Pines, by Srečko Kosovel

15 January 2012

Slovenia is 58% covered by forest

Kosovel: "Pines, pines, pines, pines!"

I’m lucky enough to spend some time in the mountains and valleys of Slovenia most years, and was recently given Look Back, Look Ahead, a translation of a selection of Srečko Kosovel’s poems by Ana Jelnikar and Barbara Siegd Carlson, which I’m currently working through. Kosovel is apparently regarded as Slovenia’s finest avant garde poet of the last century – having no idea who his competitors are, I can’t really make any judgement on this claim. He died aged 22 in 1926, from tuberculosis.

Slovenia is still 58% covered by forest. This selection presents ample evidence of Kosovel’s observations of urban squalor, proper material for a ‘modern’ poet, even if Ljubljana wasn’t the most bustling metropolis of the ‘2os (though Trieste, which he often visited, would be another matter). But it is the poems recounting the landscape of the Karst valley that are interesting to see in the context of modernist work. Meanwhile, though Kosovel embraced constructivism in his last years, a lot of the work in the selection is real heart-on-sleeve stuff that, at least in English, might also tie him back to the Romantic tradition. The piece below is by no means my favourite in the volume, but it is representatively manic, and is an unexpected treatment of something you can’t fail to notice in Slovenia.


Pines, pines in silent horror,
pines, pines in mute horror,
pines, pines, pines, pines!

Pines, pines, dark pines,
like sentries of the mountain
swaying over the rocky woods
in heavy, exhausted whispers.

When a sick soul stoops
on a clear mountain night,
I hear the muffled sounds
and can’t go back to sleep.

“Pines exhausted in dreams,
are my brothers dying,
is my mother dying,
is my father calling me?”

No answer, only the swish
of dead dreams,
as though my mother were dying,
as though my father were calling,
as though my brothers were sick.

[‘Pines’ is available in an alternative translation by Bert Pribac here:; or a syntactically accurate but non-poetic translation by Boris A. Novak on p.140 here: Photo by the blogger.]


2 Responses to “Pines, by Srečko Kosovel”

  1. […] seems like a good excuse to post this poem by H. D., which transposes Kosovel’s dramatic ‘Pines’ to another […]

  2. […] Hamilton’s poem is resinous, and goes right back to the start of this blog: Kosovel’s ‘Pines’ – an association that might fit quite well with the international literary idealism of The White […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: