Slovenian poetry

Harriot Stanton Blatch: “Sojourner, can’t you read?”
Sojourner Truth: “Oh no, honey, I can’t read little things like letters. I read big things like men.”

From 12 Historical Women Who Gave No F*cks

My two reading matters, one bigger bestia than the other. Piran, Slovenia. Photo: a © signature mmm production

Soul with the capital

Today celebrates mom’s cousin, our Soul with the capital S. She paints, designs jewellery, sows and learns Italian, to name but a few.

When she last visited us (pridi cai is still standing!) she brought me a very special gift (well, not only that, there was also her painting!): a fifty-year-old book titled “Nuova poesia Jugoslava” (“New Yugoslav Poetry”) with poems of ex-Yugoslav, that is to say Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, and Macedonian poets, in original and Italian language side by side.

She already requested one poem from there to use in her Italian class, and here is another by Slovenian poet Kajetan Kovič, in English (found online) and Italian (from the book). I loved this poem growing up and had it in my scrap book which has since been replaced with this blog. I dedicate it to her cleaning robot. 😀

Robots, by Kajetan Kovič
Translation by Veno Taufer & Michael Scammel

Robots are on the march.
The first robot is rectangular.
The stone in his hand
is a cube.
And a cube is a cube from time immemorial
and all that is, is a cube.
Robots are on the march.
The second robot is round.
The stone in his hand
is a sphere.
And a sphere is a sphere from time immemorial
And all that is, is a sphere.
Robots are on the march.
The stone in the sky, the stone on earth
has no choice.
Today it is stone, tomorrow a cube.
Today it is stone, tomorrow a sphere.
Today it is stone, tomorrow a robot.
Robots are on the march.
The cube smashes the sphere.
The sphere kills the cube.
For the cube is a cube forevermore.
For the sphere is a sphere forevermore.
Robots are on the march.
For as long as the cube is rectangular.
For as long as the sphere is round.

I robot
Translated by Giacomo Scotti

I robot marciano.

Il primo è quadrangolare.
Il sasso nella sua mano
è un cubo.
E il cubo è sempre cubo e tutto
quanto esiste è cubo.

I robot marciano.

È sferico il secondo.
Il sasso sulla sua mano
è una sfera.
E la sfera è una sfera sempre e tutto
quanto esiste è sfera.

I robot marciano.

Sasso in cielo, sasso in terra
non ha scelta.
Oggi è sasso, domani è cubo.
Oggi è sasso, domani è sfera.
Oggi è sasso, domani è robot.

I robot marciano.

Il cubo frantuma la sfera.
La sfera uccide il cubo.
Perché in eterno il cubo resta cubo.
Perché in eterno la sfera resta sfera.

I robot marciano.

Finché il cubo sarà quadrangolare.
Finché la sfera sarà sferica.

Here is another text that she can use for her Italian class, the song that is currently everywhere in Italy. Francesca Michielin ended up second in Sanremo and will represent Italy at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Indeed, there is no degree of separation.

Francesca Michielin: Nessun grado di separazione

È la prima volta che mi capita
Prima mi chiudevo in una scatola
Sempre un po’ distante dalle cose della vita
Perché così profondamente non l’avevo mai sentita
E poi ho sentito un’emozione accendersi veloce
E farsi strada nel mio petto senza spegnere la voce
E non sentire più tensione solo vita dentro di me

Nessun grado di separazione
Nessun tipo di esitazione
Non c’è più nessuna divisione tra di noi
Siamo una sola direzione in questo universo
Che si muove
Non c’è nessun grado di separazione

Davo meno spazio al cuore e più alla mente
Sempre un passo indietro
E l’anima in allerta
E guardavo il mondo da una porta
Mai completamente aperta
E non da vicino

E no non c’è alcuna esitazione
Finalmente dentro di me
Nessun grado di separazione
Nessun tipo di esitazione
Non c’è più nessuna divisione tra di noi
Siamo una sola direzione in questo universo
Che si muove

E poi ho sentito un’emozione accendersi veloce
E farsi strada nel mio petto senza spegnere la voce

And here, let me give Soul back a little present that she made for me and I have it right here at all times. (It’s NOT limoncello!)

Tanti auguri e cin cin!

Photo: MM + VS (the tree)
Featured photo: newlyweds (well, almost) in Capalbio

Photo: MM

“You know what children, artists and madmen have in common: they know that everything in this world happens for the first time. There are no repeat performances.” —Vitomil Zupan

Gut, besser, Grüße und cin cin zum Geburtstag!

Thursday Doors, October 1

For this week’s Thursday Doors we take a look at Križanke, which translates as crosswords. It is a splendid concert venue in my original hometown Ljubljana in Slovenia, which architect Jože Plečnik created next to a church and inside a courtyard of a former monastery.

In the photo above there is the entrance to the church. To the right there is the City Museum of Ljubljana (last photo below) and to the left there is the main entrance to the venue. Apart from a number of local artists, the concerts that I have experienced here range from Dog Eat Dog & Biohazard, Henry Rollins Band, Duran Duran, Smashing Pumpkins, The Pixies, The Sugarcubes (with Bjork) to Nick Cave, Bobby McFerrin, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Lou Reed, Manu Chao and a variety of world music artists at the annual Druga godba festival.

I don’t have any photos of the main theatre, which is open-air but has a roof, but I do have some from the other side of the wall. Those without a ticket used to sit all around the venue on benches, happy to have a smoke and a drink and a listen. True: some also seized a chance when the security were engaged elsewhere and climbed the fence. Not any more. The noise of the crowd and traffic outside could reach such levels that some “sensitive” performers demanded that not only the street closes for traffic but that people are prohibited from strolling outside as well. As you can imagine, this action spurred civil protests. Concert noise police: another thing that happens if you live long enough.

To conclude: first one of his poems in English (I let somebody else translate for a change) followed by the original, and then the Križanke church in its entirety.

A Small Coat
by Srečko Kosovel

Translated by Ana Jelnikar & Barbara Siegel Carlson

I would like to walk around
in a small coat of

But hidden underneath should be
a warm, bright world.

What is wealth?
What is luxury?
For me it is this:
a small coat I have,
and this coat is like
no other.

Srečko Kosovel:
Majhen plašč

Jaz bi hodil
v majhnem plašču

Ali pod tem naj se skriva
topel, svetál svet.

Kaj je bogastvo?
Kaj je razkošje?
Zame je eno:
majhen plašč imam
in ta plašč ni nobenemu

Photo: MM

For Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors challenge.

WPC: Connectingcut

Here are some examples of how we stay connected. Photos are in couples as it should be. (Also, nothing has to do with Connecticut.)

First it’s the wires and the flowers. Bežigrad, Ljubljana.

More wires and flowers and a pigeon, in Piran.

More and more often a quiet spot is needed to connect. In Piran.

Up on Tinjan, on Italian-Slovenian border, and the view off it.

Piran, the board next to the monument erected on the occasion of Slovenia’s entry into the European Union. Translated, the poem by Slovenian poet Tone Pavček goes like this: The sun travels from the East to the West, making people happy here and there. Let us be the sun! (Translated by MM)

And then it’s again the bike and the leash and home.

But my favourite ways of connecting go something like this. Photos from two of my recent posts (first: Ljubljana, second: Piran).

Photo: MM

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Connected.”

ADD-IT: This post has a part II. on my new blog right here.

Once there were raspberries (Maline so, by Tomaž Šalamun). Now there are jellyfish (=Meduze, by Matter). Yes, I just put the greatest Slovenian poet and the youngest Slovenian hiphop-something (not identified yet) band into one post. Not only is the music hooking, but the text equally makes raspberry-type sense (=nah). In short – I’m bought (or is it sold?) Give it a try.

The Haymaker

The Haymaker
by Tone Kuntner
Translated by Manja Maksimovič

You were a haymaker
in a flowery skirt.
It was a lovely day,

it was a lovely day.

For a long time after
we shed a whiff of hay.

Over here. Photo: MM

Grabljica – Tone Kuntner

Bila si grabljica
v rožnatem krilu.
Bil je lep dan,

bil je lep dan.

Potem sva še dolgo
dišala po senu.

Maybe it will all be okay

Today celebrates my mother. You really should get to know her.

People say that we grow to become our parents, boys grow into fathers, daughters grow into moms. Am I lucky in that regard! This is what awaits me:

She loves bestia, to read and to make others happy (that car race must have been really the last thing she wished to see but it was my birthday).

There is much more about her, though. Not only she must be the oldest Slovenian rapper (here in my old, “skater” shirt),

she also writes poems. Here is one from her first collection of poems for children, illustrated by Mina Fina and published in Slovenian:

Kaj delajo fantje v vrtcu
by Meta Maksimovič

Tine mi meče drobtine
iz bližine,
Vito me vleče za kito
kadar jem pito.
Zvone mi krade bonbone
in skriva balone.
Samo me suva v ramo,
ko se igramo,
Rok me spravi v jok
ko mi vzame sok.
Le Dado ima lepo navado,
da nosi mi čokolado.

Illustrated by: Mina Fina

I translated it into English because I would really like for the whole world to enjoy her poems (another one is here, soon the translations will make a book as well). Now it sounds like this:

What boys do in preschool
Translated by Manja Maksimovič

Fred, you throw pieces of bread
On top of my head
Nate, you’re pulling my braid
When the table is laid
Boon, you hide my cartoon
And blow my balloon
Zak, you push me in the back
When we play in the shack
Sly, you make me cry
When you steal my pie
Just Clyde is so very polite
He gives me chocolate, I bite.

And this is what I could add (hippies, like partisans, will NEVER die out, no matter how others count on old age to do them in):

Maybe it will all really be okay, mom. Imagine that! I’m happy that you like what I did to your poem. Wishing you a happy heart (and many more heart-shaped stones that you collect and can be seen on the top photo), a peaceful soul and calm sea. Happy birthday!

Photo: MM & BM (last)

Where are the limits?

It was 20 years ago. We were in K4, our Thursday and Saturday retreat, and a song was often played, by a Slovenian band, they said, even though the song was called Happy Office and the band Siddharta.

I remembered. I just tried to google it to see under what (Slovenian) name this song later emerged when they published their first album and (almost all) songs were in Slovenian. But there are no hits. And yet, I remember.

In time the band has grown into (arguably, like everything) THE greatest Slovenian band. These days they celebrate their 20th anniversary.

This is my favourite song by them, and that’s why I translated the lyrics into English too, no matter how untranslatable they may be. But that’s quite all right, I’m always in favour of doing it your way.

And where the limits are, only you know, guys.

Siddharta by Siddharta

Translated by Manja Maksimovič

Hidden in the sea
submerged in the world of Dalantik
the clan of “little people”
has concluded their beliefs
where let it be seen
let it be seen, the laughter caught
between the utopias of shredded phenomena
and the ideas of quasi grand people.

It sounds nice:
another soul, same material,
every hand, cheek and body
every mind goes skyward
when the unrest is winding
when the rest is unwinding all the marked ones
and only the “dog” on the wall shall remain
keep marking the people for years to come.

Let it be seen
let it be seen, the World trapped
between the illusions of shredded phenomena
and the idea of god, which you should believe in
let it be seen
let it be seen in the hearts of the “little” ones
not on the wall.

Oh, hey, hey, hey, you in black
believe it or not, you will drink your fear.
And hey, hey, hey, you, the green one,
they will knock you down with proud and joy.
And hey, hey, hey, you in white
did you ever understand what you sang for them?
And hey, hey, hey, where is this road leading to
where are the limits?

It’s enough that the little one
has no idea where and when he’ll sleep tonight
and whether he’ll get up in the morning;
so let paranoia choke you
paranoia choke and drown you,
for they were only killing
only killing the invitees.

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A dog before the wall, behind it: Orvieto, photo: MM.

Siddharta: Siddharta 

Skrit v morju,
potopljen v svet Dalantika
je klan “malih ljudi”
sklenil svoja verovanja,
koder naj se vidi,
naj se vidi smeh ujet
med utopije utrganih pojav
in ideje kvazi velikih ljudi.

Sliši se lepo:
druga duša, isti material,
vsaka roka, lice in telo,
vsaka pamet gre v nebo,
ko se nemir ovija,
ko se mir ubija vsem zaznamovanim
in le “pes” na steni bo ostal,
nekaj let ljudi zaznamoval.

Naj se vidi,
naj se vidi Svet ujet
med iluzije strganih pojav
in idejo bog, v kar naj bi veroval,
naj se vidi,
naj se vidi v srcu “malih”,
ne na steni.

O, hej, hej, hej, ti v črnem,
verjameš ali ne, ti boš strah popil.
In hej, hej, hej, ti zeleni,
s ponosom in srečo te bodo zbil.
In hej, hej, hej, ti v belem,
si sploh kdaj razumel, kar si drugim pel.
In hej, hej, hej, le do kam pelje tale cesta,
kje so meje?
Saj je dovolj že to, da mali
nima pojma, kje in kdaj nocoj bo spal,
in če bo jutri vstal; pa naj te paranoja davi,
paranoja davi in utopi,
zakaj ubijali so,
ubijali so le povabljene.

Waterfall by Boris A. Novak

Once upon a time I met Boris A. Novak (Anorak for friends, which we aren’t).

v 113a (2)

We had a little chat and I told him which my favourite poem of his (and one of the best worldwide) will always be. This one:

Vodomet: Boris A. Novak

noga igra nogomet

roka igra rokomet


lulek igra vodomet


noga riše sled

roka boža cvet


lulek zaliva svet

Then I added that I’m a translator and my wish is to translate this poem into English. He gave a little chuckle with the undertone “Impossible”. I like impossible things. Here it is.

Waterfall, by Boris A. Novak

(translated by Manja Maksimovič)

foot plays football

hand plays handball


willie plays waterfall


foot forges a footprint

hand handles a herb


willie waters the world

I ask his friends if they can kindly notify him of this milestone. Thank you!

Event by Vitomil Zupan

Event, by Vitomil Zupan

Translated from Slovenian by Manja Maksimovič

Driving through a village our car startled a horse
the driver had a scare, we all had a scare
and it was spring.
After that we drank red wine sitting under the awning
of a very old farmhouse.
The nationalised landowner joined us
the regional party secretary joined us
the feeble-minded shepherd joined us
the old wrinkly parson joined us
and everybody agreed
that it was a lovely spring.
My travelling companion said what a lovely valley this was
and everybody just nodded.
The shepherd with forget-me-not eyes
– they say that after a fall his mind is gone –
laughed and wiped the drool off
he said in a high-pitched voice:
The horse knew well why he bolted.

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Unstartled, photo: MM

Dogodek – Vitomil Zupan

Naš avto je na poti skoz vas splašil konja
voznik se je ustrašil mi smo se ustrašili
in bila je pomlad.
Potem smo pili črno vino pod nadstreškom
zelo starega kmečkega doma.
Prisedel je nacionalizirani posestnik
prisedel je partijski sekretar okraja
prisedel je slaboumni pastir
prisedel je nagubani stari župnik
in vsi so se strinjali
da je lepa pomlad.
Moj sopotnik je rekel kako je lepa tale dolina
in vsi so samo prikimali.
Pastir z očmi kakor spominčice
– pravijo da je od nekega padca brez uma –
se je nasmejal in si obrisal slino
dejal je z visokim glasom:
Konj je že vedel zakaj se je ustrašil.

Poem from the board

There once was a board on my wall:


It included many things, memories, places, each item deserving a special entry. Look, there is Trpanj and a little English town in the middle of nowhere, and postcards from A. and R. and one of a huge rock made of shells in Karpathos, which we first bought and then located the rock in nature and it was nowhere as huge as it appears, and the Kiss, and the little pin calling for 40 days without alcohol, which N. gave me for my 40th birthday and I didn’t see the zero and said: “Oh, four days, I can do that!”, and Jeanette, and Slavoj’s hand, and Mickey, and my tarok cards, and a very old cartoon from Mladina magazine saying “Sad ću ja turbo da uključim” (I’ll switch to turbo now), and poems: e.e., Kosovel, a short one on tango, and this one by Austrian poet, here in the original:

Ernst Jandl 

zweierlei handzeichen

ich bekreuzige mich

vor jeder kirche

ich bezwetschkige mich

vor jedem obstgarten


wie ich ersteres

tue weiss jeder katholik

wie ich letzteres tue

ich allein

I just found this poem translated into English by Peter Lach – Newinsky in his Word and image lab:

Two Kinds of Hand Signals


Before every church

I cross myself.

Before every orchard

I plum myself.


How I do the first:

every catholic knows.

How I do the second:

I alone.

But sometimes it happens that a poem really comes to life in a completely obscure little language, such as ours (close-up from the board, the postcard with the poem used to be distributed freely in a Ljubljana bookshop).