Boris Jovanović Kastel

Početak » Poetry


About the Author

Montenegrin poet and essayist. Born 1971, in Trebinje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. He has published the poetry collections Kad zamirišu kajanja (The Scent of Regrets, 1994), Prstenje pomorja (The Rings of Seaside, 1995), Fusnote južnih zvona (Footnotes of Southern Bells, 1997), Anatomija sredozemnog dana (The Anatomy of a Mediterranean Day, 1998), Mediteranska agenda i proricanje prošlosti (The Mediterranean Agenda and Predicting the Past, 2000), Mediteranski heksateuh (The Mediterranean Hexateuch, 2003), Ego mora (The Ego of the Sea, 2004), Vjenčanje sa sipom (Wedding with Cuttlefish, 2007), Neptune’s Spear (2007, selected poems in English), selected poems Mediteranski indigo (Mediterranean Indigo, 2008), Ručak na hridini (Lunch on the Cliff, 2010) and Slovenian edition Kosilo na čeri, 2014) and Beskopnik (A man without mainland, 2015). He is the author of four books of essays: Pergament od sireninog poprsja (The Parchment of Mermaid’s Bust, 2000), Peta strana juga (The Fifth Side of the South, 2005), Ogledanje u bonaci (Reflection in the Calm, 2009) and Mediteransko prosvjetljenje – naš Mediteran, kompas sudbine (Mediterranean Enlightenment – Our Mediterranean, The Compass of Fate, 2012). A number of Montenegrin and international writers have devoted an entire volume of essays to his poetry: Mediteranski gospar (A Mediterranean Master, 2009). In Calabria, he was awarded the Nosside 2011 Prize for poetry. His works have been translated into Albanian, English, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, and Slovenian, and have been included in many anthologies of Montenegrin and Mediterranean love poetry. He lives in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro.


B. J. Kastel has, unlike his piers, immediately joined the group of distinguished poets. Indeed, many great poets had their greatest successes precisely when they were young. Boris Jovanović Kastel immediately entered the world of literature in a grand manner. Soon, he became one of our most significant poets. It is already well known that his source of inspiration is the Mediterranean, which can give a lot in every way, especially in spiritual sense. Boris Jovanović Kastel has grown into a free-minded individual and a great author. He became all that thanks to his reading, knowledge and great talent, but also thanks to the Mediterranean, as the area where he exists and travels through time and space, usually alone, avoiding any flock.

Vladimir Sekulić


The poetry of Boris Jovanovic Kastel

The sea as a space of mythological timelessness, the sea as a means of poetic existence, maritime culture as a source of timeless inspiration – such are the Mediterranean poetics of the Mediterranean poet Boris Jovanović Kastel. The poem “Seagulls” mentions centuries of searching for a shadow – he who aspires for longevity should enter the world of poetry. In the poem he talks about the “parchments of the inventor Ctesibius on water clocks” – and then enter “fishermen, priests, and Odysseus’s bastards / in blue T-shirts with a ball in their hands” – this is the world of Mediterranean ports – ancient history shakes wings with the modern presence. And the seagulls rub their hands in glee. Kastel is mining the rich history of Montenegro, for its capital city of Podgorica (formerly Titograd) is built upon the ancient city of Doclea (Duklja); the Roman Emperor Diocletian was from the area. There are traces of many civilisations here: ancient Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the Venetian Republic, and the Ottoman Empire. Today’s Montenegro is still quite multicultural.  Kastel demonstrates his timelessness inconspicuously, and for us here invisibly on the linguistic level, when in his verses he does not use the modern Montenegrin symbols of ś and ź, but writes using the more universal forms of sj and zj. Perhaps because his Montenegrin identity is anchored deep in the Mediterranean cultural legacy, his language keeps its historic patina; perhaps it is an expression of defiance against the passing of language laws – after all, a poet of the imperial court insures the correctness of his words with his own throat.  Vladimir Sekulić notes that Kastel’s “source of inspiration is the Mediterranean, which can give a lot in every way, especially in spiritual sense. (…) [T]he Mediterranean, [is] the area where he exists and travels through time and space, usually alone, avoiding any flock.” The special loneliness and typical Kastelian dislocation and relocation in time echoes through the poem “The Morning When the Horizon Changed His Personality” – the historicising images of a barque, Venetian glass, a laurel wreath (unexpectedly falling from his head) and Roman coins are backdrops for a scene of inner transformation: “in the image on the surface he sighted the soul / of a middle-aged poet, a conspirator / at Caesar Octavianus’s court.” The lyrical subject is inexorably thrown into history. In the world there are no mirrors – it is only possible to gaze at the surface, however that “inexorably” reveals the interior, which is not tied to the passage of time. We don’t age in grey hair and wrinkles on the future axis, we age spiritually when we are stuck in the past; and yet we can dip past the surface reflection into pre-history: myth, the history which has not been a part of our own physical being, can be a fountain of refreshing youth to draw upon. These are the mythological depths of Kastel’s Mediterranean. Those who would like to dip into more of Kastel’s poetry, these little poetic time machines, will appreciate the translations of his work into other Slavic languages and into English on his website.  The two poems here wi ll be published in 2014 in a col lection entitled Beskopnik, or “The Man Who Has Never Seen the Mainland” – a one-word concept hard for landlocked Czechs to get their heads around. (Here I would like to also mention the literary signpost Potápěč [Diver], the “breathing apparatus for world literature” by the Czech poet and editor Pavel Kotrle.  On his pages you can find digital links not only to Montenegrin literature, but also to some 180 national literatures.)

Robert Hýsek & Matthew Sweney

Czech-English anthology of contemporary Slavic poetry Bludné kořeny / Wayward Roots that was published in 2014 at Palacký University, Olomouc, Czech Republic.


I don’t trust the sea anymore
it did not witdraw before us
to the wine bottle of the antique shop
or the aquarium of Peter the second Orseol,
nor has it without reasoning flooded us,
glittering and murmuring
it plays kolo* without a leader,
to a hundred year old circle
and bacchanals with a Lovćen fary
it lights.

* Montenegrin folk dance


She rushed to the sun long ago
and it celebrates or burns down.
They make me forget her,
but I can’t
because the sun is still rising
above the Mother of Jesus in Perast
where in the cell
surrounded by the senses of panihidas
by the stormes and turnkeys
I hear the burning of the eagle
at the carnival of merchants.
I survive by biting my nails
and I secretly drink diluted urine,
by the fish skeleton
I engrave the genealogy
of gentlemen and haiduks
of cut veins.
Excuse me the lady of Montenegro,
I read and remember you –
banned to the promise of sandy covers.


I followed her for a whole hour
along the streets of Naples.
I remember the market place,
the portals of the old town,
the strands without strollers.
I followed her so barefoot
with a transparent skirt and a blouse,
without a brassier
As if she sensed me,
she turned toward me,
with woman’s shrewdness,
she looked at the tower.
I thought to stop her,
to introduce myself,
to tell her that I am a poet
from a country Montenegro
and without hesitation
to declare her love.
Or maybe
to give her a book,
to offer her a stroll
to the cathedral
and to wake up in the attic
of a rented apartment.
I was silent,
and lost courage
and I looked at the tower
at a minute to noon.
I didn’t ask her anything
and I didn’t even think of touching her
not even her shadow –
as a half of a violin –
played by a blind man
on the other side of the street.
She was leaving
as if she knew
who I was,
from which country –
where people consciously
hold their eyes closed
and blind people
feel the presentiment
of the end.


A poem instead of a pill for insomnia, is not for girls to get married, puritans and anthologists with a jacket instead of a pleura

Pyrotechnics of the sea senses
illuminates the warrior without an altar,
a hand of procedures and shield,
the last defense against the recent outgrow.
With the bride of a bordello, a traveling companion
with a bust illuminated by pyrotechnics
of stricken waves,
the other side of a being
horror struck by laughter.
Salvation, the key for the libido of gates,
running away from the high tides of pragmatism,
the trade with oneself:
to steal her bosom,
her nipple is a stamp
of a charter of a permit
for the fortified city
of the southern south.

(Between the body and the most holy hearth of Yesus 2000. By the palace of the family Paskvali in the hysteria of the raining of Kotor heaven.)


A canon opposite a king
is withdrawing
before the slandered Lord.
Such canons are rare,
there are no museums, human ones.
It is too much to speak
about hunters for heads,
about flushed horses,
about the clowns pawns
who are secretly waiting
for the evening gown of the queen.


For the minority for ever

Here the sailors burn the ships,
saving the ship’s logs
written with colorless years,
trusting the harbor fortune-tellers,
not feeling the accident in the storm…
Here the women pull in the bosom
and in short skirts begin to move
to the portals
to satisfy the emigrant workers and tramps.
Academicians, actors, poets
and other wax figures
dream about other countries –
under the splendor of the lampions
they hurry to go
that their talents don’t turn into stones.
They go
knowing that proud and damnation
of sculptures they can’t have.
starched and free on the road backward
stand by the sea,
acting and toasting in black robes
to future, looking at the towers
whose oldness despises their memories.
The oranges are drying, thunders are warning
the rocks which made me drunk
and cut me out
and don’t seduce the heartless.
I am watching the fight of the doves
for a crumb from the pavement,
they are conscious of the goal,
I don’t trust a sad person
while he is a bird
and those boys who brought
the ships of paper to the open sea
who suspect the tide of reason
sending the paper
where the exiled will register
the mistakes of the majority.


The wings of schizophrenic gulls
a minute to twelve
don’t show up any more.
Behind unknown, blind ships,
without the eighth passengers,
charmed by going out,
they went to no return.
The sea hot tempered in the chest.
On tops of towers and castles
decorated by God weaving the flags
at half masts, a minute to noon.
The new illusion will not come –
for a long time,
nor it will hurry when the high sea needs
the blood group of Citera, Cicero’s lady
after a meal and a prostitute from the highest society –
for salvation.
Rusty of tears of angels
for a revived and again petrified caryatid,
the mechanisms of clocks have remained.
Rusty – for us to follow them.


In the night of the first day of summer
from a museum of the southern museums
the Neptune’s spear was stolen,
a young palm tree was broken
from a tree lined path
without an end.
It is the second night of summer,
I am the witness –
a spineless and hunchback person.


The turbulent sea
follows the thought of the fatherland,
I remember the ostensible rebels –
It was the calm sea,
going for figs in the nearby garden
I was thinking of exile
the medicine for dignity
for myself, before the others…
the sea answers by tide,
I offer fruit to my girlfriend, I bite her ear,
we read the Petrarca’s sonnets,
her bosom, older fig relatives
crossed legs, a plea for a walk
make me think of fidelity
in infinite depths disappeared,
long ago and long ago…

Translated and edited by Vladimir Sekulić and Julka Ostojić


He was looking for his shadow
which he had lost in the distance.
As he was reading the parchments of the inventor
Ctesibius on his water clock,
walking barefoot on the shore without seabirds
and leaving after himself a shadow of seagul ls with folded wings.
Fishermen, priests and Ulysses’ bastards
in blue T-shirts with a bal l in their hands
greeted him—Good morning, master.
He answered with a cry of a seagul l
scared both by himself and the croaking.
For centuries he lazi ly
looked for his shadow
but in fact, being a martyr, he never lost it.


He was leaning out of a barque.
He took a deep look at the surface stretching to the horizon
more peaceful than the wistfulness of the South
and clearer than Venetian glass
to count his patches of grey hair and wrinkles.
in the image on the surface he sighted the soul
of a middle-aged poet, a conspirator
at Caesar Octavianus’s court.
He took fright and squinted his eyes.
Bel ieving that he had got drunk
on the scent of lemons at the port
or on the l iquor from carob pods,
he rowed back
to the threshold of the palace.
In his bed the cat was waiting for him.
as he was lying down to sleep,
a laurel wreath fel l off his head.
There was not a sole mirror
in the whole world.
Ever since that night he could only look at himself
on Roman coins.

Translated by Petr Anténe

Czech-English anthology of contemporary Slavic poetry Bludné kořeny / Wayward Roots that was published in 2014 at Palacký University, Olomouc, Czech Republic

J’ai encore pleuré pour toi ce matin,
terre méconnue
et j’ai reçu ta colombe
au bec doré et aux plumes bleues
dans ma taverne.
J’ai couvert ses blessures de vagues du Sud,
Je l’ai nourrie avec de l’hémoglobine provenant d’anciennes amphores,
car je sens qu’elle est mienne,
et je lui ai fait don d’une amulette – un collier de constellations.
Quand elle a guéri,
et s’est envolée pour combattre les corneilles de givre
qu’elle croyait être ses sœurs,
elle m’a dit que j’étais son frère.
La voilà, vois-tu,
armée de la foudre et des lances de tempêtes
avec les vagues elle fait couler les corbeaux
pour que la princesse phénicienne,
au dos d’un ouragan,
fait irruption dans les décombres.
Quand elle te proclamera sœur et déesse de la victoire,
atterris au moins une fois dans ma taverne en Méditerranée
pour être la marraine de ma fille,
La terre d’Ukraine!
Podgorica, le 1er mars 2022
Traduction française Jasna Samic

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