thank you kent, david, murat, gheraldo, and luc.
first i would like to say that 'poezija' is one the most beautiful magazines in the area of postyugoslav cultural space, dedicated to poetry, as far as i know. it is huge, beautifully designed, representing poetry and other writings by croatian poets of different generations, which i find very important (the dialogue between the generations of urban poets), and with poets from other parts of former yugoslavia (which is so important in the long symbolic process of reconciliation in the space of former yugoslavia after the wars), as well as poets from other cultures, including us. i have just 2 issues. i have to mention, that now many magazines in the area publish writers from other parts of ex yu, which is so important, the languages are similar, the 70 years leaving in the same country is also important cultural and historical fact...
my and david's comments could be seen as examples of local cultural wars, that are now possible to be seen in the global virtual space, and as murat said, it is really interesting to have opportunity to discuss in this way... i find the things very complex and not with definitive answers, and everything have to do with power relations in our local cultures, with the fact of what social space do we inhabit (imperial or nonglobalized), and what is our place within that cultural space.
regarding the problem of the work that has the power of national representation, i will mentioned the work of the best known prose writer from former yugoslavia, dubravka ugresic, who in 1999 or 2000 in central european university in budapest at one session of regional seminar, said that she was for a long period of time writer who could not published in croatia because of her political stances (she was abandoned and erased because critical of every nationalism in former yu including croatian -- you could read her in english), and, as far as i remember, she defined herself as former yugoslav writer, but in every context she was referred to as croatian prose writer. so the way we construct our writerly identity, and how others see us, is sometimes complex matter.
it is interesting, that although us and serbia have been in conflict, during the 90s in serbia + montegenro appeared 5 anthologies of us poetry, and i suppose that the pictures of us poetry in them, despite the same authors that appear in all, are quite different. i will mentioned nina zivancevic's anthology, many of you know nina for she lived in us for long period of time, connected with beat poets, new york school, and with language poets... and nina is among the most important poets for me writing in 80ies. the other is the one that i did with vladimir kopicl. kopicl is one of the most important poets from vojvodina, his books were specially important for me when i started writing in 80s. kopicl suggested that it will be interesting that my interest in nonnarrative mostly language poets and his interest for narrative poets could present dynamic picture of us poetry. and the influence of us poetry in postcomunist time is so interesting. people said to me that new york school is so important for some poets born after 1960 and after 1970 specially in slovenia and poland. ashbery and o'hara are translated in slovene, and some polish poets of generation born after 1960 named themselves as o'harist, i think in mid 80s. in croatia recently appeared two so interesting anthologies: one of african-american poetry translated and edited by bosnian-croatian poet mario susko, who i think lives in usa, and postmodern american poetry made by poet petar opacic, writer living in town split at adriatic coast, for which hoover's norton anthology is so important reference. (he also made an interesting anthology of us short story.)
i would like to stress one thing, that the western countries don’t have privilege to have a modernity, high modernism, and avant-garde, other parts of the world have it also. and all cultures have different heritages, and construct different heritages in different times, and in historical perspective, all this is about power struggles. if you have read maria todorova 'imagining balkan', one of the most valuable thing is that she points how countries and nations in this region defined themselves through history of modernism as integral part of 'western' world, or as its 'other', and the consequences were and are always extremely dramatic.
as far as i could see from a big distance, us poetry scene is so huge and diverse, and i find that fact so exciting... when i was in 1994 in usa, i wanted to broaden my interest, but i realized that it is so huge terrain, and that i find the work by language poets most interesting for me as a poet and critics with theoretical ambitions. and i suppose that this kind of work could be boring, and problematic in many ways for the majority of poets, not to mention the broader public, but it is good to have this kind of work, along with other kinds ... i am so exciting when i see other cultures, first of all us, because i study some aspects of this culture for more than 20 years, but also some other, for example polish, we have great translator of polish poetry biserka rajcic, which i find amazing..., and what i am amazed with is the high modernist/postmodernist paradigm as the one that is posed as a central... and i am really happy to see as a part of globalizing process how in many cultures people include always new names of different writers, theoreticians, etc, and discuss them, and making different parallel canons. i find this process that is taking place now for so many years important... i have feeling that this process is not still established in my context... working from 1994 within the feminist context in serbia, i think that we managed to do some important work in this direction reactualizing many forgotten women writers, theoreticians, etc, but these efforts are not enough. the same should be done with other areas, with poets and writers who are omitted from the BIG NATIONAL CANON. it is usually said that excluded or just mentioned writers are not big enough because their poems are bad. but we here haven’t questioned yet the category of 'good' and 'bad', because it is still believed that we all know what is 'good' and 'bad' literature. at the moment in serbia you have 2 dominant models of poetry (i suppose that murat points to similar distinction in turkish context): one is urban plain narration, and the other is a kind of religious-nationalist discourse which deals with 'heroic national past', local mythologies, and history in a very archaic way as if the modernism never happened (although sometimes this kind of writing could be find in the relation to what you could recognize as experimental style, which is important to have in mind). and these two models in different variations are the only ones available. you have cultures with more opportunities in different area of life, work, politics, and cultures in which you don’t have choice... someone may say that having choice is also just an illusion, but there are places where you don’t have that illusion... so it depends on the degree, but sometimes this degree really does matter in the construction of everyday life.... and the real limitations.
i would like now to turn to murat's discussion, which is so important to me... the question of folk heritage in national culture... serbian culture is among cultures whose elite put at the center folk tradition, which means constructing and producing rural and heroic local universal timeless order. folklore epic is constructed as a kind of myth of origin. folklore epics are origin and from here 'all serbian literature comes'. put at the central place the folk culture is so problematic, because it limits the possibilities of the kind of work that is possible to write in local context. epic culture is constructed as rural, and 'essential' to serbian people, and this means that urban culture is not. or if it is, it is only in the range of moderate modernist styles. so i object and am for constructing different canons of different kinds or traditions of literature. SO THAT NATIONAL LITERATURE IS NOT AN ORGANIC UNITY, AS IT IS USUALLY REPRESENTED IN SMALL CULUTRES... and if i look at the difference between slovenian, serbian and croatian literature canons, i could say that in slovenian and croatian literature modernistic paradigms, even if moderate modernism/postmodernism is in question, are positioned as central. in serbia the difference is that 'we' have problem with modernism, and urban literature, so antimodernism is always somewhere near along with moderate forms of modernism. in anthologies it will mean that you will usually have antimodernist and moderate modernist poets, because national literature is considered to be ideal organism. and if you don’t represent it in this way you are accused not to be objective and you are unjust....
i would try to put this in more drastic way:
1. when in central and south east europe is referred to national poetry then it is not referred to poetry that comes from people or masses, but to the reception of international imperialist high modernist poetry from previous epochs in actuality. this reception is not conducted by the people on the bases of their oral traditions but based on the intellectual political and military/police elite who construe and impose the ideology of national identity in one historical moment. thus for a small cultures it is the determining struggle against late modernisms that are shown as if they spring out of national beings. national being does not exist it is just political construction. the struggle against it implies pointing to the synchronicity of the work with different actual contemporary cultural practices.
2. and what is contemporary serbian or turkish poetry tradition? it is enlightenment romantic context through which the political elites of these nations identify themselves in time and posit it as a universal image of its nation.
3. the crucial question here is the question of national populism, elitism and popular culture in contemporary world. national populism in serbia and in us implies imperialist populist war politics and the way that the serbian elites imitate american politics in balkan in their un-successful wars in bosnia. populism in its parodical humor, and entertaining folklore may looks like subversive, but it is always object of manipulation of cultural elites and state apparatuses.