Zagreb & Split : a poetry blogdiary

A rare privilege to spend ten days in Croatia, at the closing of the summer season, at the invitation, and enjoying the hospitality of, the Croatian Writers Association, and my friends Tomica Bajsic, Ana Brnadic and Damir Sodan. I managed to spend real time, not whisking through, in both Zagreb and Split, and meet a whole new bunch of poets and artists.

At the centre of my visit was a reading I gave at the Café u Dvoristu in Zagreb, where Tomica and I chatted, doing a Q & A of sorts, before I read from my new book and some translations were read. Thanks to Damir Sodan, I have dozens of things in Croatian, and it was good to see my poems are depressing and weird for even the most enthusiastic audience across languages.
Tomica and the writers association did a great job of getting actually interested people to the reading, the room was really all poets, students, artists, people who really came to listen and engage. And as often happens, there is the perception when I travel that I am doing so because of a sort of poetic meritocracy, as though I must be known in England by virtue of my leaving it. This is obviously, and enjoyably not the case. So there was no falseness to the modesty of my responses against Tomica extremely generous questions and statements about the Enemies project and Maintenant. Never more than in these energetic, humorous, deeply enjoyable live moments, do I feel happier to feel like a stowaway, or a pretender, or a parasite. All the better, and more so as my work is clearly too dense for people to be supporting me because of that. The other reasons I prefer.

Moreover, the conversations I was able to have in Croatia, to really get to know Tomica, who really is one of the most extraordinary men I’ve ever met, let alone a fine poet (I urge you to look him up, to save me from adding the remarkable biographical details here, his) were inspiring. The spirit of Croatians, perhaps just toward me, but it seemed in general, was generous and open. I took much, learnt much from chatting to dramaturges and sculptors and journalists, some in their teens, some in their fifties.

I then headed south to stay in Split at the generous invitation of Damir and had real writing time in the 30 degree heat and intermittently thunderstorms. It is a beautiful place. Much has come of this trip, not least the excellent possibility of an Enemies project: Croatia in 2015, with readings in both the UK and back in Croatia. Hard not to be excited at more time with such brilliant poets and generous people.