Sandorf, 2017, 74 pages
excerpt available in English
What are the conditions for love and what kind of emancipatory potential can it bring about in a generation inseparably marked by war? Ivana Bodrožić relies on jazz standards to tackle these unpinnable questions, the dominant tone of her book finely imbued by the titular Duke Ellington’s 1935 classic.
In a Sentimental Mood is a painful, touching, unique book of verse which leaves no one cold-hearted, jazz lovers and others alike. Its lines are told by a resolute voice: one that refuses to be anyone’s token in a profit-propelled social map of stereotypes.
To be alone is not the greatest evil one can face. To lose dignity of oneself and one’s word – that is the utmost evil, and this book guards not only Ivana Bodrožić’s voice, but also the voice of contemporary Croatian poetry. Emotional, but never pathetic; thought-through, structurally playful, In a Sentimental Mood truly reaches its cathartic poetic strength in the highest and lowest registers. Bodrožić doesn’t hold back from laying bare, disclosing her fears, positioning a poem as a vivisection table. The best songs in the collection are the ones intertwining immediate reality with traumatic junction points of a generation; the motif of memory, fight against oblivion (orchestrated or otherwise) appears masterfully in poems such as the opening “Shoes”, depicting a love couple trying to locate a concentration camp in Northern Serbia.
From jazz classics such as Coltrane, Billie Holiday and T. Monk, to gospel and traditional American folk, musical motives pervade the entire manuscript. At times, Monk’s soft melody from a smoke-filled New York basement turns into a painful, ominous picture of palpable, bone-filled mud under the Balkan feet. One of the best poems in the book uses something as simple as an extended metaphor to amalgamate the story of the collapsed Eastern Island civilization and the contemporary romance, ending with the coming of a ‘bird man’ cult, thus closing a tight circle with a dedication to Charlie Parker Bird – one of the best jazz saxophonists of all times.