Some advice for a successful literary career

Uroš Zupan

No hanging around diplomatic receptions, handshaking with presidents
and kissing the hands of attachés.
No dinners with Kings and tribal elders, frightened
that you will not know when to use the silverware
and when your fingers, and the snail shell thus ends in the cleavage
or the permanent wave of the lady sitting at the next table
a denture in a champagne glass, and everything
in the memoirs or in the diary.
No festivals and readings – oh, what eminent society. Let
the light and the dynamite of Albert Nobel fall on me,
or at least the stardust from Pulitzer. I shall not
wash or brush myself for three days. Talent must be contagious.
No midnight calls to translators – Don’t you see those illuminations.
An invisible dynamo produces a new kind of energy. When
we run out of oil, this energy will fuel cars and planes.
I have been digging underground tunnels for years, making arrangements
and keeping up with my correspondence. Young fans rush me
and clear the dust from my feet.
I no longer trade three medium-long poems translated into
Lingua franca for two haiku translated into Slovene.
If you do not agree with the exchange rates, I can also hand over, if necessary,
my toothbrush, my wife, a proteus, traditional
lace and fairies.
No more portraits and mysterious solipsisms in the magazines Young Constructor, Astrophysics for Beginners, Review for Breeding of Termites and Weasels…
No weighing of books and hiring cabbies, rickshaws, lorries
to take the books to the local newspaper – and before that
a circular letter – if thou wilt not immediately photocopy it
and publish it in all sections of the newspaper, including in “Around the Globe”,
“Entertainment and Hobbies”, Sport, Aphorisms and Obituaries,
your beds and computers will catch fire, you will be attacked
by swarms of locusts, your dubious so-called
journalistic inspiration will run dry.
No raising of glasses, cementing in generations,
– if you are persistent and nice you shall be canonised.
No “we have come to rule”, “we have fantastic salesmen,
they speak fifteen languages, including Swahili
and Sanskrit. Our secretaries can type 500 characters a minute.
We have made contact with the Eskimos, cannibal tribes in New
Guinea and Atlantis. Not long ago we faxed a bottle
of a typical Slovene wine and a Lipizzaner horse to Ghana.”
We keep closing the windows of our studies over and over again, but the wind finds the cracks and keeps messing up
the blank writing paper. No after-school activities. No
after-literary activities. No literary activities.

Let others carry on their shoulders Parnassus, the Pantheon,
the Academy, honorary doctorates and immortality. Be driven
in limousines with shaded windows. Let their clothes be torn off by
groupies. Let political correctness be. Putting the world and the state to rights.,
Your task is to sit by the pond, watch the ducks, sip water
read the poems Prologue to the Baptism on the Savica and Duma and feed carp.
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Poetry does not begin with a big bang, it begins with a whimper.

Translated by Nike Kocijančič Pokorn and Philip Burt.