Biljana Milovanović Živak, Serbia

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    Biljana Milovanović Živak, Serbia

    Graduated at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade. Editor of the literary magazine and periodical “Branicevo”. She has published two books of stories “Two Days without Marta” (2007) and “Salmon swim upstream” (2013), a play “Needless gossip” (2012), a study “The meaning of writing in the new millennium or Is the Internet going to kill the book?” (2015), several books in English with a group of authors from the Balkans published in the Netherlands, a book of poetry “Where Am I, and Why Here?”(2017), a well as a hundred reviews, critiques, essays, stories and poems in the literary magazines, periodicals and anthologies.

    Her work has been translated into English, French, German, Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Russian and Slovenian. Her poems and stories are part of the optional readers in the high school curriculum and in the Department of Neo-Hellenic Studies at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade. She has received awards for her literary work, editorial work and cultural work. She teaches literature and Creative writing.

    I do not want to be a poet

    You are poisoned by words of the read books,
    You are tempted and seduced by the unread ones,
    You eat word by word, page by page,
    The poison spreads through your body, and through your blood
    Reaches your brain and pumps in your heart.
    You pour it out on paper then,
    Continuing the unstoppable process,
    Infected by an incurable virus,
    Further poisoning the innocent and the untried.

    Why should you be a slave to that, why verses
    And not say alcohol, drugs, sex money,
    Why should you trouble yourself in the morning trying to remember
    A verse that escaped you before sleep
    As if your life depended on it,
    Instead of simply switching on your TV,
    Sitting back in your armchair and watching a show…
    Why walk where everyone else drives,
    Why swim where everyone else sails,
    Why fly alone where everyone else takes a plane,
    Why through the mud when you can take a dry path
    Long since well-trodden?

    Do not bleed in vain, everything has been said
    That mattered saying.
    As if anybody cares about your kind of rebellion!
    Do you think you are special only because
    You can walk, swim, fly
    And are not afraid of deep mud?
    Finally, do you really have to write of love and death,
    Sounding smart, elated and swept away, lamenting
    Over the unhappy fate of all the poets in the world!
    As if somebody forced you to be it,
    As if you are the only one suffering.

    Being a poet is like having measles,
    You are ashamed of venturing among people
    Until you are recovered or at least
    Until the scabs have fallen off and the scars have faded
    So that at least from outside you look like other people.

    If you venture into someone else’s company
    Even thus, with scabs, thinking you should
    Toast with pride everyone that
    Was infected before you,
    Then something is seriously wrong with you.
    Do not fool yourself; do not lie to yourself that you had to,
    That there was nothing you could do,
    As if there was absolutely nothing else
    In the world for you to do.
    There are so many honest jobs
    You could have chosen.
    The truth is you wanted it
    And you wanted nothing else,
    But only what you love, and to love is a privilege.
    What right have you to take this privilege, almost luxury,
    For yourself?
    As if you cannot see that on the other end
    You will be doubly bereaved for it!
    You, poet, fool,
    Even if you were born like this,
    You could have corrected it,
    By going to therapy and rehab,
    Practicing yoga, science or sport,
    Building a political career, constructing, cooking,
    Knitting, cobbling,
    Going to the monastery,
    And even if nothing helps,
    Taking tablets, they always help,
    And even if they do not help you
    You could just die,
    Because everything is better than being a poet.

    The Underside of Literature

    I turned, oh Lord,
    I turned in an endless circle

    A little cog
    In the wheel

    I dared to break out
    To turn my own wheel

    I thought I could do it on my own
    With the similar cogs

    Without the rust and dirt
    To create the finest poems

    But worries soon caught up with me,
    Heavy wheels ran me over

    What was left of me
    Was melted in a cauldron

    To make new cogs.

    I would never allow myself to become a poet.
    I’d rather die
    A worthy death.

    The Birth of a Starfish

    Masked in glass
    The wave throws me
    Against an impenetrable translucent wall

    I spot myself in it
    And see the trap
    Of the glass sea net

    The prey of surface
    I wander
    Through the unknown whirlpool

    The wave drags me
    To the bottom
    And I break

    Condemned
    To seven years of bad luck
    To the seven hundred and seventy-seventh

    For so many pieces
    Shone with a new life
    Stabbing into my body

    And the Creator Wave
    Will make starfishes
    From my congealed blood

    There, I surrender
    (For Oskar Davičo)

    There,
    I surrender,
    To the adventurous hunter
    Who kisses
    Unfettered by rules
    And lures into his arms the adventuresses
    Like himself

    They submit easily
    Without compunction
    The taste of ephemeral love
    On their lips
    As medals
    Without the Seventh commandment
    Stuck in their teeth

    And I,
    With a marital veil
    Never raised off my shoulders
    Enraged by the hunter’s audaciousness
    Stuck dumb
    Astounded
    By the submissive response of
    The heart

    I surrender,
    To the thespian
    Who took off his mask before me
    Wiped off his make up
    Showed his face
    And admitted:

    I,
    Son of the Moon,
    Offer you the moonlight hand
    The future in the Milky Way
    The cradle in the rain-bearing clouds

    I take you
    Beyond the green hill
    To taste the ripe cherries
    I take you
    To the bottom of the sea
    To catch colorful fish by hand
    I take you beyond the horizon
    To warm ourselves by the sinking Sun

    Horizon is no limit

    I offer you Nothing
    And Everything
    From Wakefulness to Eternity!

    And he took me
    To the other side
    Where human voices
    Instead of birds
    Sing freely of love
    Where what was and what will be
    Echo together
    In the shells on the coast
    Held against our ears

    I wove a net for the winds
    I shall be his last
    Horizon is no limit.

    Through the Ribs
    (before(love))

    She didn’t know why
    She couldn’t explain
    In a language understandable to humans
    Why
    (Maybe the birds and the fishes understand)
    And really, what was it
    That came down from the sky
    Now star spangled
    Now grey and black
    Onto her chest –
    So she gasps like
    A drowning man
    Through the reeds poking out from a lake…

    What is it called?
    (Maybe the beasts know…)
    It comes from the stomach, whirls and rolls
    Like a ball of yarn
    Led by a needle
    Through the ribs
    Over the muscles
    Through the esophagus
    And over the vocal cords
    To the throat.

    And then
    When it flies through the mouth
    It returns
    Breaks the waist and knees
    Cuts the line lengthwise
    Through the inflammation

    And when the body becomes a ball of rags,
    Pierced, sewn up,
    Forever marked,
    She thought
    (Maybe the actors know?)
    That it might be
    Something like that thing
    That isn’t love,
    Although it has the same face…
    And she surrendered to it
    As a sort of foreplay

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