The Slovenia Times

Edvard Kocbek- an Earthly Poet



The origin of Kocbek's strength Much of Kocbek's literary strength is believed to originate from his (bitter) experience of the realities of his time. He found himself trapped within the political circus of Yugoslavia, playing some relatively important roles, and it must have been this political involvement which not only inspired and motivated him, but also brought about moments of crisis. It was in1945, when he learned about the massacres in Kocevski Rog, that he started thinking seriously about withdrawing from politics and returning to the world of literature. He said: "There is so much poetry in me, yet I have to play the role of Minister, a man of politics, while my real self feels like a comedian, a puppet, and a tormented being, above all...I need to take a break as soon as possible. I must return to my work, to my humble and genuine form of life, work, creating. I must get back my joy, my aim, success, my heart and my soul." His words show that Kocbek was doomed to fighting an endless battle between two forces - the extroverted logic of political action and the introverted logic of his inner, poetic mission. This very battle seems to have stimulated both Kocbek's intellectual growth and his need to express himself artistically. As a young boy he started publishing poems, prose and articles in various Catholic literary papers and later in the leading Catholic journal, Dom in Svet (Home and the World) as well as others. Most of these poems were not included in any of the official anthologies of his poetry, and it would probably have remained so, if it were not for Anton Trstenjak, a well-known Slovenian psychologist and Kocbek's room-mate during their college days, who collected and published them under the title The Early Poems (Rane pesmi). His introductory chapter to this collection radiates admiration and respect for Kocbek both as a person and a poet. Trstenjak calls him an 'ecstatic' person who managed to be faithful to his inner voice without exception. Trstenjak, as a psychologist, must have known why he said that "... his poetic nature was the decisive power which Kocbek needed for the revolutionary steps and risks he took, regardless of consequences, adverse or otherwise." Kocbek's first collection of poems, The Earth, came out in 1934. At the beginning of his essay Three Periods of My Poetry (1970) he says: "My first poetic truth was the truth about the Earth." Those poems are like a wide, slow river, which hides all its power in its depths, while remaining calm and peaceful on the surface. They remind us of the river on whose banks Siddharta found his last truth and revelation. It is an unblemished harmony between a human being and mother-nature. Another collection of poems, Dismay, came out in 1963. To understand the gap between those two collections in terms of the time span and their very different content, it is necessary to know a few facts about Kocbek's life story. His political actions drove him deeper into disunity with his colleagues, who in 1952 denounced him - forcing him into early retirement - not just for political reasons, but also on account of the views expressed in his literary works. 'Dismay' is a story not as harmonic as 'The Earth': the relationship between the human world and the world of nature is broken, incoherent. "The world of perfection excludes the perfection of the world". Those poems imply all his anger, disappointment, all his dismay, towards the social reality of that historical moment. In 1964, he received the Preseren award for this collection, and on that occasion he wrote: " social conflict has no political comes out of deep and universal artistic affection or aspiration.... Therein lies the heart of the conflict: our civilised society is planning, calculating, producing shallowness; the culture of art creators, on the other hand, is risking, surprising, protesting and scandalizing.... The mission of artists is to drag, with restlessness and questioning, the human being out of comfort, dogmatism, narrow-mindedness and hate.... To awaken him for conscious action and more radical ways of living...".


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