THE GENESIS OF BOOKS, NO. TWO—The Citizenry of the Books of Tomaž Šalamun


A book of poems is a civic affair. Among other civic rehearsals and performances, a book of poems establishes the bounds of a free country-life, while proclaiming the citizenship of the poet in the free country-life of the poems, as well as the poems. It is comprised of what the poems do—how they behave, barter, interact, undress themselves and each other; the ways they manifest the negative and positive spaces comprising the mind and contingencies of the free country-life—within the poet, in the streets, gathering shapes: square, table, dance floor, battle-meadow, rectangle of paper (miraculous, viral). It is a supposition. It reaches one peak of possibility in the substance—hybrid, subversive—that is poured into a shape (form, grave) to illuminate the body, or bodies, within a body, or bodies, once the original is lifted. It is a revelation of citizens as paragons and laborers constituting the fleeting, irreplicable moments of a free country-life’s evolution, where the citizens of the free country-life might become both beloved and LEGEND—visible and dispossessed alike, by whom, and by whose evolving relationships, the book of poems lives and/or dies.

I’ve been thinking of these basically amorphous things while thinking of the books, and poems, of Tomaž Šalamun. One characteristic of Tomaž’s work I find fascinating is the constant naming of people—family members, friends, lovers, acquaintances, heroes, poets, artists, politicians, villains—that seems partly not able to be helped: a both conscious and unconscious uttering of names emerging from a true exuberance for being in relation to PEOPLE. Tomaž intones the names of those who populate his poems’ and books’ unfolding free country-life; his intoning, to my ears, anoints the people as both beloved and legend, and within it I begin to hear a nation, or maybe, the dissolution of all nations in the citizens of a free country-life. But they are more than either situational or ecstatic intonations (as if that alone was deficient); they are recollections of the EARTH and the startled, shimmering CLOCK FACES passing upon it. The names, as I read and hear them—on the page or in person (Tomaž possesses an exceptionally indelible voice; his voice is exactly right for his poems, and vice versa)—rise off the poems and out of the books like flags or stars on flags, shining the standard of both their singular and communal destiny. Tomaž makes people PHENOMENAL.

To satisfy a curiosity, I thought to look back through Tomaž’s books—those translated into English—and gather the names that have appeared—that have been called, burst FORTH and free, from Tomaž’s attention—and to list them alphabetically, into a kind of opera or wedding dance (see Brueghel painting above). No doubt I’ve missed many. No doubt I’ve gotten some of the below-mentioned names completely wrong, either by virtue of discrepant translations, or my own negligence. I’ve eliminated repetitions, although there are a few instances where a name might appear twice for the addition of a last name, even if I’m not sure if the last name belongs to that same person (i.e. Jani and Jani Razpotni). I’ve struck, perhaps arbitrarily, a fair number of the names of historical personages, despite that some have slipped through (i.e. Charles d’Orléans, Marshal Tito), though I’ve included most of the poets that have been named. Here then is a partial register of the Citizens of the Books of Tomaž Šalamun. Is the dream that they might one day all come together within the premises of a ceremony and/or the ultimate book?

Ahac, Albertina, Aldo, Aldo Moro, Alejandro Gallegos Duval, Alexander, Alfonso, Alice, Allan Grossman, Allan Gurganus, Ana, Andersen, Andraž, André, Andrej Medved, Andro, Anne, Annie-Marie Albiach, Anselm, Anselm Hollo, Arne, Arthur, Aunt Agata, Aunt Agatha, Aunt Lela, Aunt Lisa, Aušič, Avčin, Azra, Ban, Barbara, Barbara Richter, Barry Watten, Beatrice, Beletrina, Berkopec, Betsy, Bill Gates, Bob, Bob Perelman, Bobby, Bojan Baskar, Bolkonski, Boltezar, Boris, Boštjan, Braco, Brad Gooch, Branko, Branko’s sister, Breditza, Bruno, Captain Bada, Carlos, Caruso, Cerar, Charles d’Orléans, Chris Reid, Christine, Cilka, Cindy, Clay, Coban, Cuk, Curt, Custer the dog, Cvit, Daniel, Dante, Darko, David, David Ray, Dedijer, Deit, Dermota, Detela, Dikan, Diran, Dobrila, Don Marco, Doña Lucia, Dr. Ewa Rogalska’s late sister, Dr. Mena, Dr. Rode, Dr. Sava, Drago, Duba, Dunya, Dušan Fišer, Edoardo, Edoardo’s mother-in-law, Elijah, Elliott, Emil, Enrique, Enver Hodja, Eugenijus, Evgen Bavčar, Father, Fatima, Fedor, Ferdo, Fitch, Flavta, Franci, Francie, Francois, Frank, Frank O’Hara, Fred, Frey, Gabriella, Garcia, George Lambert Ristin, Gerald, Giorgio, Giudita, Gober, Gojmir Anton Kos, Goran, Gorazd, Gordon, Gorjan, Govic, Gradnik, Grandma, Grandpa, Graziella, Gregor, Grischa, Guato, Gus, Hamdija Demirovič, Hannah, Heaney, Heda, Hera, Hortense, Hudi, Hyemeyohsts Storm, a.k.a. Chulk, Ibrahim, Irina, Isaac, Isaac Luria, Iva, Izidor Cankar, Iztok, Jacob, Jacusz, Jani, Jani Razpotnik, Janjica, Janko, Janova, Japec brothers (both), Javorsek, Jelka Šalamun, Joan, Joe, Johann Weichard Valvasor, Johannes, John, John Dilg, Jonah, Jorge Vegas, Josephine, Josephine Clare, Joshua, Jošt, Juan, Junoš, Jure, Jure Detela, Kali, Karen, Katarina, Kathy, Katka, Katrina Trask, Kay Burford, Kekec, Ken, Ken Jacobs, Kent, Kerry, Kevin Holden, Kirk, Koko, Kovačič, Kulfanek, Kutuzov, Langhe, Larry, Laura, Laure, Lika, Liliana Ursu, Linda Bierds, Lipica, Lojze, Loreley, Lorraine, Ludwig, Luiza, Lynn, Madam Nardelli, Madam Silva, Madam Yaremenko, Madame Nastja, Maja, Makalú, Mally, Marci, Marco, Marco Canoni, Maria Strozzi-Papadopoulos, Marie-Christine, Marini, Mario, Mariuccia, Mariusz, Mark Levine, Marko, Marko Jakše, Marshal Tito, Maruška, Maruška Krese, Mary, Matjushka, Maurizio, Maximilian Dorner, Mazlu, Medo, Mehur, Merku, Metka Krašovec, Mihelič, Miklavž, Mikuž, Milenko, Mira, Miriam, Mirko, Miša, Miško Šuvakovič, Miss Miller, Mitchurin, Mme Helena Petrovna Blavatskaya, Molly, Mom, Morgat, Moriarty, Mother, Mr. Bucik, Mr. Tavernier, Mr. Toplak, Mr. Trampušek, Mrs. Abramič, Mrs. Hribar, Mrs. Novak, Mrs. Senčar (née Ban), Muldoon, My granddaughter Heda, My grandmother, Nanni, Nem Keckeget, Nil, Nina, Nono, Okudzhava, Olivieri, Paola, Pascali, Pavček, Peco, Pepca, Pepi, Péru, Peter, Peter Trias, Phillis, Piero, Pika, Primož, Primož Kozak, Prince Felipe, Prince Marko, Professor Menaše, Professor Ziherl, Queen Victoria, Rafko Perhauc, Raj Raj, Raj Raj’s grandfather, Ralph Angel, Ralph Donofrio, Raša, Raymond Roussel, Richard, Riko, Rob Favre, Robert, Robert Creeley, Robert Minhinnick, Roberto, Robespierre, Robi, Ron, Ron Donovan, Ropret, Roy McGregor Hasti, Rudie the cat, Rufus, Sandy, Sarah, Schloendorf, Semolič, Sicco van Albada, Škinko, Slobodan, Smilja, Sofija, Sonček, Sonja, Špela, Srebrna, Stančic, Stane Dolanc, Stanko, Stefano, Štefka, Stele, Stella, Steve, Šumi, Sušev Tone, Suzy, Sven, Svetozar, Swietlicki, Taja, Tanya, Tasso, Tatjana, Tatyana, Tatyana Grosman, Terry, Thomas Smith, Tomar, Tomás, Tomaž Brejc, Tomaž Šalamun, Tone, Tony (Antonio Smith), Trisha, Tsilka, Tugo, Tugo Šušnik, Tzilka, Uncle Guido, Uncle Jakob, Uncle Mario, Uncle Tozzi, Vendramin, Vera, Verena, Vesna, Vikrče, Visočnik, Vivien, Vojko, Walter, Yo Yo Ma, Your Mom, Zadar, Zadie, Žare, Žiga, Živa Kraus, Živko, Žižek, Zlatan (nickname: Stubby), Zoran Pistotnik, Župančič.

NOTE: I consulted the following books in compiling this list: A Ballad for Metka Krašovec (2001); Blackboards (2004); The Blue Tower (2011); The Book for My Brother (2006); Feast (2000); The Four Questions of Melancholy (1997); On the Tracks of Wild Game (2012); Poker (2004); Row (2006); The Selected Poems of Tomaž Šalamun (1991)/Homage to Hat and Uncle Guido and Eliot (2005); The Shepherd, the Hunter (1992); There’s the Hand and There’s the Arid Chair (2009); Woods and Chalices (2008).

END NOTE: The last book of Tomaž’s I read was On the Tracks of Wild Game. I read a friend’s copy while in Denver, CO. The night after I read it, I had a dream in which Tomaž and I were dancing together at some semi-formal after-party: parquet dance floor, slowly whirling multi-colored lights, a blur of people in the background. Tomaž was teaching me how to slow dance. The dance I remember most was one in which you could not move a single part of your body except for your eyes. I was failing miserably. Tomaž was ever-patient. The dream ended with Tomaž performing this slow-dance before me. Only his eyes were moving.

SEE ALSO: THE GENESIS OF BOOKS, NO. ONE—The Double Dream of Spring by John Ashbery

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  1. Pingback: 25 Points: Family System | HTMLGIANT

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