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In Death of New York City: Selected Poems, Nina Zivancevic’s writing straddles two major cultural groups (American/English and European/non English) using English as her medium. Fluent, and having written in her native Yugoslavian, as well as French and English, she is able to bring a wider scope of linguistic references with which to apprehend the psychological and physical phenomena that inform her writing. Nina Zivancavic lives up to her international reputation as one of the foremost living poets of her native Yugoslavia from which she has won numerous prestigious awards since an early age. For this work originally written in English, in his forward, Charles Simic an expatriate and major American poet writes, “Nina Zivancevic is one of the most original poets writing in Europe in the last twenty years…The genius of her art lies in her ability to make surprising connections between diverse cultures and literatures giving her poetry a richness and range that is truly rare. ”
Games We Play
Playing games in the moonlight
renders moonlight a certain glamour
what color of light could it be?
When I try to open my oven
to heat the place, certain memories of warmth
are brought back to me-
whose place could this be?
Monkey climbs the tree,
a woman sobs alone in her room,
what tree could it be?
Friends greet each other, feed each other courage,
eat together, laugh-what kind of laughter could it be?
Confusion arises, eats the heart,
bad taste rules the world-
a law of nature could it be?
The smart grow silent
-a penny for duality-
the loud tell us what to do-
whose perception could it be?
Loyalty brings rewards
but in times of hardship only instincts remain
whose instincts might they be?
Poem with a Tilde
I feel sad and serious
like little Doña Infanta entrapped
in a Velasquez painting, watching
my silly royal entourage with distant
and soulful eyes, bending over
a ray of light focused on young princes,
niños and dueñas, brushing pearls
from my solitary shoulders, hiding their
friendly deceptions in my curls,
waiting for my dwarfs and pleasant servants
to bring me a casual cup of chocolate.
I feel sad and serious as if I sent
a fleet of explorers to search out
a new continent, to bring me back fresh
spices, gold idols and a new culture,
the exaggerated insults of foreign kings,
soft robes and unusual toys shaped like
a bleeding human heart, but what they brought me
instead were barbarian shells, symbols of strange Gods
with hollow painted mouths,
all trying to speak something simple and awesome
which recalls a whisper, resembles a howl
Under your fingers you hide
The infinite and the fire is
Checking the flow of elements in and out—
Strength of the iron man delayed by water
And his grace — defined by the circumstance
In which he dwells.
Sometimes we become soft like pomegranate,
Sometimes we are eager to fly. What lifts us up
Above the ground is the force
That binds us to good soil and the air,
So we raise our heads above an avalanche
Of public events : sturdy, black and tangible
They pull the strings of
Cosmic unity together
About the Author
Poet, essayist, fiction writer, art critic, a contributing editor to NY Arts from Paris, Nina Zivancevic published her first book of poems Poems in 1982 for which she won the National Award in Yugoslavia. She has 9 books of poetry published in Serbian and in English. She also has three books of short stories published in Paris, New York and Belgrade Recherche Philippe Sollers with Noel Blandin (1992), Inside and Out of Byzantium with Semiotexte (1994), and Vreme Knjige with Vizantijske Price (1995). Recipient of three poetry awards, she has edited and participated in numerous anthologies of contemporary world poetry. As editor she has contributed to New York Arts Magazine, American Book review, East Village Eye (U.S.), Republique de Lettres (Paris), L’Unitá (Italy), Politika and Dnevnik in Yugoslavia.
(This is a partial biography. A more complete form may be requested from the publisher.)
Author’s previous books in English:
Title: Inside Out of Byzanatium
Pub Date: Jan 1994