“If Hieronymus Bosch had gotten around to writing poems, I suspect they would have sounded like Novica Tadić .”
I feel this quote describes the nature of the poems included in this superb collection in a way more accurate than any review. This is my first foray into the work of Novica Tadić and the only word I can use to describe the experience is “shuttering”.
Tadić is considered to be the finest poet in Serbia and among the most significant literary figures of Balkan Literature. Born in picturesque Montenegro, he spent his life in beautiful Belgrade and his poems seem to reflect the idea of the metropolis and its influence in our lives. The isolation that often comes with living in a big city, the turbulent past of a country in a region that has suffered tremendously, paying a terrible price in blood and pain, the search for a kind of innocence and the danger of losing hope are the main themes in this collection.
The scenery is modern, urban but hellish. This is a city where demons are ready to attack. There are dark corners occupied by people without property, without future or hope. They are sitting, watching the passerby. Images of flames, destroyed buildings, houses blackened with smoke standing amidst a heavy darkness, bring to mind pictures and memories of wars we all try to forget in a not so distant past. Darkness and claustrophobia are always present. There are elements of well-known Balkan Folk legends and references to Biblical stories.
Unfortunately, I am not able to read the poems in Serbian (yet) and I am certain that much is lost in translation. Still, this collection is so powerful, dark, haunting, nightmarish. Unlike anything I’ve ever read in terms of poetry. What shocked me most is Tadić’s descriptions of the violence coming from the mob, the sadistic tendency to continue beating sometime who has reached the lowest point that seems to be planted in every human being, looking for the chance to come to surface. As I was reading, the busy metropolis came alive in my mind. Nightly streets, still wet with rain. Dimmed lights in the distance, footsteps walking noisily in a hurry, lonely people smoking in a corner. Reflections of troubled faces on the glass. Reflections on the waters of the Sava and the Danube.
(image source: https://belgradeatnight.com)
There were five poems that I couldn’t stop thinking about:
“…Dumbstruck night creatures
will now see the face of death,
the zero, the shrew, the abyss…”
“…Night is their kingdom,
and this day, just breaking,
is their cloak of light.”
Armful of Twigs, Dream
“…Flames rise and the glow
beyond the ecstatic crowd
singing, shouting and firing guns.”
City At Night
“…In this city with its dimmed lights
where there appears to be no one,
did you see the wreckers,
wrecking buildings, wrecking bridges,
filling up the river with rubble?”
The poem titled AMIDST THE NOISE is shuttering. A Guernica in poetic form…
I don’t have anything more to say, except that you owe it to yourselves to read this collection. Sometimes, nightmares can be of a special kind, of striking beauty. I plan to visit the White City again this winter and I know these poems will not leave my mind easily…
Poor us, we are all kings
when we gaze at the starry sky.
The noise of the crowd grows faint
on the town square and in our blood.
The voice will re-enter the angel’s trumpet.
Once again hell will rise on its feet