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Debeljak's SMUGGLERS in the spotlight

BOA translation Smugglers, by Aleš Debeljak, has been in the recent spotlight with reviews from such places as The Rumpus and World Literature Today.

Damon Marbut's The Rumpus piece is less a review than a reading response, as he chronicles his reactions while moving through Deblejak's book. Marbut says, “Written in Slovenian and translated by poet/translator Bryan Henry, Smugglers is published by BOA Editions, a house which continuously presents a terrific range of poets to the national and world audience.

“Ordinarily I do not read introductions or back matter before diving into a poetry book. Generally a skim-through of several poems is what works to see if something “speaks” to me from the pages. Smugglers is such a book, for sure. But I did, for some unknown reason, read the introduction this time, and it proved to empower me as Reader in terms of approaching the book and how I might enjoy it.”

As he wades deeper into Smugglers, Marbut is struck by "the poet’s ability to set scene," and realizes that "some of these unique, talented poems ought to be read aloud." When he arrives at the poem "Arrest Warrant," he confesses it to be "a near-perfect poem."

The Rumpus review concludes: “Aleš Debeljak’s Smugglers is the type of poetry book that, once the reader establishes a relationship with it, is difficult to lend out or give away. I suggest this because not every book of poems is immediately understood, not every book is instantly appreciated. But Smugglers has a quiet, dazzling nature to it that I find palpable. And so a reluctance to share it is an act to protect its artistry, as if to say, ‘You may read it if only you promise to attempt feeling what I feel.’ A selfish notion, sure, but this is one of those books that came along (for me) when needed. I recommend Smugglers without question. I just can’t quite let you see my copy.”

World Literature Today’s Bojana Stojanović Pantović lauds the lyrical nature of Debeljak’s poetry, and the excellent translation of Brian Henry. She says: “The lyrical voice intuitively summons it as a witness of the moments that link the poet’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood to the present era: ‘I was there; if you want, / call it a place of private memory, if you want, the end of the road.’ Nostalgia for a former life thus turns into nostalgia for all such persons, places, and situations that shaped the poet’s personal identity but also the anguish and trauma over a forever-changed people in the region.”

The collection focuses on Lubljana, the city where Debeljak grew up in former Yugoslavia. The city still lives on in what is now Slovenia, but it has changed enough since the years of Debeljak’s youth that it no longer feels like the city he grew up in. Smugglers explores these themes and confronts the pain that comes with the inevitable changes of growth.

The World Literature Today review concludes: “Although at first glance it may not seem so, this is perhaps one of Debeljak’s most intimate and exciting collections. The picturesque architecture of Ljubljana evokes the timeless beauty of baroque art and the poet’s attachment to it. At the same time, in the dark deserted interiors reside the ghosts of the past, a past that is unfortunately more powerful than the future.”

Click here to see the full Rumpus review.
Click here to see the full World Literature Today review.

Smugglers is available now at the BOA Bookstore. To celebrate BOA's 40th anniversary year, we're offering 40% off all BOA Bookstore orders through January. Use promo code BOATURNS40 at checkout to save!

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