This year’s recipient of the Bridges of Struga Award for the best debut book by the Struga Poetry Evenings Festival (SPE), and bestowed under the auspices of UNESCO, is Croatian poet Monika Herceg. This acclaim is for her first poetry book “Initial coordinates” (Početne koordinate), which was published in 2018.

Monika Herceg was born in 1990, in Sisak, Croatia. She finished grammar school in Petrinja and studies physics at the university of Rijeka. She lives in Zagreb. She is editor of the Zagreb-based journal “Poezija”, devoted exclusively to poetry, and an editor of its book publishing unit.

Her debut book “Initial coordinates” was highly acclaimed by the Croatian literary critics and in the year of publication received several awards. Herceg in 2018 in Croatia received the Kvirin Award for poets under the age of 35, as well as the Fran Galović Award for the best literature dealing with regional and/or identity issues.

Perhaps the most flattering acknowledgement of Monika Herceg’s “Initial coordinates” is this year’s Slavić Award by Croatian Writers’ Association for the best debut book of prose or poetry.

But it is not her first award for this poetry book. In 2017 the young poetess received the “Goran za mlade pjesnike” (Goran for Young Poets) Award for a work in manuscript by the Croatian poetry festival “Goranovo proljeće” (Goran’s Spring).

This is what Herceg has to say about her writing and the fusion of poetry with the area of her formal education – the science:

“Primarily, it’s all about the beauty. Both of them have something bigger than us, and that sacred moment of understanding both the microcosm and the macro-sphere is equal to the way the wonderful poetry enriches man. After all, these are two windows, one to the understanding of the outside world, and the other to understanding oneself, regardless if we speak about reading or writing poetry, because the text always enriches and opens the man to different places.”

The literary criticism is, to say the least, lauding the Croatian poetess.

Thus, Miljenko Jergović in the Croatian newspaper “Jutarnji list”, writes:

“It happens, although very rarely, that one’s first book has the simplicity, the strength and the finality of the last book. The writers who will write their first book as if it was their last, have the gift, and by definition, also life anguish for a few lives, and they have placed themselves at the finish, when all around them thought they were at the beginning…

A lot of things are happening, indeed a lot of things are happening in these poems and in this book, but all that multitude is expressed with very simple structures of words and images, so simple that the reader ends up bewildered. And that perplexity is the reader’s most common reflex.

The writing and singing, as well as the storytelling through singing, of Monika Herceg represents a unique combination of maturity and naivety, of final completeness and quite childlike experience of oneself and of the world. “

The positive reviews go on and on:

“If poetry really comes from the other side, then this book is an experience close to the celestial, the mythological. It is brimming with winter, as the antipode to the warmth that the hearth in the house radiates, around which the author gathers the characters that are anecdotal expositors of the narrative in each song, and these are the members of the family, the grandparents, who all the time are on the boundary between the earthly and the other side, the expounder of the hidden and the subtle in the world that envelops the reader…

What Monika Herceg feeds the readers is everything but dead. You could sooner say that she among the covers has buried the darkness, so that the pure light remains outside them. Or vice versa, maybe the light will eventually return to the one who would have dared to gash the darkness”, writes Mirko Božić in “Moderna vremena”.

“Initial coordinates” of Monika Herceg in its entirety is a successful and sagely developed poetry book that with its tones and emotions enters into the spaces far away from any corporeality. It is a world both tormented and easygoing, endearing and frightening, which comes alive in the verse and leads us deep in self-insight”, says Đorđe Krajišnik in “Oslobođenje.”

The second book of Monika Herceg, still a manuscript, is the recipient of the award “Na vrh jezika” (On the tip of the tongue) for unpublished poetry book for 2018. It should be published this year.

The young poet was selected to participate in the Versopolis project as a representative of Croatia. Struga Poetry Evenings is also part of this project.

The book that earned the award for Herceg, according to the rules of Struga Poetry Evenings will be published by SPE in trilingual edition (Croatian, Macedonian and English). It will be promoted during the newest edition of the festival (21-28 August 2019), when the award will be handed to Herceg.