Nikola Đuretić

Nikola Đuretić

Nikola Đuretić is a Croatian writer with ten published books of prose, essays, feuilleton and poetry. Books of poems include Like the Sound of an Island, Small Deaths of Birds and Where the Roads Begin.

His work has been included into many anthologies and he received numerous literary awards. He translated and edited works of Edward Gordon Craig (On the Art of the Theatre), Penelope Lively (Photograph), Karen Armstrong (A Short History of Myth), Desmond Egan (Christ in Connaught Street – Selected Poems) and many more.

From 1978 until 1999 he lived in London where he worked as a Senior Producer with the BBC. For his contribution to Croatian culture he received the highest state Order for Culture. He is a member of the Croatian Writers’ Association and the President of Zagreb Literary Talks – an international gathering of authors, scholars and critics from all over the world. Upon retiring from the BBC, he returned to Croatia. He lives in Zagreb as a full time writer.


This knotted grape vine of memory
springs out of the bone marrow
like the sound of an island
that breathes loudly in July.

The surface of the water
gives off silvery winks –
Gods from the heights do too.
Or is it the same thing?

Travelling seems so simple
when heat drips into the gaping mouth of the day.
Distance and the vast spaces are
but words that can be uttered in a hundred different ways.

The sky understands the sea gulls
when they fill with unbridled happiness
my head in which July is building a nest
of lavender, mistral and cicadas.

Nikola Đuretić
© Translation by: N. Đuretić


Don’t want to be an island
with breath of lavender and north wind.
Don’t want to be a step
made of stone and sea-shells,
nor heavy seas
with dreams of algae and corals
that heal the bows of ships
with loud touches.
The boiling thought of August
is kind to travellers,
sea gulls
and Gods.
It would be nice if I were
the restlessness of seeds.
It would be nice, I say,
if I were Port Louis, Ullapool or Barbados.
And today, when I’m 33,
not knowing if it is a lot, or not,
it would be very nice
if I were a word – yet unuttered.

Nikola Đuretić
© Translation by: N. Đuretić


For Sian Williams

Flickering images of death
in that violated country
with places of unpronounceable names
like embarrassing wet dreams
upon the pillow between your sleepy half-parted lips
and my muted screams.

Flickering images
like muted screams
and the death of you and I
on the pillow of places with unpronounceable names
while my distant country was ejaculating
its embarrassing dream of conception.

Nikola Đuretić
© Translation by: N. Đuretić


The pebbles of eyes I let go downstream.
With a song and no hesitation.
A prayer upon the lips,
As still as the thought of a July mountain lake:
(Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
And then I wander:
What protection from the rain for a Slav
With eyes of pomegranates,
With mistral in his hair
And the scent of oranges in his dream?

Nikola Đuretić
© Translation by: N. Đuretić


Did I resolve to be a traveller, a seafarer?
Or just a wanderer, ne’er-do-well and dreamer?
Now, this moment, or perhaps long since
at the very start when I had just in mind
to sow fresh seeds in weary furrows
to reap the wind, head off down river that
taught me what all the rivers of the world look like
although I did not then know it?

I shall say: farewell sirens, song, cradle
farewell flatland, farewell city.
I shall say: here I am dreams, here I am destiny.
And cram the well known images in my mouth
like winter stores – for after –
I shall row towards new seas
thin and translucent like the pale eyes of denizens
of distant islands that with their grey thoughts
steal the terse light from the sky.

Hey, my fellow voyagers, row heartily
here’s wax for the ears, fat soil for the mouth,
there are new mornings, green and mild,
there it can all be had, even what we’ve dreamed of only
there finally our destinies lie
and words still unrevealed, of arcane meanings,
and what we yet know not but is very feasible.

And when the strain gets in our bones like wheezy breath
when this light that we carried from the old country
is lost in opalescent, greasy, island fog
if we can’t endure the thin seas,
transparent air and sodden lawns,
we’ll tie ourselves to the masts with strong ropes
and surrender to sea gulls and currents
to show us the ways to the withered olive tree,
the beach and fireplace, bread and roots
when we are lost steering this ship by the stars
that shiver like our hopes
and go out each new drowsy dawn.

Nikola Đuretić
© Translation by: G. McMaster & N. Đuretić

Published with the permission of Nikola Đuretić