poetry

100 PIECES by Vlado Bulić

In his Artist Statement Vlado Bulić asserts that for him literature should be a product of the author’s need to cope with the things around him which most often present themselves as problems causing frustration and frustration only. Bulić's book of poetry 100 Pieces (100 komada; published 2003) comes from this frustration.
The poems in this volume can be read as true anecdotes about the daily existence of individuals who do not have any perspective or objective in their lives.



 

Tomislav Kuzmanović:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF 100 PIECES BY VLADO BULIĆ

In his Artist Statement Vlado Bulić asserts that for him literature should be a product of the author’s need to cope with the things around him which most often present themselves as problems causing frustration and frustration only. Bulić's book of poetry 100 Pieces (100 komada; published 2003) comes out of this frustration. He writes about the individual, personal, and more general problems and frustrations that he and other members of his generation face in their everyday life in post-war Croatia.

The poems in this volume can be read as true anecdotes about the daily existence of the individuals who do not have any perspective or objective in their lives. Bulić confronts the individual, his needs, and desires with the needs and desires of abstract concepts such as state, nation, nationality, religion, love, art, literature, which all come with an already established set of rules that dictate the individual’s position in this world. These must be accepted. But the war cataclysm has changed the order of things and the individuals in this book of poetry without exception fall as victims of those abstract concepts. They are too weak, too disinterested, and most often too disappointed to try and change their position and this in turn affects every aspect of their lives be it love, art, or anything else. They fail in everything. The only exit lies in cynicism, nihilism, or escapism enhanced by narcotics, the media, and the colorful world of capitalism which is conquering this part of the world with an extraordinary force. Bulić’s poetry mimics the post-war reality in Croatia by describing the attempts of the individuals to find their place within the society which, from the author’s cynic perspective, equals Sisyphus’ work and must fail over and over again. These people have taken a losers’ stand and lost any illusion or desire to redefine that position. They have matured too early thanks to the war and have been given the role of a national waste which cannot fit in.

The title of this book of poetry (100 komada, 100 Pieces) reveals its contents—exactly one hundred poems divided, following the example of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, into three chapters with thirty-three poems each plus the final 100th poem which closes the circle.

The epigraph on the first page of the book—“There are people, things, and diseases.”—suggests what each part of this book deals with. The first chapter talks about the war and the post-war period focusing on the relationship between the individual and the society which has, thanks to the war, been severely deformed and has thus become (Dante’s) inferno. The people in this inferno are the people around the author—war heroes who lost their fame, wannabes of all kinds doomed to failure, high school friends and classmates—most often junkies—who are already dead or about to die, street thugs who die in car accidents while working as ice-cream truck drivers, regular street people with nothing to say and nowhere to go, skinheads, drug dealers forced to push drugs because there is nothing else for them to do, politicians with their empty promises and lies, and anybody else scarred by war and left to heal their wounds in post-war Croatia.

The second chapter—equivalent to Purgatory—deals with things. The things in this book are works of art, artistic endeavors, most often writing and poems themselves. Engaging in writing poetry, or any other form of art for that matter, is meaningless because writing is not real work. There is no sweat and tears in it (unless one breaks the keyboard), it does not offer any answers or new directions, and most importantly is brings no money. Since it lacks all these things, why should one do it in the first place? Every young artist—poet, painter, filmmaker, etc.—should forget about what he or she is doing and open a bar. This is the only way for a young artist not to become an idiot and a loser. For the older generations of artists, it is already too late anyhow—their works as well as their spirits have already burnt in the eternal fire of artistic purgatory.

The final chapter brings the ultimate disease into paradise. The disease in this book is love, probably because there is no cure for it. When Bulić writes about love, his poems are almost love poems and they almost have a happy ending. Of course, there is no happy end, and this is not a paradise. All love relationships in this book—most often one night stands, blind dates, and failed or failing relationships—are sad, ugly, often violent, and purely physical. When there is any emotion in them, besides constantly present frustration, it is immediately rationalized, it is let to pass in a second to never come back again. People who love are terminally ill, frozen, barren and they can say “I love you!” only when they are high on something.

Finally there is the 100th poem which seems to talk about nothing. It repeats itself in a circle which cannot be broken and which is never round until the book finally runs out of paper. The message is clear: this nothing lies in the essence of every person, thing or disease in and beyond the covers of this book no matter whether they are Dalmatian, Croatian, American, or any other nationality.

 

 

 from

100 PIECES

 

 

001

  

I was five when

I asked my grandpa

what one person was worth,

he said:

“One person’s worth more than the whole world.”

and slapped me across the face

to make sure this stays

recorded

in my READ-ONLY memory

 

he did not read it in books

he simply knew it

 

and that is still recorded

in my READ-ONLY memory

which is enough for someone

to declare me                            a leftist

 

though I am sure grandpa had no idea

what this word meant.

 

But I am not angry with them, because he also said:

“There are all kinds of fools in this world. You have to be good with them too,

but don’t let them fuck around with you.”

 

 

 

002

  

in one of my villages (yes, I’m a hillbilly)

lives a knucklehead.

 

during the war he composed

folk-decasyllables

dedicated to president Tudjman[1].

that was then a popular hobby

in my homeland.

 

that, naturally, did not stop others

from considering him a knucklehead.

 

except for old Ivan who would say:

“True, he’s a knucklehead, but, by God, everything falls into place for him.”

he meant rhyme.

 

despite his ignorance of

the trends in contemporary poetry,

it cannot be denied that Ivan is

de facto an artist.

 

his peaches are always the fullest.

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

P.S.      my apologies to the people of Naklice

who don’t share my opinion regarding Ivan’s peaches.

I wrote it because of the punch line.

 

P.P.S.    my apologies to Ivan because of the apology to

the people of Naklice.

I wrote it so that

the punch line would not seem too cheesy.

 

 

 

 

003

  

a former

warrior, adventurer and a convict

Mate U.

won himself

a job

in a local butcher’s shop.

 

he slaughters                                                                             for coins

and always takes a bottle of brandy with him.

 

he takes a sip or two.

brings in a bull.

chains it,

to the right wall

and to the left wall.

fixes it with his eyes.

raises a steel hammer                                                                (the bull does not stand a chance)

and then hits it with all his might and main between                       the horns.

 

the bull kneels.

Mate hits it one more time.

the bull collapses.

 

Mate goes on:

“You”

TUP!

“ugly“

TUP!

“Chetnik”

TUP!

“motherfucker!”

TUP!

 

he wipes his sweat.

 

takes a knife.

takes another sip

and cuts the dead bull’s                                                 throat.

 

the blood gushes out

like water from a fire hose.

 

he takes the bottle.

sits down on the dead bull’s shoulder.

drinks

and watches the blood flow down the drains.

 

 

 

004

  

in this part of the world

septic tanks are not emptied

into tank trucks.

 

instead they dig holes in the ground

and pour quicksilver into them.

 

(fuck it, I saw this happen

in a village with a church and

Francetich’s[2] photo by the fridge.)

 

quicksilver makes its way to underground currents

and the shit dissolves on its own

 

and along the way fertilizes the soil

which will feed

some new

photos by the fridge.

 

they get killed with a smile on their face.

 

and return home in boxes,

with holes in their heads and their eyes poked out,

so that a horny local arms dealer

in his long white dress

can sprinkle them with water and recite:

 

  

 

“Earth you are,

and to Earth you shall return.”

 

  

Translated by Tomislav Kuzmanović



[1] Franjo Tudjman (1922 - 1999) – the former president of the Republic of Croatia; the founder of the modern Croatian state

[2] Jure Francetich – the founder of the first Ustasha Regiment (also known as Black Legion) in 1941.


 

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