Lyrical Writing From the Balkans

This morning I discovered a writer who lives in Northwestern Greece, near the Prespa Lakes. Julian Hoffman writes evocative essays that could be called prose poems. His views on the power of place align well with mine; in other words, I’ve found another member of that unorganized band of writers and photographers who possess an attribute rare in this urbanized world, a sensitivity to the faint signals given off by a place, any place on this planet. Here’s a quote, just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

The catalyst that converts any physical location – any environment if you will – into a place, is the process of experiencing deeply. A place is a piece of the whole environment that has been claimed by feelings. Viewed simply as a life-support system, the earth is an environment. Viewed as a resource that sustains our humanity, the earth is a collection of places.

You can visit Julian’s blog here:

Notes From Near and Far

Hoffman’s latest essay is called “Gathering In”, an impressionistic account of autumn in the rural Balkans. Here are a couple of quotes from the beginning and end of that piece to whet the appetite of those who share at least a few of my tastes in writing:

The sun passes lower in the sky, bringing the quickening rush that starts the long winter months. Tresses of drying peppers spread like flames across sheds, turning the stone walls into scenes of tropical design. The elegant stems of onions that have spoked all summer above the swelling bulbs are plaited, woven together like hands in a dance, and hung out of the way of snow. Felled trees are hauled by donkey from the forests, wearing a glaze of lichens and ice. They’re split by axe throughout the day, the thud of blade against wood marking the hours, and stacked to face what is left of the sun.

Thistle seed drifts towards the following spring and coils of smoke climb the sky. The crack of the axes thins into quiet. And a last swell of light sends up a cold shower of stars.

The photo at the top of this post is a crop from one of Julian’s photos.




Filed under Essays and Articles, Poetry

7 responses to “Lyrical Writing From the Balkans

  1. How strange… I just received an e-mail informing me that a Pakistani teen-aged boy likes this post. Here’s his site:

    A Regular Pakistani Teenager’s space

  2. Thanks kindly for the introduction, Larry! I’m quite touched by your generous words and looking forward to getting to know you and your work better.


  3. You are more than welcome, Julian! I’ll probably steal more quotes from you in the future, properly attributed, of course!

  4. Great, Larry! In case someone thinks it’s mine, I should mention that the first quote you use (“The catalyst that converts any physical location…”) is actually by the writer Alan Gussow. His fine words have guided much of my thinking regarding place recently, and deserve a wider audience in my opinion. Enjoy your weekend!

  5. Larry, in a darker mood, ever get around to reading “Balkan Ghosts”?

  6. No, I never did, Darrell. Another Balkans book on my mental list is “Black Lamb, Grey Falcon” by Rebecca West. I’ve read many glowing reviews.

    Thanks for reminding me!

  7. Another book in a similar vein that I’ve been meaning to read is “The Top Hat, Grey Wolf and the Crescent” about the rise of nationalism in Turkey.

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