The Four Questions of Melancholy by Tomaz Salamun, an anthology of his poems that goes all the way back to Poker. There are certain books I can open up and read whatever I open to and have shown to me something perfect. This book is one such example. I love this book because there isn’t a bad poem in it. It’s not a very sophisticated love.
2. Where were you when you first read, or saw, or heard of this book?
When I was 20 I was obsessed with great American and European male fiction writers of the 19th and 20th century, and I thought I would become one for the 21st century. I wrote some awful stuff and showed it to my independent studies professor, Dara Wier. She told me to go to this reading at Memorial Hall at UMass by a Slovene poet. It’s sufficient to say that Tomaz (and Dara) thoroughly altered my thinking about writing. I took his book home and read it all the way through with his haunting accent in my head. Then I wrote a poem. It wasn’t good, but it was the first time I was aware of what the process of writing a poem could feel like.
3. Did this book influence your own writing, thinking, sense of the world, or work?
I want to say that if it weren’t for The Four Questions of Melancholy I wouldn’t be writing poems today. Who can say if that’s true or not, but whenever I’m in a non-writing funk, this book gets me out of it. Tomaz’s poetry exemplifies the truest expression of freedom and the authority to seize it. He’s a total freak that way and an enabler. When I read this book I’m invited to ruin language the way he does which makes me feel good about being a human.
4. Give us a line or excerpt from the text that intrigues, engages, mystifies, inspires, disgusts, or transforms you. Discuss…
Here’s the beginning of the poem “Who’s Who” which I guess first came out in English in 1972 in the book White Ithaca:
Tomaz Salamun you are a genius
you are wonderful you are a joy to behold
you are great you are a giant
you are strong and powerful you are phenomenal
you are the greatest of all time
you are the king you are possessed of great wealth
you are a genius Tomaz Salamun
in harmony with all creation we have to admit that
you are a lion the planets pay homage to you
The entire poem is 36 lines, and it does all the above things except disgusts me.
5. Who did you send this book to, why?
I should send this book to my grandparents Warren and Rosalie with the hope they’ll understand my own work a little better.
Bio: Luke Bloomfield is the author of a chapbook called The Duffel Bag (Factory Hollow Press, 2011) and a longer collection called Russian Novels (FHP, 2014). He earned an MFA from UMass, and he supports all Massachusetts sports teams.