Milan Orli. Bruj milenija.
Milan Orli (b. 1962), the author of two collections of poetry, two novels, and a volume of essays, is in some ways a typical representative of a new generation in Serbian literature, one that is fully aware of its roots yet determined to strike its own path into the new millennium. It is no coincidence that Orli's latest book of poems, Bruj milenija (Hum of the Millennium), carries a provocative title, for in it the poet looks both ways: into the past but simultaneously, as if possessing another pair of eyes, into the future. The result is a fascinating mixture of traditional and modernist poetry. Serbian literature has experienced similar manifestations in the past, but never with such clarity and resoluteness.
Orli looks into the past by saying that neither he nor anybody else, for that matter, can escape his or her roots. There are several links to the past. The poet's roots are set in a modern urban ambience, amid monuments to the immovable, already cemented segments of life. That is why the word city is present in several poem titles. There is a strange fascination with an urban necropolis, as if to underline the mortality to which the cities' inhabitants are condemned. In one of the early poems the persona sets the lamentational tone of existence: "For me, it was too late: / irretrievably. Veritably, I am air / only. I was silent: morning, without mercy: voice / of the night, on the window: Cold / and purple. Nary a word, a verse, a sound. That / melancholy, it does not know: then, I thought of dying."
The link to the past is seen also in the poet's awe toward Milo} Crnjanski, a leading Serbian poet of this century. This reverence is reflected not only in an emulation of the spirit of Crnjanski's Sumatran poetry but also in an imitation of his strange, rather illogical punctuation (as in the above citation, presented exactly as in the original, which is set with all six lines flush right). Another link is contained in the titles of the poems: e.g., "Hronika palanaekog groblja" (Chronicle of a Small-Town Cemetery), "Igrali se konji vrani" (Black Horses Danced), and "Oei earnie" (Dark Eyes), all familiar to the reader of Serbian literature.
Alongside these ties to the past is a view toward the future, manifested in a fervent desire and quest to find the self and a place under the sun. This quest takes the form of an effort to establish the poet's role in society while at the same time discovering his own personality, thus making the fate of a poet of paramount importance. Several poems to that effect are collected in the cycle "Zoon Poetikon," containing poems with Latin titles ("Poeta Urbis," "Poeta Ductus," "Poeta Laureatis," "Poeta Vates," "Poeta Sacer," "Poeta Major"). These poems harbor interesting thoughts about the craft and meaning of poetry, and they also reveal Orli's remarkable erudition. Moreover, his willingness to experiment (one poem is repeated in toto, for example) and his abovementioned disregard, almost flouting, of the established poetic norms make him an exciting voice of the future. The fact that he is one of many poets who are not shying away from postmodernist extravaganzas bodes well for the vivacity of contemporary Serbian verse.
Vasa D. Mihailovich
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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|Author:||Mihailovich, Vasa D.|
|Publication:||World Literature Today|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1999|
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