Translated from Slovenian by Brian Henry


Mollusk” is both the title poem and final poem of a 2013 Tomaž Šalamun book, published the year before he died. “Mollusk” is also the final poem of his 2011 volume of Selected Poems in Slovenian. The poem’s placement in these books and its role as a title poem seem to indicate that Šalamun was quite fond of it.

Šalamun wrote the poems in Mollusk in 2005 in Ljubljana, Pittsburgh, and Tokyo. He was incredibly prolific in his final decade, finishing nearly 20 books of poetry. He traveled a lot and always wrote while traveling. During that decade, he also wrote books in Austin, Berkeley, Iowa City, New York, Richmond, China, Croatia, France, Germany, and Italy, among other places. Despite their various sites of composition, the poems are unmistakably Šalamun’s.

Mollusk includes 76 poems, 44 of which consist of seven couplets—the predominant form of this period. “Mollusk” is one of the 14 poems in the book composed in tercets, which tend to have shorter lines and more enjambment—and thus more speed and verticality—than the poems in couplets. As a reader and translator, I approach poems like “Mollusk” with a sense of excitement because I know they will move quickly and unpredictably and I’ll have to match their contagious energy.

–Brian Henry

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