Iztok Osojnik. Mister Today. Ana Jelnikar, tr. San Jose, California. A. Jacaranda. 2003.
Drawing perhaps on the example of Zbigniew Herbert’s “Mr. Cogito” poems or one of the many other poetic uses of personae, the Slovene poet, novelist, and literary agitator Iztok Osojnik writes most of the forty-seven poems of Mister Today, apparently composed at the end of the twentieth century but only now translated, in the voice of Mister Today, insisting “I am not Osojnik but Master Greenhead.”
Mister Today writes in a somewhat more relaxed and whimsical style than the speaker in Osojnik’s previous volume published in North America, And Things Happen for the First Time: Selected Poems (see WLT 76:1, p. 213). The nature of the self, the cosmos, and the nature of poetry still pervade the poems, but Mister Today is far more aware of the blague surrounding bad translations by famous people, interviews, launchings, and readings, since “If you write, you have to think of its sound / in a smoky bar under the scaffolding of a Thursday, / when autumn spreads its wet towel on Beethoven Street.”
Even in writing about philosophy, Osojnik can descend from the existential to the herbal: “Deep inside man there is an enormous abyss / of nothingness and parsley.” Many of the poems sound less like angst than kvetching, but more often the cosmic and the commonplace are placed in surprising and not always comic juxtaposition.
Occasionally, Mister Today allows himself to indulge in the purely lyrical, as when “a tree in the wind … shivers, scratching itself, stretching and cuddling, / it flakes and airs its veins.” Even here the poet uses the wind as the traditional figure for inspiration, “swishing through your circulation like an avalanche.”
Perhaps, in middle age, Mister Today and his creator are more aware of necessities like mowing the lawn, caring for an infant son and dying father, and learning to play with words, ideas, and pictures–”to write one anyway… Even if no one bothers to read it”–because “The world is seven / times bigger than everything one could possibly grasp, / and Mister Today knows his human nature.”
Published in World Literature Today, 79:1, January-April 2005, p.106.