Croatia - photo by Kamil Porembiński. Used under Creative Commons license
Somehow, although I have been enjoying his work a great deal over the last couple of years, I have failed to write anything about the Yugoslavian poet Ivan Lalić.
Lalić's years were 1931 to 1996, which means that at the start and finish of his life he lived through some of the most tragic times in his region's history. He was from Belgrade, his wife was Croatian and he wrote in Serbo-Croat. His main English translator was Francis R Jones, and Charles Simic has also translated him.
Lalić's poems are so beautiful - even when taken out of their original language - that they make me wonder, helplessly, why all poetry can't be like this. It seems as though he achieves a perfect balance of formal beauty and meaning, of memory and presentness in the senses. He saw himself as a Mediterranean, more than a Balkan, poet, and his works often touches Byzantine themes, Greece and Italy. And there is a shadow over his work of the losses he experienced as a child in World War II.
I haven't spent quite enough time with Lalić's work to engage with it really deeply, but having read quite a few of his poems, so far I have loved 'The Spaces of Hope' more than any other. You can read it here:
This is a poem whose images are obviously informed in a painfully intimate way by personal memory. The image of "wind in a wild vine" at Kanfanar is particularly piercing. But there is a generosity to the poem that leaves it wide, wide open, like a window onto the sea. The spaces of hope, Lalić says, aren't patterned into "a system of miracles". But whatever our life experiences, our beliefs or worldview, the poem invites us to find comfort in our own spaces of hope. I recognise the feelings conjured up by this poem.
You can read more of Lalić's work on the new Modern Poetry in Translation microsite, set up to commemorate the first issue of this great journal: http://modernpoetryintranslation.com/poet/ivan-lalic/
Also on this site, you can read this wonderful poem, 'Renderings', by Ian Duhig, in tribute to Lalić's work: http://modernpoetryintranslation.com/response/renderings/