- Croatia -
Goran Čolakhodžić (b. Zagreb, 1990) is a Croatian poet and translator. In 2015 his volume Na kraju taj vrt (In the end, the garden) won the Croatian poetry debut prize “Goran za mlade pjesnike” (Goran for Young Poets), named in the honour of Ivan Goran Kovačić (1913 – 1943), poet and anti-fascist fighter. In 2017 the book won the international “Bridges of Struga” award for best debut, awarded by the “Struga Poetry Evenings” festival in North Macedonia, and was translated into Macedonian in its entirety (by Nikola Kukuneš). His other poems have appeared in a number of magazines, both printed and online, in Croatia and abroad and have been translated into several languages. From 2017 to 2022 he was assistant editor of the Croatian Free Electronic Books (BEK) online library and is a member of the organising board of the Croatian “Goranovo proljeće” (Goran’s Spring) poetry festival. His second volume of poetry, Pred gradom su kosci (Reapers at the city gates) appeared in 2018.
Since the publication of his first book of poetry, Goran has been acknowledged as one of the most interesting and distinctive new lyrical voices in Croatia and his texts have appeared in a number of national or regional selections and anthologies.
“Goran Čolakhodžić's poetry collection Na kraju taj vrt is successful in its construction of a subject as the protagonist of a lyrical narrative and of the places where events take place – the garden, orchard, forest and the city – which are consistently developed along the lines of a carefully wrought concept. These elements intermingle and intertwine in various ways in time and space and in the poet's (sub)conscious; they simultaneously supress each other and co-exist, often one at the expense of the other. (…) The garden is the subject's true personification and metaphor, his mental state and a dream-like hallucination. (…)
His obsessions include themes of life and death, the transience of time, the ephemerality of things and nature, as well as their renewal and return to their lost origins. Aware that only love can overcome (or at least delay) death, Čolakhodžić introduces a Freudian twist in the understanding of Eros and Thanatos and continuously elevates them to the same thematic and existential plane by perceiving them as inseparable realities of life and affirming them yet again in the most unexpected situations.”
Davor Ivankovac, member of jury, “Goran for Young Poets” Award, 2015
“In Čolakhodžić, nature – sometimes provoked by human activity into a catastrophic response – is mostly on the offensive, undertaking a more or less expected reconquista. Time dominates over space, long processes are more important than synchronic time. Unnamed, ‘free’ spaces compete with those contaminated by names, by the colonizing nature of human ‘nominalization’.”
Marko Pogačar, review of Pred gradom su kosci, Portal Novosti, 2019
“Čolakhodžić’s complex new book can be read as an intimate study of time and space that, pointing at the likely consequences of warmongering politics and ecological catastrophes, seems like a hallucinatory warning, evident already from the title. It is a somewhat convoluted book that leaves the impression of a riddle, although the author, using numerous textual signals, warns us, also, that his second book is inseparably linked to this brilliant debut, Na kraju taj vrt (2015). Moreover, I have the impression that the two texts supplement each other and are mutually intertwined.”
Kristina Špiranec, review of Pred gradom su kosci, Booksa.hr, 2019
Pots / Posude
Pots, earthen, cracked,
reusable nonetheless, lying long
in the rain and open air, flake
beautifully, just like skin. They function
as parts of a natural
echoing machine, reflecting responses
with their bottoms. Their use
is for water to pass through them
and to linger inside, and for demonstrating
clearly the roles of earth,
since they were made of it, lifting up
rot, germination, specimens of plants.
In a corner of the garden, under the hedge,
empty pots lie (here
is their room), waiting for spring,
to be housed anew, until then
calling softly for moss,
something more permanent.Translated from the Croatian by the Author
The Hunt / Lov
I hunted hares
abundantly and inaudibly:
the crosshair killed, there were no shots,
furry bags fell promptly down
on the parched grass in the dusk. They remained
stiff, eyes open, with not a drop of blood
on their clenched wounds: in fact ridiculous,
innocuous in their death which had not
taken over life, and so was see-through.
I did not run out of bullets,
and neither did they of death: they produced it constantly
in ditches and on mounds.
Autumn is falling, it’ll be that.Translated from the Croatian by the Author
Last Mowing / Zadnja košnja
The last mowing another quiet ritual.
It is not obligatory, but it is good,
and pleasant too, because it re-enacts August,
the time when mowing is as contagious as yawning,
when you start the engine and begin,
and when you stop for the first time
you hear the entire motor choir from the near
distance, from all the four corners of the world.
All of us conquering grass, mimicking cows,
mimicking some neighbours in the suburbs of Chicago.
But the last mowing is more beautiful and manly:
you are alone in it, it’s often dusk and there is fog.
You do something unpleasant and painful to the grass
for its own good, like a doctor or a father.
You take care of the machine, you clean it before it turns in,
you pour out the gasoline, dealing with – as you never do,
being a philologist, a scribe and a gay – oil and steel. At last
you lock the door, breathing out an “everything’s ready”;
now winter may come, now long nights without growth
spent far away from the earth,
that’s why you sigh.Translated from the Croatian by the Author
We were talking about your death / Stajali smo i koristili perfekt
We were talking about your death
in the past tense
or actually not about death, since it was behind us,
but we dealt with it as fluenty as we did with verbs.
We still had a few issues to solve,
related to seedlings and Spring in the sun;
a few remarks before we went to work,
not a single uplifting word – that's how you show trust.
Not until noon, after the morning mist lifted,
when you cut the plant roots with your shovel,
did I remember I'd cried, also, at night, awoken,
briefly, having turned over the sorrow in the dark like the earth
during autumn digging; it went
back into the humus, like a worm.
Now we both push our hands into the willing darkness,
everything has happened whil it still hasn't, earth is good.Translated by R. McCaffery, G. Čolakhodžić, & S. Van de Peer
I have an unsolved issue / Imam nešto neriješeno s gradom
I have an unsolved issue with the city,
that is, I think that during the day we’re unable
to tell each other everything. I make up for it, willy
or nilly, at night, when the hedges draw closer
and the hills start rolling beneath my feet.
There is usually a lot of drives streets vaults arcades
also a lot of bronze, made green by the wet darkness
in the rarely mown parks.
It keeps sending me on errands from façade to façade
by inconveniently connected tram lines
and often it spells out the names of buildings and squares
in completely arcane languages.
It rolls me down sidewalks, chucks me over to entrances,
hiding, nonetheless, its inner courtyards –
the proof that it can dream lucidly, if I
clamber where I have to through passages and underpasses.
And then in the morning it makes me laugh
and deride, because I know that it multiplies braggingly
in me all night long, pulling wool over my eyes, blaring propaganda,
trying to appear larger blacker deeper
to build itself endlessly, illusively in vain.Translated from the Croatian by the Author
Redshift (I) / Pomak prema crvenom (I)
I have lived until now among
a couple of buildings, on some twenty streets,
in three or four hectares of woodland and meadow.
I haven’t thought – vast spaces are over there,
and a considerable part of them belongs to me.
long have rectangles encircled the horizon,
reproducing the specimen of space visible from here.
now, from this high, dark viewpoint,
I observe the centre from the margin, I realize
the patterns of repetition, the forms of permanence.
poorly drawn, the trapeze of the city from here to rapska street,
from it to the mosque, from there
to a point in the east (find the angle
opposite the known α) and again to the room where,
momentarily alone, locked up and calm, I look
out of the wide windows. the trapeze will be repeated
infinite times, or a little less, in order to create the city.
it is only from high places, at a small zoom,
that the generic quality of space becomes apparent.
there will be spawned endlessly that couple of buildings,
some twenty streets, three or four hectares of woodland and meadow.
endlessly those light-bulb factories which,
with their lights fused together into a single unique copper smudge,
will, every evening, make up the westTranslated from the Croatian by the Author
From „Mature Landscapes“ / Iz „Zrelih krajolika“
In the morning, space is not yet healed
from people, from errands, as are not
the mucosa of the lustful,
and already we wait for the day to return,
for the void to be filled.
In the throat, on the eyes: the acridity of early dawn,
the necessity to move, to start off, the breaking away
from sleep, the clenched fist in the stomach
before coming to visit, before climbing
the stairs, washed with dirty water, that lead
to school (as child, as teacher)
to hospital (I fear)
to prison (I remember the dread in my dreams).
And those bare columns oblige us in some way, somehow they say
“It’s not that simple”,
they pierce, they exhaust. In the morning,
when we most directly face illness
and its finality,
when the bare dawn in our lungs
comforts us most and makes the harshest demands.*Translated from the Croatian by the Author
Writ / Pismo
The key is never to draw a map.
A scale is a discourse of tricks, and the map
is not the territory; but still
don’t draw a map,
don’t let the map draw,
nor give it land.
Make Map Lackland sign
the Great Map, and then
wake out of the river and the island.Translated from the Croatian by the Author
With Hands-Graveyards / Rukama grobljima
Do not love me.
My hands are a summer graveyard of mosquitoes
It’s easy to love someone when you don’t know
how he spends the last five minutes before going to bed,
when you firmly believe he lies down angelically,
an innocent sleep quenching all his urges.
One has to be always drunk, however, with mixtures
of laughter and indignation, of longing and disgust,
of sex and wounding. In October evenings, my hands
are graveyards of mosquitoes, the very living palms
with which I, as a crocus does spring, cup your face
and all your softness and your firmness
as a mouth enfolds limbs.
Now you tell me how you can love me,
when I caress you with graveyards,
when I lead you through love across two fields of execution
hiding this from you?
I sense that you are a master of merging,
that’s why I love you with bloodstained palms.Translated from the Croatian by the Author
A Connoisseur’s Song / Ušuškavanje
In the autumn nights are longest.
I give them more space,
preparing winter stores for their arrival
(in fact they eat nothing but a bit of fat –
they make you thin and lean – but they stay long.)
They are so luscious. Well-trained and unconstrained,
now we try out new positions
in which to sleep, more or less acrobatic,
defensible or indefensible, subtly different.
A blanket over my side might provoke
the sensation of a forest floor under my back/your palm on my thigh,
a book beside the head can change the angles of space,
thus also the perspectives of dreams. And then I experiment
with the distance of the cell phone from my head: dreams are waves,
interference depends on frequency,
what can’t I do with them to change the landscapes of night?
And then I lie in the dark
and wait, always endlessly dreading the moment
of falling asleep, because it can’t be cut out, cognized, negotiated with,
because it’s the same as death.
Autumn presses down heavily, keeping me asleep,
often without dreams, since there’s no room for them
between my head and the strata of clay, the bricks of night.
My head lies in grey loam, my feet in plums,
night in the orchard.
In the morning I make plans for going to bed.
That’s how I know that it’s late in the year,
that earth, brain and larvae
are contracting according to season.Translated from the Croatian by the Author
From „Or, A Life in the Woods“ / Iz „Ili, Život u šumi“
Ten years ago I bought Žumberak. After Croatia, when streets had grown rather empty, even at peak hours, after Slovenia, which had been considered eternal. Slovenia had always been a presence*, the dampness of her forests radiating from the west, she used to bleed across the fields and streams in the borderlands. But now it was no more real than Great Carantania, out of which often came snow, carried by the wind, born on cold glassy fronts. Now she radiated less and less, so that high up in Žumberak one could live long, without fear. I bought it for twenty euros and took the roads into my care – I took care they should decompose swiftly and appropriately, disappearing without making any further damage. I found a secluded spot far up near Sichelberg, a point where no meteorites ever strike, alike to an oak tree split by lightning. There I have nine bean-rows and a hive for honey bees, and in the evening I listen to the rustle of barn owls. The preparations were done well and thoroughly, now I have something to rely on. Now those books on permaculture, ordered on the Internet while it still existed, finally pay off. Fears about ploughing and urea were shown to have been justified, raised beds and mixed hedges were proven to be crucial. In order to assert myself, I walled my land in with a belt of dogwood and blackthorn, all the way across the field, while from the woods I am separated by a woven fence. Here is where I stand guard. At night, down the slope at whose foot I have nestled there blows a light northern wind, bringing false voices, reducing distances. Hear I stand upright in long afternoons, announcing myself to the shadows moving at the edge of my field of vision. Here I welcomed Hedgehog, that summer evening when fireflies, seen for the first time after half a century, were defining the plane with their green points. He was dragging himself towards me like a living molehill, pretending a poor guy. I did not let myself be fooled, I’ve known for long that Hedgehog is a bourgeois, that he owns multiple houses while glorifying that single little one. I did give him the garden, though, for that we struck a bargain. Together now we are waiting to hear the noise of an engine on the drive, together, at night, under the moonlight, we observe the passage of the tower’s shadow over the closed garden.
* Slovenia was always a presence;
the humid allure of its forests
an asset in the west.
Slovenia you could always count on
and had to account for.
The closer to the border,
the more of it in the soil
and in the waterways
a breath of foreign.
We've made it mystic, have been doing so;
at all times we've been
wary and keen,
Slovenia always a being.
Jacob Frass (1990. – 2014.)Translated from the Croatian by the Author
Sometimes I remember the fact that meetings are numbered / Povremeno se sjetim izbrojenosti susreta
Sometimes I remember the fact that meetings are numbered, and that makes me sad. I am made sad by the fragments of space, therefore of the city, that, while I will have all the reason to believe that I’m changing, will have to remain always the same, same in all the three or four points of visit: at six, at ten, at three, at eight. And then that’s it, we’ll have no more opportunities to touch each other, although they might have the chance, somewhere and up to a certain point in time (which is a product of space), to be same. (They do not be, they same.) A deeply yellow afternoon sky where there is nothing but a husk of the city – afternoon and windows, afternoon and windows, blurred sheep-like clouds reflected in them. I do not know what they’ll do without me; the important thing is not-knowing, not I. Will they be affected by the changing of the times (the change being a matter of heated debate), will that Parisian guy whom I left, at the beginning of this century, in an early autumn afternoon in a quiet cul-de-sac on the edge of the city’s centre, to dig trenches for drainage pipes, dig and dig out, will he need some lunch, will he ever talk to anyone again? Above all – will I find that at six, at ten, at three, at eight he will have something to say to me, will he break, break like the day? I always demand more from scripted NPCs, but they have escaped time perfectly, not escaping sadness, though, a deep sadness. They do not know about action-reaction: that lack opens up for them the copious reservoirs of melancholy. They are the proof of my childhood, of its faces and its Junes. Their suffering, because they are not conscious of suffering, is far greater than that of men, says Nietzsche, and then I down my drink, pick the only non-impasse option on the conversation wheel, leaving still, coming back hours later, or weeks, Their suffering, because they are not conscious of suffering, is far greater than that of men, just like in my childhood, at six and at ten, I smack my lips, down the drink and let’s say leave.Translated from the Croatian by the Author
Sometimes I dream of cubes / Ponekad sanjam kubuse
Sometimes I dream of cubes, long and white, diaphanous,
approachable from all sides,
worthy of colourless sketches for the creation of a city.
Never, however, do I enter,
preferring to roam the rocky paths, sunny-
cold, which usually
open to the right onto distant plains full of
Long I circumambulate the spacious plinths of those buildings
which are a part of relief,
of hills, slopes, roads cut through the macchia
connected by a bridge of stone.
It is a gentle country, where sun settles down slowly in the air
free of any sound,
while touches of human craftsmanship only add
The archaic parapet along the road by the buildings
has long surrendered itself to grapes:
plump berries lie in the cracked light
and shadow of the stern granite,
bending the rays of the long sun into strings
that enrich them with juice,
so that they perfectly quench one’s thirst on that walk towards
morning.Translated from the Croatian by the Author
Everything in time / Sve polako
In May the fig tree blooms inside its branches,
under the bark. The first rank of green belly-buttons
comes, therefore, up front.
You can count
the years in advance, all the way down to the roots.
The fig's wood is full of future Septembers
like the butt of an old gun is of ammo: heavy bullets
fly out and darkly burst, driving feathers and chirping and mirth
into the chests of birds.
In still unpunctured bellies
each fig carries a bug of its choice.
In one of them is hidden a spider,
in another a tiny, stripy wasp that will not wake up
for a year or two more; in some there's a group of ants
much like poppy seeds. In their sweet sleep
they mutter, shift and grow.
All of this slowly rises up
to meet the sun and the shade of imminent autumns.Translated from the Croatian by the Author
From a balcony in the forest / S balkona u šumi
In Versailles the shiny metal
of contemporary Europe
clangs and sings to honour peace:
shrunken to a shadow, the Great War
evokes spring, poppies, mass.
Under the chestnuts, in a gloom somewhat
dispelled by the fact of France, suddenly we realize
how many heroes there are on the programme,
at least two or three marches more
than the elegies.
An orchestra of steel that, with dubious gusto,
plays every passage marziale. Slowly,
we turn south: above the treetops the heat-
lightning of summer.
Later, at midnight, round the edge of the continent,
seven silent funnels of fire. Above
the dewy grass, slowly rise the bubbles
of anti-aircraft flares. Then the long jets
of nightly projectiles, like the clicking
of a roulette.
Of all the numbers, red and black,
the least is that green nothing
that in this round
no one has bet on.Translated from the Croatian by the Author
- Download The European Poet of Freedom 2016 booklet
by Goran Čolakhodžić
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by Goran Čolakhodžić
- Download Days of Poetry and Wine 2019 booklet
by Goran Čolakhodžić
- Download Ledbury Poetry Festival 2016 booklet
by Goran Čolakhodžić
- Download Hausacher Leselenz 2020 booklet
by Goran Čolakhodžić