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Bookstories 30: Djurdja Vukelic-Rozic’s Seven Windows

libraryofbabelEvery book tells its story, but what of the other story, the story behind the book? Bookstories offers an opportunity to tell that story. If you have a story about a book or poem you would like to share, contact us and we’ll help you make it happen. Thanks for letting us know the rest of the story!

 

In 1990 the Croatian haijin Darko Plažanin (1957-2009) traveled to Ehime Prefecture in Japan, to receive the Grand Prix he had earned in the National Culture Festival. His winning haiku:

a boy
wiping the sky
from the tables

was well-covered by the media in Croatia, where, with others, I met haiku for the first time. Sometime later, now aware of haiku poetry and talking about it, I was told by a friend of a blue book, called Samobor haiku meeting. So, I read it. After that, traveling from my home in the town of Ivanic Grad to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, where I worked, a number of books about Japan culture and arts traveled with me on the train and I read them. In Croatia we had our stubborn haiku master—the Japanologist, mathematician and academic, Vladimir Devidé—and his books could be bought in bookstores and borrowed from libraries.

I tried to write down some of my haiku “moments,” but it did not go well! A lyrical soul, I had much trouble with letting myself live in haiku. Then there came help, from my husband Stjepan, after discussing haiku with him. One winter evening during the early 90s, putting a log into the fireplace, he said: “Look, a log with the seal of a green woodpecker!” Then, as we took a ride by car or a walk: “Look, the  poplars hang into the space! Look, a black shadow of a three-colored cat!” He was trying to help me, seeing, hearing and living haiku all the time himself! So at that time, it was clear to me, my homework was to write down and translate my husband’s haiku and present this haiku poet in the house, to the public.

In the town of Ivanić Grad, beside Stjepan and myself, two people wrote haiku. We were introduced to each other on a tribune about haiku held by Devidé who offered an evening of haiku poetry in our town. The books on haiku left in the town library were read by another two poetesses who started to write haiku, so there was six of us! And, Franko Bušić, an artist and haiku poet, moved to our town from Split. In my conversation with Vida Pust Škrgulja I came to the idea of collecting our haiku and make a joint collection of seven authors living in the town of Ivanic Grad. One time she was leaving after an visit, already riding her bike from my long yard towards the street, and I called out to her telling her about my idea. She jumped off her bike, returned to the house and me and said: “Now, for a long time I haven’t heard a better idea than that!” A high school professor, mother of four daughters, she encouraged and motivated me and helped with the project which became the first book I’ve put together. Moreover, six authors in this joint collection had been published for the first time! Wow!

It was 2002! The town of Ivanić Grad hosted the 11th World Championship in Crossbow. We suggested to the town fathers to help with printing the book, and therefore, to make a gift of it to the participants of the world championship! It was bilingual, presented people of our town and, of course, a good way to promote both the town, Croatia, and haiku as well. So it came to be.

The book was to be presented at the Special Hospital “Naftalan,” a world-renowned center for helping the patients with psoriasis and other skin ailments. However, the printer had some problems, and the book arrived several minutes after the start time of the promotion; in addition, more than a hundred people ran into the hospital hall from a sudden rainfall, with a strong wind stealing and overturning their umbrellas, and dampening the cakes and cookies they were bringing to help with the after-party. I remember bringing chairs from doctors’s waiting rooms to the hall, for there were many visitors, and we needed more and more chairs. Outsider, thunder and near-night in the summer mid-afternoon!

Boris Nazansky and Vladimir Devidé presented the book—they were two of seven reviewers. New in the world of haiku, the seven authors excitedly recited their haiku from a brand-new book, amid the fragrance of just-printed pages. At the party (about hundred people came!), Vladimir Devidé, in company with me and two more haiku poets, his eyes looking over the audience that had comoe despite such awful weather, commented: “And I could have chosen some other hobby!”

Departing from the 11th World Chammpionship in Crossbow, guests and contestants took Sedam prozora / Seven Windows to a number of countries. Excitement in our home and among all poets lasted for weeks, and even when I realized that the printer had not mentioned my name in the impressum—though I collected and translated the book—it was not the less at all.

—Djurdja Vukelic-Rozic

This Post Has One Comment

  1. A delightful story, Djurdja – and I can actually feel the excitement from that pivotal time that obviously continues to energize Croatian poets. I was touched by Stjepan’s truly endearing encouragement to your early efforts. That certainly paid off for the haiku community in so many ways!

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