"Poets have the gift to speak for others, Vasko Popa had the very rare quality of hearing the others." — Octavio Paz
"As Popa penetrates deeper into his life, with book after book, it begins to look like a Universe passing through the Universe. It is one of the most exciting things in modern poetry, to watch this journey being made." — Ted Hughes
Vasko Popa (Serbian: Васко Попа, June 29, 1922, Grebenac (Romanian: Grebenaţ, Hungarian: Gerebenc, German: Grebenatz) - January 5, 1991) was a Serbian poet of Romanian descent.
After the war, in 1949, Popa graduated from the Romanic group of the Faculty of Philosophy at Belgrade University. He published his first poems in the magazines Književne novine (Literary Magazine) and the daily Borba (Struggle).
From 1954 until 1979 he was the editor of the publishing house Nolit. In 1953 he published his first major verse collection, Kora (Bark). His other important work included Nepočin-polje (Field of No Rest, 1956), Sporedno nebo (Secondary Heaven, 1968), Uspravna zemlja (Earth Erect, 1972), Vučja so (Wolf's Salt. 1975), and Od zlata jabuka (The Golden Apple, 1978), an anthology of Serbian folk literature. His Collected Poems, 1943–76, a compilation in English translation, appeared in 1978, with an introduction by the British poet Ted Hughes.
On May 29, 1972 Vasko Popa founded "The Literary Municipality Vršac" and originated a library of postcards, called Slobodno lišće (Free Leaves). In the same year, he was elected to become a member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
Vasko Popa is one of the founders of Vojvodina Academy of Sciences and Arts, established on December 14, 1979 in Novi Sad. He is the first laureate of the Branko’s award (Brankova nagrada) for poetry, established in honour of the poet Branko Radičević. In the year 1957 Popa received another award for poetry, Zmaj’s Award (Zmajeva nagrada), which honours the poet Jovan Jovanović Zmaj. In 1965 Popa received the Austrian state award for European literature. In 1976 he received the Branko Miljković poetry award, in 1978 the Yugoslav state AVNOJ Award, and in 1983 the literary award Skender Kulenović.
In 1995, the town of Vršac established a poetry award named after Vasko Popa. It is awarded annually for the best book of poetry published in Serbian language. The award ceremony is held on the day of Popa’s birthday, 29 June.
Vasko Popa died on January 5, 1991 in Belgrade and is buried in the Aisle of the Deserving Citizens in Belgrade’s New Cemetery.
StyleVasko Popa wrote in a succinct modernist style that owed much to French surrealism and Serbian folk traditions (via the influence of Serbian poet Momčilo Nastasijević)and absolutely nothing to the Socialist Realism that dominated Eastern European literature after World War II; in fact, he was the first in post- World War II Yugoslavia to break with the Socialist Realism. He created a unique poetic language, mostly elliptical, that combines a modern form, often expressed through colloquial speech and common idioms and phrases, with old, oral folk traditions of Serbia – epic and lyric poems, stories, myths, riddles, etc. In his work, earthly and legendary motifs mix, myths come to surface from the collective subconscious, the inheritance and everyday are in constant interplay, and the abstract is reflected in the specific and concrete.
Since his first book of verse, Kora (Bark), Vasko Popa has gained steadily in stature and popularity. His poetic achievement - eight volumes of verse written over a period of thirty-eight years - has received extensive critical acclaim both in his native land and beyond. He is one of the most translated Serbian poets and at the time he had become one of the most influental World poets.
Major literary works available in English
Article sur "LA PETITE BOÎTE DE VASKO POPA", Laurand Kovacs on Serbica