Friday, May 17, 2013

I Wish I'd Written This

The Small Box
By Vasko Popa (1922 – 1991)

The small box gets its first teeth
And its small length
Its small width and small emptiness
And all that it has got

The small box is growing bigger
And now the cupboard is in it
That it was in before

And it grows bigger and bigger and bigger
And now has in it the room
And the house and the town and the land
And the world it was in before

The small box remembers its childhood
And by overgreat longing
It becomes a box again

Now in the small box
Is the whole world quite tiny
You can easily put it in a pocket
Easily steal it easily lose it

Take care of the small box

Vasko (aka Vasco) Popa was born in a part of Yugoslavia now known as Serbia. He studied Philosophy at the Universities of Belgrade, Bucharest and Vienna. During World War II he fought as a partisan, and was imprisoned in a German concentration camp. He went on to become an active and prominent figure in the literary life of his country.

You can find more of his poems here, and his books here. Wikipedia tells us: 'He created a unique poetic language, mostly elliptical, that combines a modern form, often expressed through colloquial speech and common idioms and phrases, with old, oral folk traditions of Serbia – epic and lyric poems, stories, myths, riddles, etc.'

Why would I like to have written this poem in particular? No rational reason — just that I fell in love with it when I first encountered it, decades ago, and have never fallen out of love. It appeals to that something in me that likes certain kinds of jokes or songs and not others, inexplicably. I am not alone; I believe it was his most popular piece. Something about it captures the imagination and I, for one, want to not merely take care of but cherish the small box.

However, if the poem is too mysterious for you, I can tell you that it has been analysed by his readers and students as being a metaphor for memories and the gradual growing up from childhood.

I have just discovered that he wrote a series of small box poems, and here they are. But I think none of them has the charm of the first, though the last one comes somewhere near.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. ...we all have this small box in us right.... when was the last time we took a peek on it? how often... how long... the poem touches & volumes deep inside Rosemary... thanks for the poem!


  2. thanks for sharing.

    i think it's about ambition, but most probably i am wrong. :)

    1. Perhaps there isn't a wrong interpretation for this. Perhaps it is whatever the reader decides.

    2. Perhaps there isn't a wrong interpretation for this. Perhaps it is whatever the reader decides.

  3. I like the metaphor of the box as various stages in life, our boxes are overflowing, but near the end, we keep the most cherished and discard a lot of Stuff. Fantastic, Rosemary. I had not come across this poet.

  4. Love this poem .. how it views life, the world, our journey. I had not been familiar with the poet, can't wait to read more of his poetry.

  5. I like it, too, and think of how we are stewards to our world, especially our own little parts of it. Like a hologram, if you break it down, each piece contains the whole. I love all these interpretations. How different (and alike) we are!

  6. That's an awesome poem to close my day with :) I just loved it.

  7. HI
    I like these open ended poems- not necessarily memories but i would think knowledge of the world - maturity - growth into adulthood - into the greater world of things but the need to always go back and embrace that unique starting point of you so you do not get lost - good one :-)

  8. This is really remarkable. I too wish I had written this! Thank you.

  9. Oh, I enjoyed this very much! I can understand, Rosemary, why you fell in love with this poem. He really writes about an interesting concept, and how cool to find out he has a series of small box poems!

  10. So delighted it captivated all of you too! *Smile.*


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