Monika Herceg, Croatia. Aleksandra Wojtaszek
Monika Herceg, Lovostaj.
Lovostaj. is a collection of poetry by Croatian author Monika Herceg, published in 2019 by the Zagreb-based Jesenski i Turk publishing house. Recommended for the EPF Award by the translator Aleksandra Wojtaszek, it was shortlisted for the 2024 edition.
In Croatian, lovostaj means close season – a period in the year when it is forbidden to hunt. For forest creatures, living in fear of armed men, it is a moment of respite. For Monika Herceg – a poet devoting considerable attention to the hell suffered by many women – this time carries a specific symbolism. Lovostaj is a period for healing, gathering strength, and forging a new type of language that is indispensable to talk about the experience of millions of women – including her own.
‘In a time of barbed wire, a poem | is easily resurrected | in someone’s sleeplessness’ says Herceg, for whom poetry is a time-space continuum where one fights for the highest stakes. Consequently, even when she does not speak in her name, she tells us about extremely intimate affairs: pain, fear and loneliness that are difficult to imagine. She does so through simple, lucid images, which she then piles up on top of each other until the entire structure begins to bend under its weight. Each of Herceg’s poems tests poetry’s resilience – as if the poet herself kept asking whether words are be able to carry the story she wants to tell. And each time, she is surprised, perhaps even overawed, to discover that said experiment has yielded positive results. Each time, she manages to cut through a section of barbed wire and yank out a new piece of freedom for herself and others.
A selection of poems
Monika Herceg (b. 1990) is a Croatian poet, screenwriter, dramatist, editor and activist. She is the author of three poetry books: Početne koordinate (2018), Lovostaj. (2019), and Vrijeme prije jezika (2020), and three plays: Gdje se kupuju nježnosti (2020), Ubij se, tata (2020), and Zakopana ćuda (2020). Herceg is the most-acclaimed Croatian poet of the young generation. She has received many prestigious national and international awards, including Goran za mlade pjesnike, Kvirin, Fran Galović, Slavić, Mostovi Struge, Na vrh jezika, Biber, Zvonko Milković, and Lapis Histriae. She works as an editor in Fraktura, one of the largest Croatian publishing houses, and sits on the board of Poezija magazine. As a poet, she forms part of the Versopolis platform, and her poems have been translated into fifteen languages (her debut volume has recently appeared in Ukrainian). She holds regular seminars on women’s poetry, and her activist work for equal rights won her the Strašne žene award. As a child, she had to leave her family home because of war, and currently, she is also involved in helping refugees. A physicist by profession, she spent her childhood in the village of Pecki near Petrinja. A mother of two, she lives and works in Zagreb.
Aleksandra Wojtaszek (b. 1991) is a graduate of Croatian studies with a PhD in literary studies who works as an assistant at the Jagiellonian University’s Institute of Slavic Philology. She studied in Kraków, Zagreb, and Belgrade. She collaborates with Tygodnik Powszechny and Herito, and has published in, among others, in: Duży Format, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, Odra, Krytyka Polityczna, New Eastern Europe, Porównania, and the Croatian magazine Ubiq. As a translator, Wojtaszek is a fellow of the international CELA programme and winner of the Kraków UNESCO City of Literature award. She is currently working on a collection of reportages about contemporary Croatia (Czarne, 2023) and a translation of poems by Serbian author Radmila Petrović titled Moja mama wie, co się wyprawia w miastach (Biuro Literackie, 2023). Born in Frydman na Spiszu, she lives and works in Kraków.