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Appearing in the film:

“People read poetry to meet themselves. To meet their true selves.”


Tomaž Šalamun 

was born 4 July 1941 in Zagreb and grew up in the Slovenian port city of Koper. He earned a Master’s degree in Art History at the University of Ljubljana. In 1964 he published his first poems in the influential journal Perspektive, where soon after he was named as an editor in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the authorities from shutting down the publication. Šalamun was arrested and briefly imprisoned following the publication in the journal of his poem “Duma 1964”. In 1966, his self-published first book of poems, Poker, propelled him onto the Slovenian and Yugoslav literary stage as a voice of his generation. In the late 1960s Šalamun became involved with the conceptual art group OHO, curating their first exhibitions in Slovenia and exhibiting as part of the group in exhibitions across Yugoslavia and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1970. In the early 1970s Šalamun was a resident at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, and he would return frequently to the US until the end of his life: as a resident at various artist colonies (Yaddo, MacDowell); as a visiting professor at several US universities (the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Richmond, the University of Texas, the University of Pittsburgh, and Columbia University, among others); and as a poet at countless readings and festivals across the US. In the late 1990s–early 2000s Šalamun served as Slovenian Cultural Attaché in New York City. During his lifetime he published over 50 books of poetry in Slovenian, and his work, translated into nearly 30 languages, has influenced several generations of poets around the world. His books in English translation include Druids (2019), Andes (2016), Justice (2015), On the Tracks of Wild Game (2012), The Blue Tower (2011), There’s the Hand and There’s the Arid Chair (2009), The Book for My Brother (2006), Row (2006), Poker (2003), A Ballad for Metka Krašovec (2001), Feast (2000), The Four Questions of Melancholy (1997) and Selected Poems (1988). Šalamun’s numerous awards include Slovenia’s Prešeren Award for his life's work and the Jenko Prize, the Njegoš Award in Montenegro, a Pushcart Prize in the USA, the European Poetry Prize from the city of Münster, and a DAAD Artists-in-Berlin residency. His first marriage—to the writer Maruša Krese, with whom he had two children, Ana and David—ended in divorce. In 1979 he married the painter Metka Krašovec. Šalamun died 27 December 2014.

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“If I didn’t know that he really loved me, it would be difficult... it would be impossible.”


Metka Krašovec

was a Slovenian painter, illustrator and educator. For many years she was a Professor of Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana. During her career she had several solo exhibitions of her work and received numerous prizes and awards, including the Prešeren Award for her life’s work. She was a member of the Slovenian Academy of Arts and Sciences. She died in 2018.

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“I was pulled into one life that was not really my life.”


Maruša Krese

was a Slovenian poet, novelist, journalist and activist. She lived for many years in Germany and won the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for her humanitarian efforts during the Bosnian War. She published seven books of poetry, the novel Da me je strah [That I Am Afraid?](2012), and won the Fabula Award for her short story collection Vsi moji božiči [All My Christmases](2006). She died in 2013.


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“When I’m on the canvass, I’m an albatross in the sky.”


Andraž Šalamun

is a Slovenian painter and original member of the conceptual art group OHO. He has had several solo exhibitions of his paintings, including at the Venice Biennale. He was awarded the Prešeren Award for his work.

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“Freeing words from the networks of meanings is also freeing us as human beings.”


Marko Pogačnik

is a Slovenian artist and author. He was co-founder in the 1960s of the conceptual art group OHO and in the 1970s established a rural/artistic community called the Šempas Family. Since the mid-1980s he has worked with geomantic sculptures and has developed a method of Earth healing similar to acupuncture using engraved stone pillars that he calls “lithopuncture,” with numerous public installations around the world. His books in English include Gaia’s Quantum Leap (2011), Sacred Geography (2007), and Nature Spirits and Elemental Beings (1996). His awards include the Prešeren Award. In 2016, he was appointed a UNESCO Artist for Peace.

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“I think that typically for my generation was that Tomaž Šalamun was a star, from the beginning.”


Tomaž Brejc

is a Slovenian art historian and art critic. He is professor emeritus at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana.

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“I find it very beautiful to defend this position of a bird singing.”


Miklavž Komelj

is a Slovenian poet and art historian. He is the author of several books of poetry including in English Hippodrome (2016). His awards include the Jenko Prize and the Prešeren Award.

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“You were jailed when you were twenty-two...”


Nikola Madzirov

is a Macedonian poet, editor and translator. He is the author of several books of poetry including in English Remnants of Another Age (2011). His awards include a residency at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program and the Hubert Burda European Poetry Award.

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“Brodsky in Leningrad, Šalamun in Slovenia, they were like these stars, these emerging stars.”


Adam Zagajewski

is a Polish poet, essayist, translator and educator. His books in English include the poetry collections Asymmetry: Poems (2018) and Unseen Hand (2011) and the prose works Slight Exaggeration: An Essay (2017) and A Defense of Ardor (2014). His numerous awards include the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Prix de la Liberté, fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Berliner Kunstleprogramm, and the Heinrich Mann prize. He taught creative writing for many years at the University of Houston and now teaches at the University of Chicago.

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“He is not a poet of bitterness. He’s a poet of light.”


Veno Taufer

is a Slovenian poet, translator, playwright, editor, and essayist. His books of poetry include in English Waterlings (2002). He has translated over 50 books of poetry from English to Slovene including works by T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. In the 1980s he established the Vilenica international poetry festival in Slovenia and was for several years president of the Slovene Writers Union. He is a member of the European Academy of Poetry and served two terms as Chair of the Writers for Peace Committee of P.E.N. International.

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“There’s a whole Tomaž Šalamun movement among young American poets.”


Ilya Kaminsky

is an American poet and educator. He was born in Odessa and moved with his family to the US when he was 16. His books of poetry include Deaf Republic (2019) and Dancing in Odessa (2004). His numerous awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Whiting Writer’s Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches creative writing and currently holds the Bourne Chair in Poetry at Georgia Institute of Technology.

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“Genius and genie are not unrelated. If there is anything both are good at, it is going through changes.”


Anselm Hollo

was an Finnish-American poet, translator and educator. He was the author of numerous books of poetry including Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence: Selected Poems 1965–2000 (2001), AHOE (1997) and Corvus (1995). He translated numerous poets from Finnish, German, Swedish, and French into English. He taught at several universities in the US including the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, SUNY Buffalo, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poets at Naropa University. He died in 2013.

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“The poet comes with a ‘blazing sword’...but that is an act of healing... it’s an act of catharsis.”


Breyten Breytenbach

is a South African poet, painter, prose writer, activist and educator. He is the author of numerous books of poetry in Afrikaans and English including Windcatcher: New and Selected Poems (2007) and Lady One: Of Love and other Poems (2002). In 1975 he was imprisoned for seven years for anti-apartheid activities. His works of non-fiction include The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist (1982). He has received numerous honors and awards, including the Ansfield-Wolf Book Award, the Allen Paton Award for Literature, and the Mahmoud Darwish Award for Creativity. He has taught creative writing at the University of Natal, Princeton University, and New York University.

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“It was tough for a young kid on his own.”


Bob Perelman

is an American poet, translator, literary critic, playwright, and educator. His numerous books of poetry include IFLIFE (2006), Ten to One (1999), The Future of Memory (1998) and the collaboration Playing Bodies (2004) with his wife, the painter Francie Shaw. His critical work includes The Trouble with Genius (1994) and The Marginalization of Poetry (1996). He teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.

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“Maruška was of course furious and not very happy with the situation...”


Francie Shaw

is an American painter and art educator. She is the wife of the poet Bob Perelman.

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“I was star-struck and also sort of ghost-struck, because I thought he was dead.”


Matthew Rohrer

is an American poet and educator. His books of poetry include The Others (2017) and Surrounded by Friends (2015) and his poems have been anthologized in numerous books and poetry magazines. His awards include the Hopwood Award for poetry, a Pushcart prize and selection as a National Poetry Series winner. He teaches creative writing at New York University.

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“It was like a spell that he would put on the room.”


Dara Wier

is an American poet, educator, editor and publisher. She is the author of numerous collections of poetry including In the Still of the Night (2017) and You Good Thing (2013). She is director of the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is co-founder and co-director of the Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts and Action. She has won numerous awards including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts. She is co-publisher of Factory Hollow Press and editor of the literary magazine Jubliat.

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“The fact that nobody had heard of him and he kind of came out of nowhere...was a big deal.”


Daniel Halpern

is an American poet, editor and publisher. He is the author of nine collections of poetry, including Something Shining (1999) and Foreign Neon (1991). He is the president and publisher of Ecco Press (now an imprint of Harper-Collins) and published Šalamun’s first book in English, Selected Poems, in 1988. He has received numerous grants and awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts, a PEN Publisher’s Citation, and the Editor’s Award from Poets & Writers. He has taught writing at Columbia University, The New School for Social Research and Princeton University.

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“Religion doesn’t own this fire. This fire is part of all of us.”


Lori Shine

is an American poet, editor, writer and former managing editor of Wave Books. She is the author of several poetry chapbooks and her work has been published in numerous literary magazines in the US.

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“He was pushing for a kind of total freedom in his own poems and in the poems of his students...”


Daniel Remein

is an American poet and Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He is the author of several poetry chapbooks and is co-founder of the Organism for Poetic Research, an experimental online platform for research in poetics.

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“His work just inspired all these younger writers to adventure in that way.”


Matvei Yankelevich

is an American poet, prose writer, translator and publisher. His books include the collection of poems Alpha Donut (2012) and the novel in fragments Boris by the Sea (2009). His translations from Russian include works by Daniil Kharms, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Alexander Vvedensky. He is a Visiting Professor at Columbia University and also teaches at CUNY and Bard College. He is co-founder of Ugly Duckling Presse and edits its Eastern European Poets series (which includes two books by Šalamun: Poker and On the Tracks of Wild Game).

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“He’d lock himself up for days and just write.”


Charles Simic

is an American poet, translator, prose writer and educator. He is the author of 40 books of poetry, including most recently Scribbled in the Dark (2017) and The Lunatic (2015) and several collections of prose. His translations into English include work by Vasko Popa, Šalamun and Günter Grass. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship, the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the Wallace Stevens Award, and the Frost Medal. In 2007 he served as Poet Laureate of the United States. He is professor emeritus of American literature and creative writing at the University of New Hampshire, where he taught for more than 30 years.

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“It’s a permanent process of writing. He’s simply in it.


Ilma Rakusa

is a Swiss poet, translator, prose writer, editor and lecturer. She is the author of several books of poetry and prose and numerous literary translations from Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Hungarian and French. She is a member of the German Academy of Language and Poetry and writes about literature for German publications including Die Zeit and Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Her most recent books include the poetry collection Impressum: Langsames Licht (2016) and the prose collection Listen, Litaneien, Loops (2016). Her numerous awards include most recently the Berliner Literaturpreis (2017) and the Kleist-Preis (2019).

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“The mystery of the artist is the mystery for the artist himself.”


Aleš Debeljak

was a poet, essayist, cultural critic, editor and educator. He was the author of several collections of poems including in English Smugglers (2015), Without Anesthesia (2011), The Dictionary of Silence (1999), and Anxious Moments (1995). His critical writing includes the books The Hidden Handshake (2004) and Twilight of the Idols (1994). He won several awards for his writing including the Prešeren Award. He was for many years professor of Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana. He died in 2016.

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“The innate right to be was there at all times.”


Mary Ruefle

is an American poet, essayist and educator. She is the author of 16 books including most recently the poetry collections My Private Property (2016) and Traces of the Blast (2013) and the collection of essays Madness, Rack and Honey (2012). She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation and received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has taught creative at Vermont College and the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop.

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“Total freedom is a myth.”


Milosz Biedrzycki 

is a Polish poet, translator and geophysical engineer. He is the author of eight books published in Polish, two in Slovenian and one bookpublished in the USA. In 2010 he was a resident at the University of Iowa International Writing Program. He is the nephew of Tomaž Šalamun and has translated much of Šalamun’s work into Polish. His translations from English include the American poet Jorie Graham.

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“There is something anciently defiant about his work that won’t accept any form of jail.”


Ariana Reines

is an American poet, playwright, performance artist and translator. Her books of poetry include A Sand Book (2019), Mercury (2011), Coeur de Lion (2007), and The Cow (2006). Her first play, Telephone (2009), won two Obie Awards. She has taught poetry at various US universities, including the University of California-Berkeley, Columbia University, The New School, and New York University.

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“Tomaž was an explorer in his work. That can be an adventure, but it can also be a little scary sometimes.”


Ron Padgett

is an American poet, fiction writer, essayist and translator. He is the author of more than 25 books, including the recent collection of poems Big Cabin (2019) and the novella Motor Maids across the Continent (2017). For 20 years he was publications director of the Teachers & Writers Collaborative in New York City and is a former director of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project. Padgett is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Poetry Society of America’s Frost Medal. His poems were used in Jim Jarmusch's film Paterson.

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