BRANISLAV PETROVIĆ (1937-2002)
Branislav Petrović was born on 7th April 1937 in Bjeluša, near Ivanjica, and died on 25th September 2002 in Belgrade. He attended primary school in Slatina, grammar school in Čačak. He studied at the Faculty of Law in Belgrade, graduated from the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade, the Department of Yugoslav Literature and Serbo-Croatian Language.
His poetry was translated into Albanian, Arabian, English, Italian, Chinese, Hungarian, Macedonian, German, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Turkish, Ukrainian, French, Czech and Swedish.
He published the following collections of poetry: The Power of Speech (Prosveta, 1961), Construction Site (Prosveta, 1964), Оh, Damn You, Rige od Fere Street (Prosveta, 1970), Premonition of the Future (Srpska književna zadruga, 1973), On the Trail of Dust (Glas, 1976), Increasingly Alone (Narodna knjiga and BIGZ, 1977), Lo and Behold (Jedinstvo, 1990), Squaring the Circle (NIN, 1999). The collection Cosmos Burns was published posthumously (NIN, 2004).
He was the Editor of the Prosveta publishing house and the Editor-in-Chief of the third series of Srpski književni glasnik.
Apart from poetry, he wrote literature for children.
For his literary work, he received the following accolades:
1961 the “Mladost” award for the collection The Power of Speech;
1967 the “Rade Drainac” award for a collection of poems in manuscript form;
1970 the annual award of the Vojvodina Section of the Writers’ Association of Serbia, for the collection The Heart of Heart;
1971 the “Isidora Sekulić” award for the collection Oh, Damn You, Rige od Fere Street;
1971 the “Jefimijini dani [Jefimija’s Days]” award;
1973 the “Branko Miljković” award for the collection Premonition of the Future;
1975 the “Zlatna struna [Golden String]” award;
1987 the “Borski grumen [The Nugget of Bor]” award;
1988 the October Award of the City of Belgrade;
1991 the “Zmaj Award” for the collection Lo and Behold;
1993 the “Biblios” award;
1994 the “Zlatni beočug [Golden Link]” award;
1997 the “Zaplanjski Orfej [The Orpheus of Zaplanje]” award, for the poem “The Departure of Bohumil Hrabal”;
1998 the “Žička hrisovulja [The Žiča Chrysobull]” award;
1999 the “Jovan Hadži Kostić” award for newspaper satire;
1999 the “Dis Award”;
2000 the “Belovodsk Rosetta” award;
2002 the “Desanka Maksimović” award.
THE POWER OF SPEECH
The power of breathing the power of trees to grow right
the power of the house to suddenly collapse upon the head of a sleeper right
the power of speech is a special and the greatest power
the power of speech the power of speech the power of speech
the power of speech
I can say ARM EMBRACE THIS LIGHT
and my arm obediently
in a beautiful way
embraces the shining wonder while walking
and I can say EARTH YOU ARE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL TOY
IN MY ROOM
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ONE IN MY HAND
and immediately afterwards EARTH YOU ARE AN INSIDIOUS CHEAT
I’LL BITE YOU LIKE A DOG
and right after that THIS BULL IS WORTH MORE THAN
A MOUNTAIN FROM WHICH WATER FLOWS
then I lie down in the grass
lay my head on a warm stone
to sleep interminably the way coal sleeps
and when I wake up (and that I admit is
a power that defies understanding) and see a tree I can say TREE
and when I see the sun I can say SUN
and when I see the son of man I can say BOY
then BOY BOY BOY
but Henri Michaux would then exclaim differently
he would say GARÇON then GARÇON GARÇON GARÇON GARÇON
and our bronze words would mingle in the field
and if Pasternak came along
with his smile reminiscent of a snake ready to pounce
all the flowers in the field would turn
some would even tear themselves from the ground for
they are from distant meadows
and would like to hear
this wonderful confusion
MALCHIK BOY GARÇON
MALCHIK BOY GARÇON
MALCHIK BOY GARÇON
MALCHIK BOY GARÇON
and thus indefinitely the power of speech.
ESSAY ON ICE
Everything is ice already. As is the thought of ice as transcendence.
As is the censer on the grave, the incense and wreaths.
And the (chilled) chaffinch, alighted on the cross, frozen in a moment:
It fluttered off, quite simply, to its avian universe.
And the memory of you turned to ice:
Turned small, minuscule, smaller than a drop of dew.
And that salamander of ours, with a terrible squeak, turned to ice.
So did the bees, the brave hornet, the wasps.
And our white house, in front of which a cow grazes.
And the morning star above our house turned to ice.
The vineyard is frozen, the wine, and the dreams sealed in wine.
And poetry also turned to ice. As did David’s psalms.
My thought unquestionably won’t let me
See anything but the ubiquitous ice.
Maker, mad force, you ingenious euphoria!
You are ice, too. And everything that you created is ice.
ON THE ROAD TO NOVI SAD
On the road to Novi Sad
somewhere near Inđija
we fell asleep one evening
in the grass among the clouds
Our star kept us warm
with its icy eyes
the wind read poets to us
with whom he’d kept company
In the tavern AT THE WHITE HART’S
in an unknown town
we drank that strong brandy
from an antique jug
When we arrived on Mt Fruška
wild apricots were in bloom
it looked as if we were dreaming
parting with our souls
And when we saw the Danube
coming from the direction of Sremski Karlovci
our hearts started dancing
four hearts inside each one of us
In Karlovci they greeted us
with flat round bread and heavenly fire
they showed us the grammar school
and various other wondrous sights
They offered us eastern wines
that they import from Hungary
for wines from Mt Fruška
are preserved for gods
Returning from those parts
four weeks later
it was as if we’d died
from those heavenly wild apricots
THE DEPARTURE OF BOHUMIL HRABAL
My pal, friend and wedding witness
A poet from the golden city of Prague,
“Fell from a hospital window
While feeding pigeons”.
That’s what the agencies’ reports said.
However, it is not nice to use the word Fell
speaking of a gentleman who Flew away.
To fall and to fly away are not one and the same thing.
Such imprecision saddens the heart.
And Bohumil Hrabal was not feeding pigeons
As hack writers report
Pigeons were feeding him
In the noble poverty and glory of senescence.
The pigeons of his city
Fed him with crumbs of light.
To make his wings stronger.
So that he should be strong when he flew away.
VERSES ON GARBAGE
For a long time it was believed that the first
Force in the world was the force of the Worm.
But when the mighty garbage prevails
There will be no worms in the world.
No worms or carrion or venomous viper,
Nor ear listening to nightingales.
No cat or dog, no beast whatsoever
Nor eye watching lakes.
No octopus or crab or stingray,
Or language to say all that.
European art, African flowers
Everything will be one garbage pile.
Everything will be devoured
By cloaca mundi ready to pounce.
In books is the seed of garbage. It stinks.
But it smells wondrous well to the book-lover, the boss.
The lyrical poem rots. And the epic one smells
Of the corpse of the hero and its horse.
Drama disintegrates. Theatricals will be of no help.
To Jefimija, daughter of the master of Drama.
Tragedy stinks. I’m afraid not even garbage
Will have it with all that stench.
The novel, old scoundrel, cares not one bit
Whether it’ll end up as faeces or slop.
Collections of papers, dictionaries, historical writings –
They all hang on a thread above the garbage dump.
Scientific treatises, political articles –
They’re all chained fast to garbage.
Fearsome dragons will gorge with gusto
On intimate diaries, letters memoirs.
And as for the book-lover? Why, he’ll
Follow the path of all the books, jars, underpants, fruit.
The fridge, too, is full of garbage,
Eggplant, peppers that swell.
Never mind the yoghurt, but it’s too bad
That liver paste will end up the garbage dump.
To be followed by the famous sausage of Kranj,
Looking like last year’s carrion.
Bologna sausage is good for nothing else as well,
But woe of woes, bacon will also follow suit!
All those stews, noodles and soups
Go to the garbage dump without a fight.
The egg is pugnacious, but nevertheless,
Garbage awaits it with a spoon.
And what will you contribute to the garbage all around?
Socks, underpants, your canine soul?
No one will hold it against you (and must not do so)
If you contribute poems to the ubiquitous garbage.
To the steaming heaps of garbage
Add the vomited contents of your heart, soul.
Will those bottles, plastic goods, cloths,
Be able to withstand the garbage of your spirit?
Will the spirits of garbage admit you
And your flights of inspiration, metaphors, rhymes?
Along with great garbage let
Your poems, too, run against rivers.
Let them charge against a branch, a leaf –
Who gives you the right to remain pure?
Let them charge against bees, beetles –
Who gives them the right to love, as opposed to all the rest?
In a time of garbage, whatever does not want
To become garbage is garbage already.
And you yourself, at peace with the world,
Follow the rubbish, joined with the garbage.
Translated from Serbian by Novica Petrović