Ugly Duckling Presse

Poker (2nd Edition)
Poker (2nd Edition)

Tomaž Šalamun

translated by Joshua Beckman

Poetry | $15 $14
Buy"I got tired of the image of my tribe / and moved out"
Poker is the first of more than two dozen books of poetry by Tomaž Šalamun, the internationally renowned Slovenian post-war poet. Shortly after Šalamun was born in Zagreb, Croatia, his family fled from the rising pro-Nazi Ustaša party to Koper, Slovenia, near Trieste. Before turning to poetry, Šalamun had studied art history, worked as a curator, and was a member of the conceptual and performance art group OHO. Having had some tangles with the authorities as editor of the chief Slovenian cultural journal, Šalamun published Poker in 1966 in samizdat. It was a small, underground, self-published edition, yet, its playful, anti-authoritarian, postmodern approach instantly became influential for an entire generation of poets in Slovenia and the rest of Yugoslavia.

In his introduction to Poker, Matthew Rohrer writes that Šalamun is “an even cattier Frank O’Hara”: “and I turn over / hide behind a barricade / and pull out my COLT / aucun sens public / is this art engaged / there’s no damned sport left anywhere / no tramway to Bronowice / no Brandenburg or America” (“Flor Ars Hippocratica”). In Poker, the then 25-year-old poet imagines his own future as an ageing avant-gardist embracing failure: “at the end the journalists ask me / why did you lose the game / there are raspberries / raspberries / I say.” (“There Are Raspberries"). However, Poker was a great success in that it marked out a new stylistic territory which Šalamun would explore and expand over the course of nearly 50 years of writing, developing a voice that continues to inspire new generations of poets around the world.

A finalist for the PEN America Poetry in Translation Award, Poker was translated by Joshua Beckman and the author. The second edition includes a new introduction by Matthew Rohrer. Excerpt ˇ


let's say the dust
where should it fall
toward down or toward sideways
or should it be the roots
all these things God solves real slow

sometimes he says ARCHAIC
but nobody budges
nobody wakes up
in fact no one wakes up
sometimes he says we killed carriers of flowers
and buys bright paper
I bought bright paper he says
we killed carriers of flowers...

From "Grace"Close ˆ

About the Author

Tomaž Šalamun
Born in Zagreb in 1941, Tomaž Šalamun attracted critical notice with his first collection, Poker, which was published when he was only twenty-five. His books have been translated into nineteen languages. He has received many honors and awards including the Prešeren Prize, the Jenko Prize, and a Pushcart Prize. Šalamun passed away in late 2014.

About the Translator

Joshua Beckman
Joshua Beckman is a poet, translator and editor. His recent books include The Inside of an Apple (Wave Books, 2013) and Supplication: Selected Poems of John Wieners, co-edited with CAConrad and Robert Dewhurst (Wave Books, 2015).

Other Contributors

Matthew Rohrer
Matthew Rohrer is the author of several books, including Surrounded By Friends, (Wave Books, 2015) and A Plate of Chicken (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2009). The Others, a novel in verse, is forthcoming from Wave Books in 2017. A Green Light (Verse Press, 2004) was shortlisted for the Griffin International Poetry Prize. He lives in Brooklyn, New York and teaches in the creative writing program at NYU.

Advance Praise

The poetry of Tomaž Šalamun is truly one of the wonders of the literary world.—JOHN BRADLEY
Tomaž Šalamun seemed to be at home everywhere. Perhaps even Ljubljana, which to my regret I have never seen. They say it’s beautiful and sophisticated and yet obscure and off-the-radar, terms that might also apply to Tomaž and his crackling poetry. —JOHN ASHBERY
For those who value Šalamun's grand (while still trouble-making), neo-modernist persona, the publication of A Ballad for Metka Krasovec (2001) gave some insight into the wilder side of earlier work. This beautifully printed book [Poker], going back 15 more years, is perhaps even further out.—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
The beautiful letter-pressed cover lends the book a tactile dimension that parallels the way in which the wonderfully mystical, synaesthetic, and visionary poems of this book make a strange yet immediate sense.—THE POETRY PROJECT NEWSLETTER
It's the unraveling of youth, a document of that transitional period after you've finished your official education and must then begin to unlearn everything you've been taught: undefining in order to redefine.—Travis Jeppesen, THINK AGAIN