Sunday Stamps 067: Poetry and War


My entry for this week’s Sunday Stamps is from Croatia. This is an FDC sent by my good friend Tomi:


The above first day cover was issued by the Croatian Post to mark the 50th death anniversary of one of Croatia’s most prominent poets/writers, Ivan Goran Kovačić (21 March 1913 – 13 July 1943) . At age 23, he published his book, a collection of short stories, entitled The Days of Rage. His first volume of verse “Fires and Roses”shows an even more complete return to the reality of his native region, to childhood emotions, and to reflection on fateful events.

Aside from the stamp and FDC, a commemorative sheet was also issued.
Aside from the stamp and FDC, a commemorative sheet was also issued.

His best known work is Jama (The Pit) which ranks among the most celebrated Croatian poems ever written. He penned it during the war, while in service near the city of Livno, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The poem was written out of intellectual and ethical responsibility that condemns fascist atrocities committed by the Ustaše. It has been described as a metaphor about the sufferer, martyr, and victim: “The sufferer is when a person without fault suffers. The martyr is when nonhumans torture a person. The victim is when the whips of injustice extinguish life. That is Goran’s metaphor. And his life.” His work is an example of anti-war poetry with messages against torture, mass murders and war crimes. Jama was studied in elementary schools throughout the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.  Death is a central theme in much of Kovačić’s poetry, however this is not a reflection on his life outlook. His melancholy subjects came from outside events—such as his own and his brother’s affliction with tuberculosis—rather than from an internal disposition toward the morose. Jure Kaštelan, one of Kovačić’s contemporaries, expressed that Kovačić was inclined both toward romanticism and realism in his poetry, and that Kovačić had an intense perception of life.(Wikipedia)

During the World War 2, he joined the partisan forces to set an example of an anti-fascist example to the world. He was killed by the Serbian Chetnik troops in 1943. Ivan was only 30 years old when he died but he left behind a priceless literary treasure to the his native land.

I’d like to share a part of Kovacic’s Jama (taken from the Poem Hunter) where the imagery is very vivid:

BLOOD is my daylight, and darkness too.
Blessing of night has been gouged from my cheeks
Bearing with it my more lucky sight.

Within those holes, for tears, fierce fire inflamed
The bleeding socket as if for brain a balm
While my bright eyes died on my own palm.

While played, I never doubt, God’s feathered creatures,
Reflected still in them, and clouds’ procession;
But all I felt were my blood–spattered features,
Bruised gulfs in that once brilliant profusion.

How radiant lay my eyeballs in my hand,
Yet from those eyes no tear could more descend!

Sources: HrvatskaPošta, Wikipedia.