Dear Maja, I'm so happy to write to you! Last time I saw you, you were at the residency. It happened that the lockdown started being introduced in Greece, so we were panicking a bit and laughing at the absurdity of the situation that was new to us, smoking on the balcony, looking at the sea, trying to see if there are any dolphins there, and trying to decide whether we should hurry to get the plane ticket. When you look back at that now, what do you remember from that time?
For me, it’s exactly like in a famous Croatian song, „I remember only the happy days“ (Gabi Novak, Pamtim samo sretne dane ☺ ) I remember the perfect solitude in Velika, the quietness of the village, the tranquil mornings, the clean sea, having lunch or dinner with you and Thanos somewhere nearby, delicious food and wine (I adore Greek cuisine), waking up in that beautiful house, drinking coffee while writing or translating... Oh, it was perfect! At that time, at least in the beginning, the pandemic was still rather an abstract thing to me, I thought – it's just a media hype, it'll blow off soon, but it turned out it didn't, and it shortened my stay in Greece from 3 to 2 weeks.
Since the residency, you published a book titled „Four Elements”. I suppose the elements are water, fire, earth and air? Tell us more about the book. Are your common topics – nature and traveling – prevalent in this book too?
Yes, nature and traveling are once again prevalent topics, the entire book revolves around them. But this time I wanted to give it a slightly more activist note, more than anything I wanted to send an ecological message and some parts of the book – Fire/Brazil, for example – consist of poems I could easily characterize as eco poems. Others, like Water/Greece, talk about social issues such as the migrant crisis in this part of the world. Therefore, all of them are activist to an extent, and that’s exactly the step forward I wanted to take with this book. Yes, they are travelogue poems again, poems I wrote in Iran, Brazil, Greece and Japan, but now they talk not only about the travels, the beauty of those countries and my experience there, but they also talk about huge social and ecological problems each of those countries is faced with in the 21st century.
You call yourself, and are called by others, „putopjesnikinja”, which is a word you invented, and it roughly translates as „travelpoet”. How does a travelpoet survive a world pandemic? What keeps your heart strong, and your spirit high?
At the beginning of all these lockdowns I have to admit I enjoyed it – being forced to stay at home, spend time with the texts I needed to work on, translations, unfinished poems, I finally organized a poetry workshop… I really felt I needed this break from traveling (which I would never impose on myself in other circumstances) in order to deal with all these things I never had time for. But then, as the pandemic continued for almost a year, and it’s likely it’ll continue for a while longer, I really felt sick of it! Every time I merely think about travel, every time I watch a documentary about another part of the world, when I stumble upon photos of my own travels or travels of my friends, I get really sad, anxious, angry, at that point, I just want to pack my bags and go somewhere far away, see something new, meet someone interesting, swim in another sea. It makes me realize why I love traveling so much, why it means so much to me – it’s not just the inspiration for poems, it’s not just the incessant desire to see the unknown, it’s the best school of life I could ever imagine. So I don’t know what keeps my heart strong now, I guess it’s the belief and hope that I’ll be able to travel again soon…
I remember you were making a documentary for the national radio during your time here. What happened with it?
Yes, I was collecting sounds and interviews and poems and songs and many other things that will tell this audio story. I have almost finished the synopsis and I’m now waiting for my turn to go to Zagreb and record it at the national radio studio. As with everything else, they were also out of office for a while due to the pandemic, so I had to wait my turn.
Your posts about Bookmobil make me smile. Tell the readers a bit about it. Where did you go with it, and where you are planning to go? What does it represent to you?
Haha, Bookmobil makes me smile as well, every day! It’s unbelievable the energy it brings wherever I go with it! Since it appeared in media a lot, on TV, newspapers, websites, people now recognize it easily and wave to me as I drive by, sometimes it makes me cry tears of joy cause it brings me so much happiness, their approval and recognition, their smiles when I honk and wave back, the children who wave to me or want to climb in… Just the other day I had to do an annual motor vehicle test (tehnički pregled) and a guy working there yelled to the other guy who was checking my car: “Let it pass! Can’t you see it’s the Bookmobil!” I couldn’t help but laugh. The plan is to travel on with this mobile library (which is much more than that – it’s a place to read poetry, read books, hang out, talk to writers traveling with me, or to me! a place where you can buy my books, perform your own stuff, it’s like a traveling literary stage) all around Croatia, starting with early spring…
I had the pleasure to participate at the „Wood Poets”, the festival you organize. I was really amazed by the atmosphere, positivity, the beauty of nature. I got the impression you are strongly connected to nature. Did the nature in Larissa's beach area affect your creative process in any way?
You’re right, I feel strongly connected to nature, and the injustice done to our planet hurts me almost as much as the injustice we people do to each other. I am in awe of the beauty of our planet, but at the same time, I feel terrified it’ll all vanish soon, because of the unbelievable amount of pollution all around the world. Wood Poets were meant (and they still are, they take place every August) to remind people of the importance of nature, of being inside nature, being without cars, mobile phones, electricity, being in the quietude and calmness of the forest. They were also meant to encourage professional and amateur writers to write about nature and try to preserve it in that way as well. Nature in Larissa really did affect my creative process. Every day I watched the sea and walked along the shore, the waves were relentless and loud, they couldn’t go unnoticed, I really felt the sea (the Aegean Sea being both similar and different from the Adriatic, more unknown to me) and wrote a lot about the waves. 3 times a week I went running along to coast, climbing to ever higher peaks to get a different panorama, to enjoy another view. For my audio documentary I often went walking in the forest behind the village, in search of streams and birds – background noises for the reading ☺ but also, to enjoy the peacefulness of the little forest behind the village…
We still have the stone you left for us, it's now a part of the residency. At first, we didn't know where the stone came from, and then we came to the conclusion, as reasonable beings would, that it probably didn't appear by itself, but that it was a gift from you. I think other residents will like that stone, because the writing on it – „To the Muse: I can't force you to come, but I can save you a seat, and leave the door open” – can also be read as a message of encouragement and kinship to them, too. Later, I saw on your Instagram another stone that you left at another place you were at, also with writing on it. I understood that leaving special stones with encouraging and inspiring texts on them, has some really deep and thought out meaning and intention behind it.
Yes, it’s a little game I play wherever I go. I pick up things from nature – not only stones, but also dry leaves, pieces of wood, etc. – and write short poems or messages on them. In Japan I wrote an entire poem on a piece of dry tree bark and left it hanging on the wall in a small pilgrimage shelter, as an encouragement for other pilgrims who’ll come after me. In Brazil, I made an installation called “Poetree”, it was a small, naked tree on which I attached dry cashew leaves (cashew tree has very big leaves that can dry nicely and you can write an entire essay on them!) – and each leaf had a poem written on it, a poem I wrote during my residential stay in Brazil… All of this serves another purpose as well, it teaches me to let go – of things, of places, of people. These stones, this Poetree, the other objects I decorate with messages, they are all objects I leave behind, never to return to them. I could have taken them as beautiful souvenirs, as mementos, but I never do that. I give them away, to a place, to people who live there, to people who’ll come after. Or to Time itself, to Nature, who might also destroy them over time. It is always a process of letting go of a material object, keeping only the memory.
Where are you now?
At home in Šibenik, Dalmatia. Bookmobil has just passed the test and here I have my loyal mechanic who is helping me rearrange some things inside, as this year will be full of surprises ☺