Visoki fabrički dimnjaci by Danica Vukićević

Kraljevo, Serbia. Narodna Biblioteka Stefan Provovenčani. 2013. ISBN 9788681355374

Danica Vukićević, a Serbian poet from Belgrade, offers us feminist social criticism in an often-fragmented free-verse form in Visoki fabrički dimnjaci (High smokestacks), her short sixth collection of poems. 

Her line lengths vary as do stanzas and lengths of parts—there is no uniformity here. Usually a poem is presented in one stanza with lines that vary from one to eleven words. Sometimes she is playful with words or makes up words, as in an untitled poem that begins “Let the dead continue to deaden,” or when she combines three words in one as “coldbrightshiny” to describe the world and to say that this world “disappears and will again disappear and disappearing.” The poems also have little to no punctuation, and the ideas are disconnected fragments not always told from the first person. The Serbian Cyrillic alphabet is interspersed with the Latin alphabet, borrowing from German such as “Sieben gegy Theben” and other foreign or English/international terms, such as “pizza.” 

Most of the poems seem to be social commentary. Children speak to a dead father, apologizing and describing the conditions in a socialist state. In “Two Aunts,” a portrait of two women who gave their lives to the state—one as a worker in a hide factory and another as a mother upset about missed chances in life and a lack of self-fulfillment. In another poem, the speaker wonders if she’s a terrible mother who writes poems and has forgotten to send “a snack with the kid or who swears in front of her daughter.” She writes mockingly about women who are always hoping for something, while the men in her poems don’t notice difficulties. 

Besides having several poems composed of lists, she also writes an elegy about her grandfather, about visiting his grave for All Saint’s Day with her grandmother as a child and not understanding why people ate there as if with the dead and brought hot coffee in a thermos. She ends the book with a poem that begins “Humanity is utopia” and ends “I, the herald of freedom . . .”

These are intriguing poems, although the book’s title doesn’t seem to fit the collection as a whole. The feminist background of the author is clear. This is provocative material that begs for attention from its audience.

Biljana D. Obradović
Xavier University of Louisiana