Monday, November 4, 2013

Life of a Poet - Natasa Dolenc

This week, kids, we are making an extremely interesting trip to a place with enormous historical significance. We are going to visit the young poet, Natasa Dolenc, of Tales of Autumn. And guess what, kids? It is her birthday! Happy Birthday, Natasa. I hope it is a wonderful year for you. We are sending you a bouquet of virtual balloons! Enjoy!

Natasa lives in Slovenia, an area which was heavily impacted during WWII. The scenery is spectacular, and as we arrive, I am haunted by the thought of the hardships its citizens experienced during those difficult years.

P.U.: Natasa, I am fascinated by where you live. Give us a little tour of your place on the globe,  so rich with historical significance.

Natasa: I live in a very small village in the hills, located about 30 km from the main city of Slovenia. I love it for its nature, the forests, the view of the landscape... Many sites for a photographer ;) 

Home town

But it’s also very lonely, maybe that’s why I like to travel around Slovenia. This year in particular I made a few photographic journals. Well, I am kind of drawn to history, although I think time rushes fast, and we don’t feel its presence in the walls around us... For example, first four years of primary school we spent in our local school, which was the base camp for Germany during WW2. As a kid, I couldn’t believe that.  

River Soca

In WW2 the border between Germany/Austria and Italy actually went right here. The village I live in was German, and the next one was Italy. So basically, kids had to cross the border to go to school. And they had to watch out for mines. Back then they lived from their lands, their trades. The landscape was different, there wasn’t that many people here as there are now. The forests were vaster.

Lake Bohinj, Bohinjska bistrica

P.U.: What gloriously beautiful scenery! And I adore your hat! I knew there was a connection to World War II. You seem to have written and amassed a lot of material about that time. Is there a family connection for you?

Natasa: Yes, especially this year I seem to think a lot more about it. I was always interested in history, but mostly far off history, the Celts, the Vikings, the Egyptians... This year I visited a few historic sites of WW2 and WW1 in Bohinjska bistrica. And the river Soča, which saw a lot of blood in the wars, but it’s so beautiful now, it’s really hard to image how many soldiers lost their lives there. 

It strange to imagine how lives only seventy years ago were completely different. I think it’s good to know about these things, to know where you are coming from, to know what kind of things men can do...a reminder. I’ve also been listening a lot to Sabaton (Swedish metal band, who sing of history, especially WW2 and WW1).

As for family connections... My father was born at the start of 1945 and his father (my granddad) was killed five months later (presumably he was taken by Germans, but his remains were never found); he was a blacksmith, and he had to work for both sides. 

My great grandmother (my mums’ side) was born during WW1 and she died a few years ago, almost 100 years old. She lost her husband in  WW2 (at the moment I’m not sure if he was also tortured in a castle, or was it just his brother). Anyway, there are bitter stories I’ve been hearing as I was growing up. The people who were affected by the war can’t forget it.

P.U.: I have read extensively about that time, and am sure it is seared in the consciousness of anyone who lived through it. Is there a memory or a story from your childhood that you think foreshadowed your becoming a writer? A poet?

The young Natasa

Natasa: No, not really, everything else but a poet ;) As a pre-schooler I loved to make people laugh, I always said or did something so they would laugh. And I loved to dance. I also loved playing doctor, a paediatrician to be precise ;)  Later I found solace in drawing and singing. Then in school we had to write papers and I always loved writing them. I thought I was good. In 8th grade we had to write a poem for Slovenian class (a ghazal to be exact) and the teacher told me it was very good. And it went from there...

 Brother love....then........

and now

P.U.: What is your life like today? Tell us about your family, your work, anything you would like us to know about you.

Natasa: My life at the moment is very hectic. I live with my parents, my older brother, a cat, a dog, two guinea pigs and a few rabbits. I work as a midwife with a gynaecologist, which means I don’t really get to deliver the babies, but I get to follow the pregnancy and then maybe see them when they already get out.  And I also lecture and organize “Lamaze class”. 

For the past seven months we’ve been overloaded by patients, and there seems to be no end. Mondays and Wednesdays I work in the afternoon, so when I get home I roll into bed, and in the morning go back to work.  I work in Ljubljana, so I drive every day, it takes an hour and a half both ways. I like to drive but it gets tiresome. ‘Bout time I moved ;) 

Dina, our Karst Shepherd, a Slovenian breed

I’ve also started going to the gym in the afternoons, I visit few group exercise (like pilates, bootcamp). During the weekend I try to catch up on sleep, relax, read and also see my boyfriend. And forget what awaits on Monday.

Dina's pups

P.U.: Oh my goodness, Dina and her pups are so beautiful. I need one of the puppies! When did you first begin to write? Do you remember what the event was that had you penning down the words? 

Natasa: There wasn’t a particular event. Writing was always comforting, made me feel safe. I was picked on in school a lot, I never felt like I belonged there with them. Or that I lived in the same world as they. It was good to write short stories for school, it made me interested in writing. But I didn’t write prose out of wish. When I was 13 years old, give or take, I wished of forming a music band. I started writing lyrics, I even had a small synthesizer and I wrote a few notes (but I never learnt writing music). I wasn’t any good though (luckily), and I didn’t have anyone who would encourage me, so I stopped). 

Runa, with whom I spent my childhood.
She was a big part of my life.

And so it went, after school, when we were waiting for the bus and at home, before I went to sleep, I started scribbling down words. Oh, btw, I already wrote in English. It was addicting to see what words can do, how they can paint. Besides I knew I was safe if anyone found them, ‘cause I was good in English and they weren’t (especially my parents). That was my little secret.

And I kept writing... It’s interesting to look back, they seem like poetry journals to me. They got me through many things. Writing poetry has been also a bit of an escape. It feels more free, comparing it with prose. Sometimes a poem starts as an image, sometimes as a short video, a feeling, memory.. and most of the time I have no idea where it will lead in the end. That’s why I love it. To work on an idea through days, and then see it altogether, may come as a surprise.

Me with Ollie

Ollie in the wild

P.U.: I so know what you mean! Writing gets us through, the hard times and the good. Do you have any thoughts of writing a book?

Natasa: I do have a few ideas for books. In high school I was really into fantasy novels (which I still am) and I wrote a short story about two knights, I tried to make it funny. And I also started planning an idea of creating a world (yeah, Lord of the Rings influence, you can tell) with different creatures in it, each responsible for something.. I remember there was a race responsible for trees, another for water. And then there were few gods... oh, well, I’m sure I have it somewhere. And the last idea is a bit more realistic (in terms of execution), about a ten year old boy and his elephant... But with prose it’s always so that I end up saying “When I have more time.”.. and I kind of know that time will never come.

P.U.: It will, kiddo. It MUST. Because those stories must be told and no one else can tell them! Your About page is astonishing. You are a many-faceted being. Tell us about your art, when you began painting, what it means to you.

Music is All Around

Natasa: ha, well, I am interested in many different things. I began painting/drawing in primary school, and I did it at home as well and I liked it, so I kept going. It’s something I do here and there. Unlike poetry, I don’t take that much time for painting. At the beginning I wanted to paint landscapes, but they were always better in my head than they were on canvas. Now I just try to get that idea from my head to the canvas as best as possible. Sometimes it comes as an abstract, other times more realistic. Midwifery also influenced the paintings from the last few years. Sometimes I also draw based on the poem I wrote.

P.U.: Tell us about your midwifery. How long have you been a midwife and what drew you to this work? (I cant think of a more meaningful and joyous thing than helping to bring new life into the world. It must be a miracle, every single time.)

Baby in Womb

Natasa: I’ve been working as a midwife with a gynaecologist for about two years, plus three years of study where I had practice work in the labour room (and plenty of other departments). When I was a kid and then a little older kid, I wanted to be a doctor (especially a paediatrician) or a veterinarian, but somehow I ended up in economy and public administration and then there came a point where I realized I had to break free... so to say ;) 

By that time I was so far off in the educational system that I couldn’t go and study medicine, so logically I started thinking of becoming a nurse. But after much thinking and talking through, I decided to pick an occupation where you can be more independent. At that time I was enthusiastic about physiotherapy. But then midwifery took me over and I couldn’t find anything else that would suit me as much as becoming a midwife would.

Though I do regret that I don’t work in the delivery room, I like where I work now. But looking back on those hours in the delivery room... I do cherish those moments, good and bad. And it is an honour to be there at the start of a new life, to see the faces of new born parents. And at the same time you can be faced with very hard stories.

Btw, I recommend you watch “Call the midwife” series, I love it, it’s so great to see how they delivered not so long ago.

P.U.: It is a never-ending truth, that the doctors and nurses at every single birth know it is a miracle, even after years of deliveries. And it is. Do you have a favourite poet? Do you think his or her work influences yours?

Natasa: The answer to this question changes through years. At the beginning I was obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe and yes, you could see the influence. I even used archaic English. Later I liked Sylvia Plath, our Slovenian poet Srecko Kosovel, E.E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson... Now if I had to pick a favourite poet, I’d say Charles Simic. I love his poetry style, sometimes it reminds me of my own. But I don’t think their poetry influences my work. But maybe that’s not for me to decide.

P.U.: Is there someone in your life you believe had a significant influence on your becoming a writer? Maybe someone who encouraged you or believed in you?

Lake Cerknica with boyfriend,
New Years Day a few years ago

Natasa: Certainly. My boyfriend. We’ve been together for eight years now. He always encouraged me, if I wouldn’t have the support I had back then, I don’t think I’d write as much... And I wouldn’t publish a poetry book on my own if it weren’t for his encouragements and critics. Sometimes he jokes (or maybe not) that he wouldn’t be with me if it weren’t for my poetry ;) Before we met he wrote poetry, but threw it all away, so I have no idea what his poetry was like. I do hope maybe someday he’ll write a book, he’s a good story teller.

P.U.: You write often about health and ways you explore becoming healthier. I gather from what I have read that you really explore wellness, which is a really positive way to address health challenges. I suspect health has been a significant journey for you.

Natasa: hm... I’ve had my share of doctor visits, but I wouldn’t say that I was ever really sick (when you work in health care and see what can happen, your definition of being sick changes). But yes, the last year offered a lot of challenges.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

About 7 years ago I was given the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is a dysfunction of colon and doctors have no real way of helping so I was left alone to find out what works and what doesn’t. Looking back it was actually good for me, I changed my diet, changed my career and gained self esteem. Now I think I have it under control ;) Most of the time. I was surprised to find out how many young people have this and what sort of medication they take. It is true, that symptoms vary from person to person, but I think the best solution for this is to take control of yourself.

P.U.: I agree. My daughter suffered for years with this and doctors could not help her. Finally, she took control - eliminated wheat, sugar, then gluten ....... and finally  cured herself by becoming a raw vegan.

Natasa: Last year (dear lord, it’s been a year already) I had knee arthroscopy. I hurt my left knee back in autumn of 2011 while I was dancing (jazz ballet) but at the time I had no idea that anything went wrong, because it hurt like hell for 10-20 seconds but then completely went away, so when I started having pains in the knee, I really had no recollection what happened. Anyway, it was said that it was a torn medial meniscus and that it’ll take a week or two after the procedure to return to normal. It ended up a bit differently, they sutured the lateral meniscus twice and made microfractures into femur, because a tendon got caught on the condyle and wore out the cartilage. I had to walk with crutches for 3-4 weeks and the rehabilitation was longer than expected (the knee still isn’t the same as it was). A few weeks after the procedure I hurt my right knee. Murphy’s law. I’ve now been diagnosed with a torn medial meniscus in the right knee, but it’s a small tear, so no more arthroscopy for now. 

And about three weeks after the procedure I got food poisoning... yeah.. that was fun. And it wouldn’t stop, and I was so dehydrated I had to go to the doctor. And as if that isn’t enough it developed into gastritis, which at first went away with acid-blockers, but then it returned and no amount of drugs would help. Then I googled, tried baking soda and mineral water with magnesium and now, six months later, I can drink coffee and eat chocolate ;) And as if that isn’t enough.... haha... I lately caught some virus, and few weeks after I got better, I started having some symptoms that are not interesting to any doctor. And you can easily be called hypochondriac.

Sorry, this is a long paragraph, I really don’t mind talking about health and health problems (they certainly make you grow as a person).

P.U.: Wow. I applaud you for getting through all of that so positively. What might you tell us about yourself that would surprise us?

Natasa: I have psychic powers. ;) No, but seriously a few times some weird things happened to me. It happened twice that I woke up from deep sleep and immediately sat up and the first time I saw a face (just a face, which reminded me of my dead granddad, the one I never met, just saw photographs of him), when he realized I saw him, he smiled and I fell right back to sleep (literally fell); the second time I saw a figure surrounded with green light, and it had long black hair, it looked like an angel, and the same thing happened. 

And I also get very strong déjà vu’s. The feeling like maybe I dreamt or predicted this situation (for example, this year I changed work location and in the beginning this feeling happened constantly, I could see it as something I had already experienced. It gave me a feeling that I was meant to be there. Well, that’s the first answer that your question prompted, the other would be that sometimes I wish I’d be a man. But I wouldn’t go into it ;) Otherwise, I’m a pretty-normal girl ;)


P.U.: I have experienced such things as well. I think we all have more abilities in this area than we realize. You are a dancer – and now one with injured knees. That's not good.

Natasa: I may have mislead you. I love to dance, in the privacy of my own room ;) I’ve never performed as a dancer publicly, I visited a few dance classes, I wanted to try Irish dancing, but somehow I didn’t find the time and the money. When I was I kid I loved it. I remember when I was still a pre-schooler I just took someone by the hands and forced them to dance. So now I still love to put music on and just dance, some sort of jazz dance ;) If I had a partner who would be interested in dancing I’d probably do more of it.

P.U.: Do more of it anyway, kiddo. Life is short! Do you have a poem, written by you, that is a favourite, that you feel you wrote well, or that you feel is representative of who you are that you’d like to include?

Natasa: Hmm... It’s hard picking favourites. They all mean a lot to me. There is one that I feel represents me really well – “Wearing autumn” (which was also my first blog post on my blog):

Wearing Autumn
don't be fooled by this white dress
these curves and lines
in truth, I am wearing autumn
colorful coats, wind at the feet
waving dark golden hair
got caught in her adorable breath
her face blooming with wisdom
gracefully she walks in
bringing with her the cold
that goes into my hands
and I hide them
in the pockets of my coat
drying my hair in the wind
drinking from her well
thinking through her slightly
        melancholic mind
for you see, I am always wearing autumn

And then my mind goes to “Man in grey room”. Maybe it’s because a few people have already told me it’s their favourite, maybe it’s because I can still remember the image and the feeling I had as I wrote it, back in 2006. It’s a bit long, it’s a sort of combination of poetry-prose, which I sometimes love to use.

dusty mirrors showing old faces
parties have long been forgotten
man sits in the chair
room turns into grey
as fire burns down
burned the evidence of his living
from the ashes smoke arises
one window in which he sees the past
another in which he sees the end
the edge is getting closer
pain on the door step
waiting to attack
his eyes unrecognizable
no spark left
clock in the tower strikes 12 a.m.
saying "I love you"
to the girls he felt nothing
it doesn't matter who he slept with
as long as he got the right emotions
bird crashes into the window
falls down stone dead
you will not know
how much you want to live
until the end of your life
will start to keep an eye on your back
wanting to see just another sunset everyday
job he never cared for
never knew what he really wanted to do
world is so crazy and lonely
real can only appeal to dreams
love for self is low
no one there to hug before he goes to sleep
rain on the window sliding
melody reminds him of his childhood
a world away, a killed life
lost everybody that once meant something
or has he only lost the memory of them?
mirrors of him hidden
human faces painted upon trees
into the stars he asked questions
when he already knew the answers
all the thoughts he didn't like
could someone tell him the other truth?
could someone lie to him?
a bottle he tries to avoid
no message in it
only few hours of empty happiness
a new day comes with sunrise
he stands up and opens the door
looks back over the shoulder
never will he return into this grey room
of that he is sure

It’s really interesting how reading this poem still brings me back into that time.... I’d like to include one more, “Never Free”:

Never free
surface of the water deadly still
grey leaves leaping along the shore
trying to hear any sound
      noiseless space
      or deaf ears?

reading words long since written
even now making perfect sense
      half opened mouth
      murmuring the rhymes

if I am given freedom
a choice to live in time
      why do I ponder here?
      approving chains over me

since forever, never free
in men's web playing still
      until the thought turns up:
      "this is not me!"

P.U.:  These are all wonderful poems, Natasa. I most love Wearing Autumn - "her face blooming with wisdom". How has blogging impacted your writing?

Natasa: When I started blogging I don’t think it impacted my writing at all, since I didn’t receive any feedback. When I was participating on DeviantArt, the only thing that changed (or the only thing I noticed) was the fact that I started using punctuation. For years I used none, I let the reader decide how to read a poem, what goes where, but they never liked that, so started using commas and dots and so on.

But this year on the other hand has had a big impact, I’d say. I started participating in Poetry Pantry on Poets United, I started participating in poetry prompts, which never before suited me, but now I can see, I can write something out of it. And I’m more comfortable with trying different styles, different things, slicing the poem up.

P.U.: That's great, kiddo. What plans do you have for the coming year in terms of your poetry?

Links to Natasa's book: 

Natasa: Well, the next project is the second poetry collection. When I published the first, Colours of the sea, I made a promise it won’t take another five years to write the next one, and that time is running out. But the thing is also, I want the second to be better than the first (I know how stupid this sounds), and at the moment I’m over-thinking it. I do have quite a lot of new material, I just have to find the time and the will.

P.U.: I look forward to it. Anything else you’d like to tell Poets United?

Natasa: It really was one of the best things, poetry-wise, to meet you, to read all the different poems you share week after week. It stimulates my mind to produce more ideas and more diverse poems. And although we come from many different sides of the planet, we seem close when we share our thoughts and ideas. It feels like home. Thank you for all the support. 

P.U.: It has been great for all of us to meet you, too, Natasa. Thank you for allowing us this look into your life. We look forward to reading many more of your wonderful poems!!

Well, kids? Wasn't that a completely satisfying visit? Peoples' stories are so amazing! I so love our weekly visits all over the globe. Almost as satisfying as really going there! Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Sherry, another interesting interview! (Smiles) Natasa, I have always wanted to meet the poet behind your words. You are such a Poetry Pantry regular, and I always enjoy your weekly contribution. I was not very familiar with Slovenia and its place in history so it was interesting for me to read how your setting impacted your life, especially as a young child. Slovenia also seems like it must be a very beautiful place to photograph. Your work as a midwife must be quite rewarding, though frantic at times. I enjoyed reading all of the poetry you shared. I like them all, but "Wearing Autumn" resonates with me the strongest. Good luck with your second poetry collection, Natasa!!

    1. Thank you Mary! I'm glad you found out a bit of Slovenia through my words, it's a very small country, but it surprises you, and as a photographer, I never grew weary while traveling around it. Midwifery is rewarding, I wouldn't be doing it otherwise, despite the frantic times as you said. Nice to see that you can relate to Wearing Autumn. And thank you for good wishes!

  2. Pleased to meet you, Natasa. I enjoyed your interview and poems and also hearing about the border region where you live. I'll be looking for you here during the Wednesdays and Sundays. Stay well! You, too, Sherry. This is another enriching interview!

  3. Natasa, it is delightful to know more about you as a person. Your hometown and area look beautiful and the history of Slovenia is fascinating. Your photos, paintings and, of course, poems show that you are a very artistic person.
    Thank you for sharing your favorite poems. In the Monday interviews, it is always fascinating to see what a poet chooses as her/his favorite works.
    Thank you Natasa and Sherry for a great interview!

    1. Thank you very much Gabriella, for these kind words. And yes, it's always interesting to see what poems a poet chooses as his/her favourite, I agree.

  4. It is always so nice to come in here on a Monday and read peoples' comments. I will be offline now, probably until tomorrow morning, but will come back then to take a look-see. I so enjoyed putting this interview together. Natasa, it was such a pleasure! And I seriously envy you your hat!!!!!!!

    1. Sherry, it was a pleasure for me too, I enjoyed getting to know a bit better. And yes, that is perfect!

  5. smiles...nice to get to know you a bit more natasa...smiling at your journey a bit...the world like LOTR sounds really cool...i am def a fan of tolkien...and the like...what an interesting place you live as well..i am glad you found your way through IBS as well...sounds like you made positive moves through what could have been tough...

    1. thank you Brian! I think it's best not to identify yourself with the diagnosis, cause then things go wrong (if not otherwise, in your head).

  6. So nice to meet such an interesting, multi-talented poet! I love seeing the pictures of Slovenia (birthplace of my mother-in-law's parents), a place I really want to visit. It looks as beautiful as I expected.

    You are one talented young lady, and I look forward to reading more of your work. I love what I see here!

    Thanks once again, Sherry, for bringing our poets to life!

    Happy Birthday, Natasa!

    1. Thank you Karen! Well, then you must visit Slovenia once, make sure you see Bohinjska bistrica (it really is something for the soul).

  7. Many happy returns of the day Natasa....and thank you Sherry for taking us to Natasa's wonderful world of color, music and words...enjoyed the delightful chat... :D

  8. Nice to meet you Natasa! I love your autumn favorite season! I enjoyed getting to know more about you~ Thank you Sherry and Happy Birthday Natasa~

    1. Thank you Ella! I agree, there's nothing like autumn.

  9. Belated happy birthday Natasa. Nice to know about you. God bless.

  10. I always enjoy a visit to Natasa's the pictures of her country....

  11. Fascinating woman! Thank you - I enjoyed the whole interview and am not off to see her blog.

  12. I am a big fan of Natasa's poetry, and I really enjoyed getting to know more about her life, home and family.

  13. Thank you Loredana :) Will see you around (you'll get the hang of Google+ quickly).

  14. hey Natasa, nice to know more about you, and your poetry through this interview. fascinating place you live in. i have always liked your poetry, they are so rich in imagery, and there's always something to ponder about. :)

    all the best to you!

  15. Good to make your acquaintance, and happy birthday, Natasa. :)

  16. Lovely to know more about you Natasa ~ Hope you had a special birthday celebration ~

    Cheers ~

  17. What a great interview. Natasha, I believe your art and poetry will bring you much satisfaction over the years (and a place of sanity)
    wishing you all the best in your journey!!!

    1. Thank you very much Leslie! :) Indeed, it is a place of sanity.

  18. Happy Birthday, Nataša! I hope your birthday year is full of beauty. And thank you, Sherry, for an amazing interview. I've enjoyed getting to know Nataša through her poetry and images and it's wonderful to hear of her life's continuing journey and of her family and the animals who enrich her life.


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