Srečko Kosovel

Srečko Kosovel

Infobox Writer
name = Srečko Kosovel

caption = Kosovel in a drawing by Alfons Graber
birth_date = birth date|1904|3|18|mf=y
birth_place = Sežana, Gorizia and Gradisca, Austria-Hungary (now in Slovenia)
death_date = death date and age|1992|7|29|1904|3|18|mf=y
death_place = Tomaj, Kingdom of Italy, (now in Slovenia)
occupation = Poet
genre =
movement = Impressionism, Expressionism, Constructivism
notableworks = Konsi
influences = Josip Murn, Dragotin Kette, Ivan Cankar, Ludvik Mrzel, Anton Podbevšek, Joža Lovrenčič, Avgust Černigoj, Mayakovsky, dadaism
influenced = Miran Jarc, Edvard Kocbek, Matej Bor, Karel Destovnik Kajuh, France Balantič, Tomaž Šalamun, Aleš Debeljak, Susanna Tamaro, Boris Pahor, Ciril Zlobec
website =
footnotes =

Srečko Kosovel (March 18 1904 – May 27 1926) was a Slovene avant-garde poet.

Since the 1960s, Kosovel has become a poetic icon, in the league of France Prešeren and Edvard Kocbek. He produced an impressive body of work of more than 1000 poems with a quality regarded as unusually high for his age. Most of his works were published almost four decades after his early death.

Upbringing and Early Life

Kosovel was born in 1904 to Anton and Katarina Kosovel (née Streš) in Sežana, a town in the Kras region of the County of Gorizia and Gradisca, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His mother, descendant of a wealthy Slovene family from Trieste, was 40 years old at the time of his birth. His father was a local teacher and a choir leader. Srečko was the youngest of five children; he had a brother and three sisters. Srečko and his family lived in the nearby village of Tomaj until 1924.

It seems that Kosovel wrote from an early age. When he was only 11, one of his poems (about the fairness of the city of Trieste) was published in the children's magazine "Zvonček". The World War I, which broke out in his teenage years, had a traumatising effect on him. It seems he had regular contact with wounded soldiers and saw corpses, since the battlefield was only some 15 kilometers from his home.

Kosovel finished elementary school in 1915.

Early Years In Ljubljana

In 1916, Kosovel moved to Ljubljana with his sister to continue with his studies, staying there until his death. In 1919, he met Branko Jeglič, a poet who later became a close friend to Kosovel. Jeglič produced a student literary newspaper called "Kres" ("Bonfire"), which Kosovel participated in. Jeglič died soon after and Kosovel published a touching obituary in a Slovenian newspaper of Trieste. At this time, Kosovel also made his first true attempt in poetry. Much of his poetry at this time and later concerned his longing for his family and a reflection on landscapes of the Kras region. It is thought that the poem "Rider in Dark Night", which he showed to his brother, was his first serious poetic attempt.

In 1920, he shared a flat with the young writer and esitor Ludvik Mrzel for 18 months. Kosovel contributed to Mrzel's newspaper as a writer.

tudent years and early literary activity

In 1922, Kosovel enrolled in the University of Ljubljana, where he studied Romance and Slavic philology. In this period, he established a youth literary magazine called "Lepa Vida" ("The Fair Vida", a motive from Slovene folk poetry), published by an organization of students from the Italian-occupied Julian March studying in Yugoslavia. After World War I, Trieste and the Slovenian Littoral had just been annexed by Italy, with the local Slovene population exposed to the terrorist acts of the fascist movement and later to the oppression of the Fascist regime. As an editor of "Lepa Vida", Kosovel met the magazine's co-editor Alfonz Gspan, who would later edit Kosovel's first collection of poetry. In the same circle, Kosovel also became acquainted with the poet Ivo Grahor, who introduced Kosovel to the avant-garde movement, and writer Bogomir Magajna.

In the autumn of 1923, Kosovel established the "Ivan Cankar Club", named by the Slovenian radical author. The club organized debates on literature, social and political issues, published gazettes ("Novi Kres" - "New Bonfire"). Internal disputes soon emerged. Kosovel moved closer to socially and artistically revolutionary ideas, while the other influential member, Anton Ocvirk stood on more conservative position. Despite their frequent clashes, Ocvirk would later become the editor of Kosovel's "Collected Works", from the first edition of which he however omitted the most provocative and daring poetic attempts.

In 1923, Kosovel and Ivo Grahor started editing the progressive journal "Vidovdan". Grahor influenced Kosovel significantly, informing him of recent artistic developments in modern European literature. He also introduced Kosovel to the works of numerous Soviet and German avant-gardiste artists.

The constructivist turn

In 1925, Kosovel was considering establishing a new modernist magazine with the constructivist artist Avgust Černigoj. Černigoj suggested the magazine be called "Konstruktor" ("Constructor"), while Kosovel preferred KONS. It was in the summer of 1925, that Kosovel started writing his famous constructivist poems, calling them "konsi" ("kons" in singular), short for "konstrukcije" ("constructions").

At about the same time, Kosovel prepared to publish a collection of his early poems, entitled "Zlati čoln" ("Golden Boat"). With this selection of poems, he intended to put an end to his early style, strongly influenced by the impressionist poetry of Josip Murn. He was however crushed by the negative response of both publishing houses and some of his closest friends.

Kosovel then turned exclusively to his constructivist poetry, which he wanted to publish in a collection entitled "Konsi". He however never managed to achieve this; his constructivist poetry would remain unknown to the public until as late as 1967, when Anton Ocvirk decided to release Kosovel's collection under the title "Integrali '26".

The same year, in 1925, Kosovel became editor of the magazine "Mladina" (Youth). This had an enormous impact on his life: he had very ambitious plans with the journal, intending to transform it into a nationwide left-wing publication that would attract all modernist and avant-gardiste artists from Slovene Lands and Yugoslavia, as well as serving as the platform for a radical Slovenian political agenda. He remained the programme editor of the paper until his death.

The last period

The year 1925 was Kosovel's most productive period. It was also a time that saw him shift his politics to the left. As his prose became simpler in style, it had a greater appeal to the proletariat. Kosovel conceived the idea of a proletarians' writers union and a publishing house called "Strelci" ("Archers"), in which his collection of constructivist poetry could also be published.

During all this period, the "Ivan Cankar Club" continued its activity, organizing literary and poetic evenings. In a winter evening in 1926, Kosovel visited the industrial town of Zagorje to perform in one of such events. Following his recital, Kosovel waited for the train to return to Ljubljana, catching a cold, which eventually developed into meningitis. He returned to his home village in the Kras to cure himself, but died on 26 May 1926. He was buried on 29 May 1926. His coffin was adorned with a ribbon with the colours of the Slovene flag placed on it. The Italian Carabinieri, who had been present at the burial to prevent any "nationalist" outburst, threatened to exhume the coffin to remove the ribbon but this did not occur.

Publications Following Kosovel's Death

In 1927, Alfonz Gspan published his late friend's early poems in a booklet consisting of 66 works. In 1946, Anton Ocvirk published Kosovel's "Collected Works", which were received by interest from the literary community. Ocvirk further published "The Golden Boat" in 1954. These publications however omitted Kosovel's late works. Only in 1967, a book called "Integrals '26" was published, edited by Ocvirk. The third volume of "Collected Works" was published in 1977.

Kosovel also left unfinished works in lyrical prose form, sketches, note, diaries and essays and criticisms concerning cultural problems. Much of it was published in 2004, on the 100th anniversary of Kosovel's birth, in the monograph entitled "Ikarjev sen" ("Icarus'es Dream"), edited by the literary critics Aleš Berger and Lugwig Hartinger.

A new selection of Kosovel's poetry has been translated into English by Bert Pribac, David Brooks, assisted by Teja Brooks Pribac: "The Golden Boat: Selected Poems of Srečko Kosovel" (Salt 2008).

Kosovel's poetry

The poetry of Kosovel is seen to come from three artistic movements: Impressionism, Expressionism and Constructivism. Kosovel's poetry also incorporates elements with Dadaism, Surrealism and Futurism. His style is too complex to be identified by a particular movement or current. His works show his concern with social and political oppression in the Slovenen Lands, the fate of Slovenes threatened by foreign powers, the feeling of a decadence of Europe and the hope for a "new dawn". The Kras region, with its ascetic and rigid scenery, is one of the main motifs in Kosovel's poetry. His verses are full of wit, irony, depth and a sentiment of tragedy.

He has been often compared to other brilliant and tragic European authors from his same generation, such as the Hungarian Attila József, Italian Cesare Pavese, Spanish Federico Garcia Lorca and Catalan Màrius Torres.

Famous Poems

*Kons 5
*A Suicide In Front of A Mirror
*Ecstasy of Death
*Red Rocket

External links

* [ Poetry International Web - Srečko Kosovel]
* [ Srečko Kosovel Portal]
* [ Poems by Kosovel (in Slovene)]

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