Serbian Classics Press

publishing classic Serbian literature

Stone Lullaby

Selected Poems, a bilingual edition
by Stevan Raičković

Stevan Raičković is much more indebted to his own poetic instinct rather than to any movement or theory. He succeeded in creating a lyric world of birds, rocks and grass, alongside a parallel world of urban alienation and suppressed panic peopled by the man with an umbrella, the stranger in the park, and the familiar yet enigmatic passer-by. His poems open a world of the eternal present where joy and sorrow are the essential property and matter of human existence.

Born in Neresnica (Serbia) in 1928 to a family of teachers, Raičković spent the war years as a refugee and did not complete his secondary schooling until 1947 in Subotica. But this was two years after he had published his first poem, Majka nad zavejanim uspomenama (A Mother amid Snowy Memories). Five more years would pass before a collection would appear, years he spent in Belgrade for the most part as a student of philosophy at Belgrade University. Raičković's poetry was regarded as too "gloomy" to satisfy the demands of Socialist Realism made on Belgrade publishers in the postwar years. It was only after meeting Oskar Davičo in 1948 that Raičković was able to see his the publication of his first collection of poems, Detinjstva (Childhoods).

Raičković later found employment as an editor for Prosveta. He quickly broke into the first ranks of modern Serbian poetry with his tremulous verses and extraordinary melodic solutions to problems of versification. From book to book, he created his own unique individual voice, modern but steeped in the traditions of Serbian poetry.

The fundamental characteristic of Raičković's poetry is spontaneity: resonant and melodic, the poems are frequently written in the manner of a confession or a personal letter sent to a loved one or a friend. Raičković's poems insist on periods of silence and solitude, and give poetry a new sound. The outstanding lyricism of Song of Silence (Pesma Tišine, 1952) was immediately noticed, and Evening Ballads (1955) is today accepted as a classic work of intimate lyricism. In Tisa (1961) Raičković creates variations on the theme of the river Tisa, where he happened to be once again many years later, rehearsing the muffled voices and distant sounds of his childhood. His sonnets, Stone Lullaby (Kamena Uspavanka, 1963) showed that Raičković had mastered the sonnet, giving it a new personal tone. In post-WWII Serbian poetry, Raičković is a lyricist of the highest order. Raičković also translated the Shakespreare Sonnets (1966) and those of Petrarch, as well as six Russian poets, including Aleksandar Blok, Josip Mandelstam, Ana Akhmatova, and Boris Pasternak (1970). His literary output continues unabated in the new millenium. A ten-volume edition of Raičković's collected works appeared in 1998.

Raičković believes that poets are just like swallows before a rainstorm, "agitated and tense in the summer, exposed to winds and dangers."

Stevan Raičković's work, Sonnet 66, is available for download as a PDF.