Finalist for the 2021 Derek Walcott Poetry Prize
One of Serbia’s most important living writers, Marija Knežević explores contemporary global concerns, historical tragedies, and her most essential topic — love, in all its forms — in her debut collection. Many of her poems read as narratives, replete with characters, humor, pathos, and unexpected twists. Readers will meet a father and daughter frolicking on a Mediterranean beach during the continuing refugee crisis, or an Inca girl whose world will be destroyed by “milk-colored people,” or the tennis star Martina Navratilova. Knežević also writes more classical lyrics about love, relationships, writing (and the blocks to writing), and she fearlessly and frequently addresses current events and social issues, both in urban Belgrade where she lives, and in the world at large.
Marija Knežević (born 1963 in Belgrade) is a Serbian poet, fiction writer, essayist, and translator who has published eight volumes of poetry, and eleven novels and collections of stories and essays. Her work has been recognized with both local and international prizes, and one story from her collection Tabula Rasa was chosen to represent Serbia in the 2012 Best European Fiction (Dalkey Archive Press). A selection of her poetry has also appeared in translation in New European Poets, ed. Wayne Miller and Kevin Prufer (2008), and in the anthology of Serbian poetry, Cat Painters, ed. Biljana Obradović and Dubravka Djurić (2016). After graduating with a degree in literature from the University of Belgrade, she earned an MA in Comparative Literature from Michigan State University. She now lives in Belgrade.
Sibelan Forrester is Susan W. Lippincott Professor of Modern and Classical Languages and Russian at Swarthmore College. She has published translations of fiction, poetry and scholarly prose from Croatian, Russian and Serbian, including Elena Ignatova's bilingual book The Diving Bell (Zephyr Press, 2006), the selection of poems by Maria Stepanova in Relocations: Three Contemporary Russian Women Poets (ed. Catherine Ciepiela; Zephyr Press, 2013), and folktales in the volume Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairy Tales (University Press of Mississippi, 2013). Forrester won the 2014 AATSEEL Award for Best Scholarly Translation and twice (in 2006 and 2013) the Heldt Prize for Best Translation in Slavic/East European/Eurasian Women's Studies. Her scholarly interests include Russian poetry, folklore, translation studies, and women's and gender studies.
Translated from the Serbian by Sibelan Forrester
216 pages | Bilingual (Serbian/English)
ISBN 978-1-938890-81-9 (paper)
Click here to watch poet Marija Knežević and translator Sibelan Forrester read from and discuss Breathing Technique in this virtual reading sponsored by the Grolier Poetry Bookshop in June, 2021.
"A remarkable new collection... The poems of Breathing Technique feel like seeds planted, roots that will serve as a foundation to something larger. As the collection’s title suggests, a focus on what maintains life leads to the many moments of joyousness seen within these poems. The poet knows what it feels like to thrive and brings that to the reader, all while acknowledging the process to reach that point. " — Greg Bem, Rain Taxi
"Marija Knežević is not just a poet, she’s a curator of language. A masterful steward of motifs and metaphors, Knežević draws from all genres of literature as she crafts her poetry. Her poems can be read like a conversation with the poetic traditions that came before her, all masterfully woven together." — Katherine Leung, Lossi36
Salamander Magazine, by Daniel E. Pritchard (July 7, 2021)
Reading in Translation, by Russell Scott Valentino (July 21, 2021)