It is the last day of the year 2023, and an opportunity for me to reflect, while my memory is fresh, on the evening of the promotion of my book of poetry Gazelle / Gazela / Gazelle published by the Kranjčar Gallery. I hope that you will forgive me for this slightly narcistic gesture; as a poet who engages both in creative writing and critical text analysis, the process of critical review and self-reflection are an essential part of my artistic practice.

The Gazelle / Gazelle / Gazelle book launch on Friday 29 December 2003 at the Galerija Kranjcar, Zagreb, was a special event and evening; a nice atmosphere, a unique space, and an interesting audience, as well as presence of the people who made that evening possible: the gallery owner Elvira Kranjčar, the authors Ksenija Kušec and Andrea Grgić who conceived the >100 pages collection, the guest and poet, Branko Čegec, and last but not least, the young guitarist Ana Čehaić who played guitar during my reading with blues, jazz, bossa nova chords...: "Corcovado", "How Insensitive", "Blue Bosa", "Stormy Weather".... the two of us didn't have much opportunity to rehearse, however somehow everything flowed.

The fact that I am writing this text in Croatian, and not in English or French, is significant in itself; human experience seems to be inseparable from the language in which it arises; language is an important expression of our identity, personal memory, cultural and geographical space to which we belong... Beyond our linguistic experience, there are, however, equally significant experiences that lie in the field outside language: the experience of images, sounds, music, smells, dreams...

If French is in my head, English in my hands, Croatian in my heart, Arabic is on my back, that is, on the hidden side of my memory. I spoke Arabic with my Algerian grandmother when I was little; it has become a "shadow language" for me. “Ghzal” and “ghazal” are words that echo somewhere in my ancient memory. (2)

So, a few words now about the etymology and symbol of "gazelle", and about "ghazal". The word "gazelle" comes from Old French and Spanish, and it spread to those languages ​​via Arabic; the word for gazelle in Arabic is “ghzal”; it is of masculine gender. The word carries a polysemy of meanings. In the Arab collective imagination, the gazelle is a symbol of female beauty; according to many critics, it is related to the poetic genre "ghazal", which developed in the 7th century in Arabic poetry from a much longer form, the "qasida", or the ode. Ghazal is a short poem that traditionally consists of five to ten couplets, and in which the second verse of each couplet is rhymed or repeated. The form of the ghazal is still used today, both in European, Arabic, Persian and Indian poetry; it exists in many variations, ranging from the traditionally written form to one that is completely free. The subject matter is very similar on the other hand: it can be assigned to the love poetry genre in which the tropes of suffering, separation and lost love predominate... It is interesting that the gazelle, as a character, appears in the first story that Scheherazade told the Persian emperor, thereby saving her own life...; in it, the main heroine is transformed into a gazelle.

Finally, there is another meaning in the word and concept of gazelle that contains its opposite; I am referring here to the feminist appropriation of the symbol of the gazelle, as discussed by the Tunisian poet and translator, Ines Orchani. In her essay in French, Gazelle Théorie, she introduces the terms "gazellage", and "gazellations", similarly to Aimé Césaire's term "négritude"; the gazelle, in her theory, becomes a symbol, a mark of rebellion, nomadism, wandering... (3)  Gazelle, rebel,

your step is easy,
    your trace.

Zagreb, 31/12/2023

Cited works

(1) Cavararo, Adriana, For More Than One Voice: Toward a Philosophy of Vocal Expression, Trans. Paul A. Kottman. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2005. Pp. 264.
(2) Additional content on this subject can be found on the page:
(3) Orchani, Ines, Gazelle Théorie, Paris: Fayard/Pauvert, 2021.