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Passa Porta, Names and Numbers
Brussels, a mysterious place in my life. I, Tomaz Šalamun from Ljubljana, Slovenia, have been entagled with this town since my early teens. From
fifty three years ago (sweet memories), forty three years ago (bitter memories - my best friend married my fiancée while I was serving in the Yugoslav People's Army, but oh, yes, this brought a happy result, I persevered in poetry).
Then Europalia, two years ago. Sigrid Bousset came to my hotel, invited me to Passa Porta. »My husband Stefan Hertmans, remembers you from Struga Poetry Evenings in Macedonia, thirty two years ago«. I liked Sigrid, I love Stefan Hertmans poems and essays, I liked the name of Passa Porta, I said yes, yes, most honored, can I invite also my translator Michael Thomas Taren, my ex student; in my mind, the most important American poet among the youngest that I'm aware of, whom I met three years ago? So I'm here, I'll leave in two days. Michael had written about seventy poems, we translated exactly seventy poems of mine.
I'm Slovenian. I have to be translated. We think we are like Flemish, but this is quite selfcongratulatory. We're smaller, with less tradition, with almost no name any foreigner can remember from our past.
And on the way to Passa Porta, Danielle Losman emailed me. Do you remember? Your then best friend, myself and you, we spent one summer in Greece forty four years ago. Yes. Of course. I even drove deux chevaux without having a licence and I remember your stories about Greenwich Village and how Sartre, invited to your home, couldn't eat lobsters.
And then, seven days ago, she invited Michelle Corbisier, Serge Meurant, Frank de Crits and me in her beautiful dacha brabanҫonne. We talked, ate delicious food and drank exquisite wines; befriended each other, read and looked at our works. Danielle also showed me some old pictures from Greece, from forty three years ago. How strange! I shivered. My best friend who married my fiancée while I was serving in the Yougoslav Army forty three years ago looked like Michael Thomas Taren looks now. This is what Passa Porta does to people's lives. It was one of the many many heavenly days that I spent at Passa Porta.
September, in the Year of our Lord, 2009,
6.09.09 > 5.10.09