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Reviewed by:
  • Dolphins by Nenad Jovanović
  • Biljana D. Obradović
Nenad Jovanović. Delfini [ Dolphins]. Kraljevo: Povelja, Narodna Biblioteka Stevan Prvovenčani, 2014. 91 pp. 978-8-68135-559-6.

In his recent poetry collection Dolphins, Nenad Jovanović creates numerous surreal images. Jovanović is a Serbian transnational poet who has studied drama in Toronto, Canada, lived in Cairo, Egypt, and now lives and teaches in Dayton, Ohio. His twelfth collection, consisting of both free verse and a few prose poems (65 poems divided into four unnamed parts) is influenced by his travels from Yugoslavia to Canada, Iran, Algeria, and Egypt. He also alludes to the work of writers, artists, and musicians who may have influenced his own work, like T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Giorgio de Chirico, and Bob Dylan. The length of the poems ranges from three lines to three pages. The poems are spread around the pages and filled with aeration. Although he has some uniform stanzas, mostly he uses stanzas which vary in length.

His sarcasm is raw, even "in your face" at times, as in "Cone," in which he compares the holocaust concentration camp victims dying in gas chambers, who form the shape of a cup, with the weakest on the bottom and the strongest on the top, to the 274 candidates for a job in the Cold War. They have to fight for the jobs with the best grades, awards, stipends, and "the best melody playing on the phallus of the Dean." There is room only at the top, a commentary on how difficult it is to get an academic job today. In "Fable," he says that, "It's Christmas. The unemployed sip / coffee…, / agreeing that capitalism is transforming / people into cattle" and that one of these people has a vision after he takes an opiate, that, "Christ is healing people without health insurance, / he finds money for taxes / …feeds thousands with a few loaves of bread," and then ends the poem with the man asking Jesus "when [he] will destroy capitalism?" to which Christ replies—"in due time."

He gives us a surreal overall picture, combining people from different places, which can be observed in "A Member of the Shuar People," a catalogue, about a Shuar man from the Amazon rainforest who shrinks the heads of the traffic controller, the seller of lottery tickets, "a fox-terrier of the magnate's mistress. / …The works of Slavoj Žižek" among others, so that it "[becomes] [End Page 181] a city of the small-headed." In the poem "Fat," he talks about how "Sudanese locusts are in Egypt…taking a break / during their migration, creating a storage of fat," which ends with images of hashish smokers, women in burkhas, while the speaker is out buying a newspaper trying to find out if "Chavez / has died of cancer."

These diverse associations are the strength of this collection, the title of which comes from a detail from the poem "Kenya and Columbia," in which two lovers can no longer communicate silently like the dolphins. They seem to have thought that a Columbian dolphin's eyes resemble the eyes of an elephant from Kenya, yet the two had never been in either place. Jovanović is a keen observer whose recorded allusions we clearly recognize. He makes the people of the world seem a lot closer than perhaps they actually may be. [End Page 182]

Biljana D. Obradović
Xavier University of Louisiana


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pp. 181-182
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