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Born July 4, 1941
Zagreb, Independent State of Croatia
Died December 27, 2014 (aged 73)
Alma mater University of Ljubljana
Literary movement Neo-avant-garde
Notable awards Pushcart Prize, Prešeren Fund Award, European Prize for Poetry
Spouse Metka Krašovec
Tomaž Šalamun (July 4, 1941 – December 27, 2014) was a Slovenian poet who was a leading name of postwar neo-avant-garde poetry in Central Europe and internationally acclaimed absurdist. His books of Slovene poetry have been translated into twenty-one languages, with nine of his thirty-nine books of poetry published in English. He had been called a poetic bridge between old European roots and America. Šalamun was a member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. He lived in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and was married to the painter Metka Krašovec.
3 Poetry collections translated in English
4 International reception
7 External links
7.3 Interviews and review
7.4 2011 Symposium
As members of Slovene minority in Italy (1920–1947), Šalamun’s mother’s family joined thousands of Slovenes who left their homes because of the forced Italianization and moved from Italy to Yugoslavia, where he was born in 1941 in Zagreb. His father’s family came from Ptuj, where his grandfather had been a mayor. After his family moved to Koper, the local high school teachers of French language and Slovene language made him interested in language. In 1960, he began to study art history and history at University of Ljubljana. His mother was an art historian, his brother Andraž is an artist, while his two sisters are Jelka a biologist and Katarina a literary historian. Šalamun died on 27 December 2014 in Ljubljana.
In 1964, as editor of a literary magazine Perspektive he published his iconoclastic poem “Duma ’64” (Thought ’64), which was one of the reasons why Perspektive was banned and Šalamun was arrested by Titoist regime because one of its hard-liners, Ivan Maček Matija, recognized himself in the (dead) cat from the poem (the Slovene word maček means ‘cat’). He spent five days in jail and came out something of a culture hero, but he refrained from including the poem in his first poetry book, which appeared in 1966 in a samizdat edition, full of absurdist irreverence, playfulness, and wild abandon.
Poetry collections translated in English
Šalamun has had several collections of poetry published in English, including The Selected Poems of Tomaž Šalamun (Ecco Press, 1998); The Shepherd, the Hunter (Pedernal, 1992); The Four Questions of Melancholy (White Pine, 1997); Feast (Harcourt, 2000), Poker (Ugly Duckling Presse), Row! (Arc Publications, 2006), The Book for My Brother (Harcourt), Woods and Chalices (Harcourt, 2008, translated by Brian Henry), There’s the Hand and There’s the Arid Chair (Counterpath, 2009), and On the Tracks of Wild Game (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012). American poets that influenced him include Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery and Walt Whitman.
In July 1970, he was personally invited to exhibit his work at the MOMA. Šalamun spent two years at the University of Iowa, including one year in the International Writing Program from 1971 to 1972, and lived for periods of time in the United States after that. From 2005 to 2007 he taught at the University of Pittsburgh.
For a time, he served as Cultural Attaché to the Consulate General of Slovenia in New York. Literary critic Miklavž Komelj wrote: “Šalamun’s inventiveness with language has, indeed, never been more dynamic than in his most recent books. But in this dynamism there is also a monotone quality, which the poet makes no attempt to hide. It is as if this ecstasy resulted from spinning endlessly in a circle, like the whirling dervishes—a religious order, incidentally, that was founded by the mystic Rumi, one of Šalamun’s favorite poets….It seems that the intensity of Šalamun’s language lies precisely in the endless insistence of its pulsation.”
Šalamun won a Pushcart Prize, as well as Slovenia’s Prešeren Fund Award and Jenko Prize. Šalamun and his German translator, Fabjan Hafner, were awarded the European Prize for Poetry by the German city of Muenster. In 2004, he was the recipient of Romania’s Ovid Festival Prize.