The Poet Ahead of Time

The following is the first of a special series of posts contributed to us by Montenegran writer and academic, Marija Nenezić. May these posts ignite in you the same thirst for Montenegran science fiction poetry that they have for us.

Part Two: Slobodan Vukanović – The Poet Ahead of Time

Montenegro is a small country, once a part of Yugoslavia. Readers of SpecPo may be interested to learn more about the Montenegrin science fiction pioneer who remains faithful to the genre, Slobodan Vukanović.

Vukanović began his poetic expression dedicated to the genre in the 1980s when he crafted the most important opus of Montenegran science fiction poetry. The following is an introduction to some of his work.

“Space Migration Montenegro”, a poetry collection of small, we can say that the volume is small, but it left an important imprint in SF poetry, but also laid the foundations of Vukanović’s later occupation in literature for children and youth.

The poem “The Questionnaire of Youth in the Constellation Sagittarius” brings a perspective that the average poetry reader might not have yet encountered; it belongs to extra-terrestrials, to those who do not exist in the familiar spaces of the Garden of Eden but are citizens of the constellation Sagittarius. More importantly, it is a vision of what the kindergarteners of Sagittarius find curious about us, the homo sapiens.

The complexity of the language and the fact that it is written by children presents a paradox of imagination. Word games, characteristic of this type of poetry, are a kind of linguistic engineering, reflected through metathesis, bring a sound-image dance of words. The children wonder whether we eat methane or metal. Important questions also arrive when it comes to earth species themselves: the status of homo sapiens compared to other species is of interest to the Sagittarian kindergarteners:

Do they have a privileged status compared to seals and whales

Certainly, we have a privileged status, mostly because as human beings we have given ourselves the right to be murderers and executioners to those kinds we consider lower than us.

This, of course, is forboding, once you consider how the kindergartners are evaluating our own capacities. One of the questions is whether our science is so advanced that we also make computers and rockets in our early years…

Do they make computers in the kindergarten

primitive cars

solar power plants

The power of poetry is in the way it employs language. When we consider the roots of the language we use to describe the future, everything changes. Or maybe, nothing changes at all. Read further…

CONFESSIONS OF A ROBOT

As a rule, Vukanović does not rely only on the lighthearted, unbiased questions of alien children for poetic and science-fictional effect. The power and roots of language are employed to give subtext and insight into human nature and tendency even in our forward-looking endeavors. There is no place this is better represented than in his seminal work “Confession of a Robot.”

Rather than being cold and mechanical, Vukanović’s robot poems are the emotional confessions of non-emotional beings. Vukanović humanizes them and alienates us:

We left the same day

from the same factory

in different directions

to another constellations

they programmed us for the same information

absolute obedience

and insecure security

(…)

they called us storytellers from other worlds

they used us for a long time

for hours and hours

we warned them of our warm-up

when we break down they get angry

they were annoyed by our law

statute

anthem

trade union

they are irritated by our accuracy and longevity (…)

This confessional is one of a subordinated identity. True, the mechanics of the poems are that the robots are personified, they are given human characteristics, but in this case, the semantic level that is a powerful one. Fans of science fiction may be familiar with the origin of the word robot. “Robot” from the Czech robota meaning forced labor.

Yes, your math is correct. Robot = Slave.

But Slobodan Vukanović isn’t done delivering views on humanity using pathways only science fiction can create. We have one final excursion into his work coming next. Stay tuned.


In the next segment of Marija Nenezić’s Introduction to Montenegran Science Fiction poetry, we delve deeper into the work of Slobodan Vukanović, a celebrated poet that Bakić cites Slobodan Vukanović, and his poetry, as “ahead of time” but who will use the future of humanity to contextualize its past and present.

THE SPECk and the SFPA would like to thank Marija Nenezić for her contribution to our field. We look forward to much more in the future as she opens doors to new worlds in former Yugoslavia. This work was written by Marija Nenezić and edited for format.

Marija Nenezić is a professor of Serbian Language and South-East Literature. She holds a degree in Children’s & YA Literature with a focus on oral fairy tales. She is currently working on her Masters thesis on Harry Potter. She is the founder and editor at Zlatna Gora publishing and an editor, critic, and lecturer at the Association of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.


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