Arc Publications logo

50 years at the cutting edge of poetry publishing

“A meeting point for poets of all latitudes”
— Víctor Rodríguez Núñez

Ivana Milanov on the Poetic Urge

Posted by Arc, 9th January 2014

The selection for Dinner with Fish & Mirrors is made mainly from my favourite poems which are melodical and pictural,easy to communicate with the audience. These poems have somthing of that primal vibration which I felt at the moment of creation and I know that this vibration is the bridge between me and others.

There are poems about Hadrian which I like very much, they represent the drama between inner and external lives. Hadrian himself was a Roman Emperor who extended the frontiers of the Empire,but he negleted the worlds inside his skin, the inner life which is one Universe itself. This is the story about myself as well.

I like to be caught in a poem permanently whether it is mine or somebody else's. That's the reason why I read a lot or translate. I translated from English into Serbian William Blake, W.B.Yeats, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg and so many other poets from the San Francisco School. The poets I translate do not influence me directly, rather their poetry helps me to stay in a spiritual dimension, in poetical status of mind.

Having said that, everything that surrounds me has an influence on me. I spent 37 years teaching. There were periods when I used to work with little children. It was a real pleasure listening to their thinkings about the existing world, all these statements based on pure observation - as William Blake said "poems of innocence". I like to listen to farmers talking about the plants, sailors about the winds and the nature of the sea. I like to be open to the Creation. This is my inspiration.

Poetry is here to wake us up, to show us our possibilties, to open our freedom. We need freedom very much, because only a free man can love, can share and understand. We need such impulse of energy a real poet can give us. When I talk about the poet I'm thinking about the poet with the misson which comes from his heart which cannot be commercial all the time and at every place that causes marketing problems these days.

Even though ten great publishing houses like Prosveta, Nolit, BIGZ etc. do not exist today, poery is being written and published in Serbia. The existance of the publishing houses I mentioned above concerned the highest quality of the texts because the poetry editors were our great poets like Vasko Popa, Miodrag Pavlovic, Stevan Raickovic and others. That was the time of great poetry. Today the situation is different: everybody who has money to pay for a book can have it. Everyone who has connection with the press will have a good review. A network system exists here, but it is personal, not within the system of quality. In a word: a real vanity fair. A real image of a good book does not exist any longer, but on the other hand people write, some of them very good poetry even though they haven't a possibility to publish these books, they read them in poetry clubs which are numerous here. The most important thing is that there is a poetic urge, so people write and read their poems. There are so many young people who write very good poetry and they have their clubs, very often older poets are their guests. Such a lovely interchange! I can only conclude that poetry must not die!

I like Pythagoras very much because he thinks that basis of the thing is melody. In this Pythagorean way translation is very important for me because I can hear the melody of other languages, as in the case of English which I like very much. It's another existence of my thoughts and the vibrations which were before thoughts and words. That's the reason why I am very thankful to Zorica Petrović whose translation is superb and to James Sutherland-Smith who did something more than translation, he poured the translated meanings into poetry in one fantastic way.

As I said at the beginning I like to be caught in the poem in its various forms. In the 1980s I was performing my poems in the streets of Belgrade, later in Boulder (Colorado, USA) together with American poets Allen Ginsberg and Ann Waldman. When I was in the USA I used to write organic poems inspired by the sounds of the ocean and I used to read them in poetry theaters in San Francisco. In Belgrade I also worked in poetry theaters, so I set Bells a poem of Edgar Allan Poe on the stage. That was a nice feeling, working with other people busy with the music, lights, costumes. Those working connections full of love and joy were marvellous.

Ivana Milankov