When my instructor Timothy Liu insisted I read Vasko Popa’s The Little Box (translations by Charles Simic), I dutifully looked it up online and was ready to buy. After I found out the cheapest copy was 40 dollars, I decided against. A year later, I’ve taken the plunge, and what an investment. Vasko Popa incites the reader with near-riddles and an indeterminacy layered by the full-bodied sequencing of a white pebble, a little box, and a lame wolf.
His games in the rhymes, the simple subjects of “some,” “each,” and “one,” initiate the reader into a realm of reflection and springboard the reader into an individual experience. From “Last News on the Little Box” Popa dares us to find the real world amidst this fantastic one he has created:
The world from the little box
Ought to be inside
The last box of the little box
But not one of the little boxes
Inside the little box in love with herself
Is the last one
Let’s see you find the world now
Most of the poems deal in identity in a post modern defragmentation. The adventure of the pebble teeters between justified self-release, “So narrow where it lives/ In its own body/ It stepped out of it”, and a release from the self to the extent of its denial “It has hid from itself/ Hid in its own shadow.” If I learn anything from Popa, it is the sequencing of a simple thing into the realm of absurdity and jocular play, as the deadpan last lines from “Love of the Pebble”:
She comprehends it
Her embrace has
The shape of its desire
Dumb and bottomless.
Will Grofic is a recent graduate from Bennington Writing Seminars where he received an MFA in Writing, concentration in Poetry. He is the Managing Editor at Potomac Review and writes pseudo-journalism at his blog DC Books Examiner. His poetry is forthcoming from Gargoyle magazine.