relentless life.© Eva Luka, translated by James Sutherland-Smith
The Ravengel II / Havranjel II
A toothless sable child inside me
tried to smile, but in vain.
Its wan smile turned to a grin, a grimace
of unwanted foetus. It leant its creased little face
aside and burst into tears. Terribly it cried inside me, shivering
all around its wrinkled, unseemly little body, sobbing
inside my vitals, wailing
insufferably and tossing
in fever all that long, rainy night, when morning
was unforseeable and the moon
walked amongst the rocks of Montserrat and with her spikes
what still to her appeared alive.
The toothless ravengel's changeling was bleeding in my blackened womb
all night long. Together we wept through
three ceaseless days, until at last it came out of me
with the clot of curdled blood
as with the greeting from those who wanted to live so much
till they cried themselves into timeless, hypnotic sleep
and till I buried it
like a tiny kitten with a star on its harried brow
under the black, dry, fruitless
tree.© Eva Luka, translated by James Sutherland-Smith
The Somersault (Salto mortale) / Salto mortale
Salto mortale entices by the irresistible smell
of fermenting plums, by the sweetish taste
of urge. Just go and try it: the splendour consists
in not knowing how you perch
when you plunge,
and what will happen with your
peculiar heart, which despite all
wants to feel badly it still lives,
it lives intensely, it lives up to stop,
like the clock in the Borrowers' house.
Salto mortale is to leave everything and go
somewhere else. Without money and without home,
without guarantees. To find out what material
you follow from; what metal, paper
or clay. Salto mortale is to knock
on your inner lamp. To wait
what kind of spirit comes from it
and if at all.© Eva Luka, translated by James Sutherland-Smith
The Sin / Hriech
The Light is the Light, the Shadow is the Shadow and the Sin
is the Sin only until the Arrangement of the World
is overseen by the Sobriety of Judgement, examined
by the Guardian Reason, only until the World
has properly fixed its Limits and the Rules
unblemished rest on its censer
which takes its Clearly Defined Place.
But as soon as the Light, the Shadow and the Sin
get into the eyes of someone who views the World the other way round,
displaced, slantwise or
just a bit different, all of a sudden
the Light can become the Shadow,
the Shadow the Sin and the Sin
When the Sin becomes the Light,
it brings into the Arrangement of the World weird excitement.
The Things, hitherto equally put in order,
start to whisper Nonsenses that become
Senses; with a label of Touch, Smell, Sight, Ear
and chiefly Taste of Unknown Pleasure. The Things
start their small Boycotts, Revolutions and Cataclysms.
The Things put on their dresses upside down, exchange
their sexes, the grammatical ones (genders) and the real ones
(belonging to Herm and Aphrodite). And again vice versa. And vice versa.
But really Weird Things come at the point
when the Light
becomes the Sin. Then the crazy game for the third one ends,
the Sobriety of Judgement rolls in the mud, the Reason
in the trousers stricken by its own excrements runs
away and the Rules
crash into their Limits like the enraged bulls
into the bullfighters.
For when the Light becomes the Sin,
the World darkens and the Shadow
starts its supremacy. With the inscrutable Blackness
overflows the Things, the Limits, the Boycotts, the Nonsenses
and Senses; with the wings of the Ravengel covers the differences
between the light and the Light, the shadow and the Shadow,
the sin and the Sin. The Sin
gets out of the dimness, almost unseen, and walks
along the darkened street. At last for a while
it can be the Shadow, for a while the Light
but first of all it can be what it was from the youth of the world:
itself.© Eva Luka, translated by James Sutherland-Smith
The Centaur / Kentaur
The centaur with a mysterious, wild body
blackened by the nocturnal music, with the sight
of abandoned crows in the end of November,
comes near to my house, in his mouth
a silver harmonica. He is calling me outside, centaur, discharging
glittering saliva, winding it round the corners of my autumn abode
like a cobweb, impatiently shaking his head and breathing greedily
behind my windows, centaur
without time, without the will to wait,
without a face.
So many times I was already prepared
to go out, into the dusk of a garden,
to touch his chest, to have a look at his profile;
so many times I was watching, hidden in a heavy
cloth of the curtains, how he waves his hips,
how the harmonica throws starry lightenings
onto his hairy sex.
As soon as I expose myself to his hands, I too
will be circumfused with a sent of a strange cellars that hangs over him,
after his kiss I will sense
the taste of ginger and dreadful forest, from my palm
he will carefully bite out a pearl;
I will come back deranged, without the will
to wait, without time; like an eternal spider
I will start to wind the house from inside
by sombre saliva.© Eva Luka, translated by James Sutherland-Smith
The Old Women / Staré ženy
The old women wearing grey suits, sweaty
former nursemaids, bearers
of snakes and medusas, foster-mothers of bald
teddy bears in their
empty wombs. The old women
without wombs. The old women
who have forgotten: they collect
only what is. Toadstools
and small change, rain-worms.
Grey-haired; not our mothers,
not us. High heels
on varicose legs; a face – the posthumous
mask of Marilyn.
That’s not us. We still
regularly gaze into the face
of the bloody moon in the toilet
bowl. Youth, you howl
like a dog; you depart
on a very strange road.© Eva Luka, translated by James Sutherland-Smith