Gregor Podlogar on Tomaž Šalamun

A Conversation with Gregor Podlogar on Tomaž Šalamun


Photo by Tihomir Pinter.

Gregor Podlogar, born in Ljubljana in 1974, graduated in philosophy from the University of Ljubljana. He has published his poems in various literary magazines in Slovenia and abroad. Aleph  Press  published  his  first  two  collections  of  poetry,  Naselitve (States,  1997)  and Vrtoglavica zanosa (Joy in Vertigo, 2002).In co-authorship with the poet Primož Čučnik and Žiga Kariž, a painter, an experimental book on New York City entitled Oda na manhatenski aveniji (Ode on Manhattan Avenue, 2003) came out with Sherpa Press. It was followed by his collection Milijon sekund bliže (A Million Seconds Closer, 2006). His latest book, Vesela novaušesa (Happy New Ears, 2010) was also published by Sherpa Press. A selection of his work was published in Six Slovenian Poets (Arc Publication, 2006). He was the editor of Slovene side of poetry web-page lyrikline (www.lyrikline.org) and co-organizer of Ljubljana poetry festival Trnovski terceti. At the moment he is employed as a host of radio shows on culture at the national radio (Radio Slovenija), translates contemporary American poetry (C. Hawkey, L. Solomon, P. Killebrew, A. Berrigan among others), occasionally performs as a DJ and usually drinks green tea in Ljubljana.

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Ming Di:  Like many other poets, I was corresponding with Tomaž Šalamun after meeting him a few years ago. He was extremely friendly and inspiring. I knew he had lung cancer, but I was still shocked when I received your email on Dec 27: “No good news to report. Tomaž Šalamun passed away today; there’s no word to describe such a loss … Glory unto him!” I couldn’t speak or move. I thought he would recover like he did from the back injury. How did you learn about the sad news? Tell me about the funeral or any poetry gatherings in Slovenia, as I can’t find any news in English. Poets don’t die. But I still like to know what Slovenian poets did for him.

Gregor Podlogar: Tomaž Šalamun died on Saturday morning, December 27, 2014. Just before his death the weather in Ljubljana was nice, sunny and warm. But the day Tomaž died, it started to snow. There was something in the air. I was sitting in the teahouse around 10 a.m. that day with my family when poet Primož Čučnik called me on my cell phone and told me this sad news. I remember that very moment. I remember how I looked out and saw snowflakes floating around the street. And just by the window there was a blackbird watching us. It didn’t move for a minute. Then suddenly a tiny sunray drifted to its head, shining, and it flew away. I also remember some people told me weird stories about birds that same day. It was like Tomaž was everywhere, watching us through the eyes of birds for the last time. People who knew Tomaž personally know what I’m talking about. So many moments and experiences connected with him were enigmatic, and so is his poetry—bright, playful, cosmic, but mysterious.

The funeral was in Ljubljana (not in Koper, the coastal town south of Trieste, where his family grave is) on Monday, January 5, 2015. There were around 300 people, at least 80 poets, from all generations, and some from abroad. It was a nice sunny day again. Poet Miklavž Komelj and translator Michael Biggins gave speeches; by the grave, poet and one of Tomaž’s best friends Aleš Debeljak read a poem. Yes, you’re right, poets never die; although Tomaž was buried that day, big fat old sun was saying his lines to me all the way back home. And, yes, totally true, as Tomaž said, death is just an error. The holes that Tomaž has dug out with his poems into the language will stay forever. Sun shines through them. And it shines. And it shines.

A few days after the funeral there was a huge all-night-long reading dedicated to him. There were 150 poets from all generations who read his poems. The reading was at Metelkova (remember the famous Ljubljana’s alternative place?), organized by the people who do Young Rhymes Reading Series and a poetry festival with the same name. I think Tomaž would appreciate that—he was always interested in what young poets do, write, read, listen etc. It was just amazing to hear his poems from five decades in different interpretations and with the different voices.

Somehow I just can’t get rid of his physical voice in my head. He was an excellent reader, one of the best I’ve ever heard in my entire life.

Read the complete interview at Tupelo Quarterly: http://www.tupeloquarterly.com/an-interview-with-slovenian-poet-gregor-podlogar-by-ming-di/

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About 诗东西 Poetry East West

Chinese-English bilingual magazine (will include more languages), published in Los Angeles USA, printed in Beijing China. ISSN 2159-2772

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