Tomaž ŠalamunSee all fellows >
Slovenia | 2002, 2012
Tomaž Šalamun was born in 1941 in Croatia and raised in Slovenia. He is widely considered to be one of the leading poets of Central Europe, and has published twenty-six books of poetry. He has also served as Cultural Attaché to the Slovenian Embassy in New York. He lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He returned to Santa Maddalena in 2012.
I’m still drugged, éblouit with what happened to me at the Santa Maddalena Foundation in the house of Beatrice Monti della Corte and late Gregor von Rezzori. I (my writing subject) was at home immediately, on the spot, from the first minute invited to travel and fly, to be present and active, to disappear in my/its own sugar. The talks, the manners, the grace, Beatrice’s life and presence, the food, the combination of simplicity and ritual at the dinners gave us the sense of supreme ease, the assurance that our untouchability, all our methaphisical wells, will be respected and awakened. The immediacy and possibility to use three languages at the same time and using the fourth, (the only one of my writing subject, my maternal Slovenian) put me in a fertile whirl, in a dense now which had to do with many layers from the past of Tuscan, European, and personal life. The choice of colleagues was perfect. We fed each other with great gentleness.
Santa Maddalena is an absolutely unique place, with no comparison in the world. (Yaddo, McDowell included). The perfect mixture of formal and private, the gift of total presence and access to the main veins of the past is of course the result of Beatrice Monti della Corte’s gift, magnanimity and genius. It should last. Some infrastructure should be added (strong endowment with some staff) so that the institution can survive for the next generations. Beatrice’s home is a sacred place where the responsibility for the world as we know it, as it should survive, is supremely alive, intelligent and graceful. In its cultural impact I could compare it with major universities.
Guests and friends of the house, visits, Donatello in Bargello, piscine pubbliche in nearby towns, access to the whole of Tuscany (the writer guest should bring or rent a car, with it I was able to serve all my different moods) made me write and swim and laugh and dance, even restore some lost elegance.
I’m still not able to judge what I have written, but I was writing abundantly and could open and use myself for writing to the happy extreme.
Again, again, immediately, after the two first nights, this sacred place, your presence, (although the first week physically still in America) Grisha’s presence, Max’s, Brigida’s, Michael Jacob’s, Mirza Waheed’s and Alex Starritt’s presence, the presence of people who lived and wrote here before, began to transform me. I was refreshed, in great expectation, the spring in me started to drop some first waters, the sacredness of this place produces a sound. Something like humming, chatting of birds, your incredible charm, like an invisible vortex in the middle, stories, people you’ve met and befriended in your life seem to be a silent cosmic gentle giant, the world.
It’s like New York.One knows one has come home, the home of the world . And your (or destiny’s) cadeau de surprise – my co-translator, the young American poet Michael Thomas Taren whom I admire the most of all the youngest American poets, was also on the list, coming two weeks later.
And as Nadja said, he does tic tic tic all mornings on his mechanical typewriter, which I brought with me as this machine here in your home produced a book The Blue Tower in 2002, and when it appeared in English last year, I was called back. I feel to be among the most privileged and lucky living poets not understanding at all why or how I walk and type and travel and teach. I’m washing away so many things just to hear the sound and to have the right to know nothing.
One of the reasons why Santa Maddalena Foundation will and should survive: in ten years nothing changed, only layers are richer, serenity and beauty even more present. Grisha’s laughs in our dreams
didn’t fade. He’s amused.
And I’m deeply deeply happy.