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Zdravko Luburić: »Molitva tmine« (Prayer of the Darkness)

Name of poet Zdravko Luburić is not much known in his homeland, but his homeland is very much known to him. He constantly goes back to it in his works. The Homeland War marked him deeply, although he did not directly participated. Nevertheless, he has opened a frontline of a sort in literature, in order to defend his country. One of such works of his is Molitva tmine (Prayer of the Darkness). For that work, he received the prestigious »A. B. Šimić« Award. Thus, his homeland honoured him in literary as in any other sense.

The very title of the book is deceiving and I believe it was not the best choice. The darkness can not pray, it kills. We may only pray in darkness, from darkness and so on. However, it was the poet’s wish, and one title can not diminish the value of the entire work. Here we may add the unequal stating of the number of the children killed (somewhere it is 28, in other places 29). Nevertheless, I believe that all this and similar may be attributed to the language editor and the proofreader. Luburić left his homeland a long time ago and certain expressions might sometimes »slip« him, while he tries to write in Croatian and in German.

His writing is today recognisable in writings of Jewish, Palestinian, Kurdish, Northern-Irish and similar poets. Due to different reasons, those nations were left on the windward side and strived to survive as a nation. And that is not easy. Because of that, poets have less time than their other colleagues in the world to turn to descriptions of the everyday life. Death is in force and is devouring people mercilessly. Who may remain silent to all that?

A thunderous scream is emerging through verses of Luburić’s poems. It is not the case of hardened law offenders, adventurers, it is the case of children who did not get the chance to live. In the name of the »interests«, the attacker was allowed to try and realise his intention. The victim defended with everything possible and available, in the beginning only with a brave heart. Children were not in the army, but were being killed in front of buildings, on the playgrounds, in schools. The attacker made no exceptions. People were being killed unsparingly and often in silence. Certain media in the world did not care about the useless death, it was important to present that death in a certain way, to make it useful for particular goals. The poet was aware of all that while he was writing his verses. He wanted to build a permanent monument to the wrongfully interrupted children’s game. And he succeeded in it. These poems are read as an accusation of all those who think of war, and as an ode to all those who think of peace. They are candles burning in the lit darkness. Nothing may put them out. Their force comes from innocent young lives.

Luburić is not the first to write in such way. We should definitely mention the famous »Spoon River Anthology« by Edgar Lee Musters. There, also, human lives are described in poems. One of big differences is that they were dying »everyday« deaths. Even if Luburić was inspired by this poem, he has still created his own, independent work. In Croatian, and I guess, in European literature, he will be remembered as a lyricist who touches all essential actions and events in his nation and relates them to others. Let us repeat that he also writes poetry in German language. Thus he enters even deeper into the European literature, he enriches it with his affiliation to it and to his close homeland. It must be hard for him. Nevertheless, it is yet another fate of the contemporary Croatian writer. Certain obvious facts simply need not to be proven.

Poems are entitled after those they are about. At the end, we conclude that an entire class is wiped off the face of the Earth. The names are real, as is the place where everything is happening: the town of Slavonski Brod. Based on his insight into each particular character, the poet expresses his opinions on war, interpersonal relations, the life in general. How powerful and real do the words of the poem »Mama, poginuo je Bojan iz mog razreda« (Mummy, Bojan From My Class Was Killed) sound. Everything here is already said and seen. A scream for the injustice, a desire for freedom is crying to the skies. »Žeđ je otvorila tišinu školjke pokojnika;/ Bojanom je krenula u srce čista tamna šapata,/ u boravište, kamo dvanaest plakanja u upaljen put zure/ od tamnih srebrnih svirala pokošenih,/ o, te umrle hrvatske nježne ruke!« (»Thirst opened the silence of the shell of the deceased;/ it rushed through Bojan towards the heart of the pure dark whisper,/ to the residence, where twelve cryings are staring to the lit pathway/ of dark sliver mown reeds,/ oh, those dead Croatian gentle hands!«)

An attentive reader will notice an interesting characteristic in Luburić’s work, but also with many other Croatian poets. While writing about recent horrors of war, they do not invite to hatred, revenge, even often do not even mention the name of the attacker. Focused on the meaningless of the evil, they wish to banish it from their lives, but also from the lives of others. Their goal is to say that everyone has the right to freedom, event the one who is attacking. Hate, revenge... imprison us, make us less human. It is a glorious standing, standing of the ones who did not stain their lives despite the deepness of the pain. Result of such standing is that Croatian defenders wore rosaries around their neck, something that no other soldiers have ever done. Aware of all that, Luburić stays open towards the other world, although anyone who would characterise him as a religious poet would be mistaken. He simply lives and sings his humanity in all its width and nothing more.

While reading Luburić’s poems, a question of contemporaneity is unavoidably imposed to the reader. Namely, in many of his poems we may find the trace of laments, hymns, elegies... Considering that he uses such poetry methods, is he less contemporary than some other poets, who are thousands of light years distant from the same? Of course not. The subject of the poem is what matters, and the way in which the poem is written comes after. A good poet will skilfully join all previous poetic methods and the contemporaneity of the subject. And Luburić indeed is a good poet! Everyone who reads him will be convinced of that. They will not be just some patriotically oriented individuals, but also admirers of the quality contemporary poetry. Luburić selfconfidently exercises it.

Poems in the collection Molitva tmine are filled with the living force of the poet. They are overflowing with immersion into the subject, with desire for the pureness of singing. Thus, they return dignity to the today’s poetry in general. Namely, so much superficial poetry is being written today. Luburić, gazing into the distance, creates the world that brings us nearness. And it is so deep and so needed. We might compare it to road signs, pointing us to the right direction. Luburić’s poems are exactly like that. Professionally adequate and vocationally dignified, they bring us closer to truth and make us more human. Only a true, masterly poet knows how to do that.

Miljenko Stojić

• Publisher: Kalke-Verlag, Stuttgart, 2004

• 73 pages

• ISBN 3-935788-17-7

Most (The Bridge), 1-2, Društvo hrvatskih književnika / The Croatian writers’ association, Zagreb, May 2005, pages 74 - 75

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