Tomaž Šalamun was born in 1941 in Zagreb, but grew up in Koper, a coastal town in Slovenia south of Trieste. In 1966 he graduated in Art History from Ljubljana University. Šalamun, who won the Prešeren Prize in 2000, was the leading figure of the Slovenian poetic avant-garde in the 1960s and in the 1970s.
In early 1970s he spent two years at Iowa on the International Writing Programme, and he has lived on and off in the US since then. In 1996 he became Slovenian Cultural Ataché in New York. He has published 34 volumes of poetry in Slovenian. His work has also been translated into fifteen different languages, reaching a total of 45 volumes, and he has been included in numerous anthologies. He is a former Fulbright Fellow at the Colombia University in New York and visiting professor at the Universities of Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts and Tennessee. Šalamun has also been in residence at DAAD Berlin, Bogliasco, Cité des Arts Paris, Yaddo and McDowell.
Brian Henry is the author of five books of poetry, most recently The Stripping Point (Counterpath). His translation of the Slovenian poet Tomaž Šalamun’s Woods and Chalices (Harcourt) appeared in 2008, and his translation of Aleš Šteger’s The Book of Things is forthcoming from BOA Editions. A Serbian edition of Henry’s poems will appear in 2010. His sixth book, Wings Without Birds, is forthcoming from Salt Publishing.
An otter is like I would eat Bocaccio.
You shelled him his coats.
One like it was heard amongst the creaking of gulls.
His name was Captain Beef.
He reminded me of Professor Pirjevec.
A wizard’s cap, a coat lined with violet silk,
with a sewn-on waning moon and stars.
The sun will rub him.
The whiteness will fry him.
Is the waning moon up there
like the little balls are against
moths nobody taking them out of the drawer?
And why sea gulls shouldn’t fly from above
in a straight bread line like
a diamond cutting glass? And why
a lighthouse couldn’t be the one owned by
people, by giants who click tongues
above the Loire? Their Cyclopean eye
would pulse and flow.
Goya carts leaves in their mouths.
All is brown. I sink into the argil,
into the prickly chestnut coats, I’m
cold. Is the Fall that early?
It storms and fills up the mouth.
The superstructure was tested by a bull.
That’s why there are those
huge bulls on the highways in Spain.
translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry and the author