A few years ago there was a commercial running on an independent radio that was driving me crazy for some reason. I can’t remember exactly how it went, but in my memory it went like this: “Lake Komo…a powerful, honest prose by our number one author of today, Srdjan Valjarević…” To me, it sounded like this Srdjan whoever paid a good sum to be advertised over and over and I had no intention of reading anything he wrote.
Fast forward a few years, it’s 2012 and I’m at the Belgrade Book Fair where I see a collection of poems by Mr. Valjarević titled: “Joe Fraser and 49 + 24 poems”; the title and my friend who then told me she read a few of his books and loved them convinced me I should at least read one poem and decide what next. I opened his poetry book at some random page, and here’s what I read (I apologize for my awkward translation from Serbian):
My name is Srdjan Valjarević
I was born on 7/16/1967, in Belgrade
I have small hands and fat lips
I have a thousand bucks
earned at a locksmith store
I’m reading Sherwood Anderson and I’m a very bad
I don’t study anything
I don’t speak intelligibly
I love markers
I love when girls wear men’s shirts
I love Patagonia
I love stuffed peppers
I think I’m a scum.
And so I bought the book. The following few days I was immensely enjoying what I found to be powerful, honest poetry. 🙂 Srdjan writes about ordinary “small” moments: difficult, sad and lonely, but sometimes also wonderful in their simplicity. He is fascinated by yellow-green leaves, by the forest, by insects, by time that stands still. He takes his time describing how he smokes, how he curls up in his bed, how he watches the rain plastered against his window.
He takes his time illustrating with his pen how a shy guy and a shy girl follow each other all around the city, hesitant to make the first move. In the end they go home and never meet. It’s “fucking above all fuckings”, he says. It might sound crude here, out of context and translated, but in the poem it sounds as romantic as the rest of it.
I like how Srdjan’s poems are out of the contemporary world of politics and everyday crimes. That’s not to say they are not gray and sad, but they are universal and greater than some activist poetry. They speak of the human condition, address the individual and are stripped of all pretense. They are at times childishly naive and funny, and at times as grave as life.
I don’t know if Srdjan’s poems are translated into English; I certainly hope they will be.