Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Stockholm Syndrome, Igor Klikovac, translated by John McAuliffe and Igor Klikovac

Smith/Doorstop Books, 2018   £5.00

Poems on the Move

There is no stillness in these uneasy poems. They cast a powerful melancholic spell, haunted by and bearing witness to personal and cultural trauma. The poet takes us along as he revisits Sarajevo past and present.

In ‘Then and Now’ it is a literal visit:

Yesterday, on the way back, a pack of stray dogs went after me
and from a café people calmly observed over their cups,
me running away,
like I did in the same place twenty years ago
from snipers.

In addition to the poet running, we find in this collection rivers flowing, aeroplanes landing, rats escaping, cities changing, individuals escaping, passing each other, often unable to connect, and time itself, always shifting.

Shifts can be prompted by words, sounds or an image, as in ‘Continuum’, when the poet recognises his dead father in his own laughter or ‘in the way the hand holds a cigarette’. The time-warping that the poet experiences can be, for him, unwelcome, as we see in the prose poem ‘The River’:

Not much time for a pause, just a breath really, and you’re not holding an apple in a supermarket, but those Bramleys you jumped fences for as a kid. Clearly this has its uses, and there’s no other way, but still, it’s inconsiderate. You don’t always want to remember, not every time something’s parked in front of your mind

This shifting and sifting, while painful, seems as necessary as breathing. Putting words together to write these poems is perhaps psychologically necessary, as we see in ‘Gratitude to Big Cities’:

Those days when all pages are empty
are best given to running […]
The problem of the cracked self, thus reduced to a simple
breathing exercise, at the end simply solves itself, like
a common cold. When finally you open your eyes,
the world is again joined up by words

The poems themselves seem to become a resting place, the true home of the dispossessed poet. It makes me wonder if those who have lost their homes through trauma can ever truly be at rest?

Heidi Beck