Poet and journalist Gordana Benić was born in Split in 1950. She attended grammar school there, and then studied in Zadar, where she read Croatian literature and philosophy, completing her postgraduate studies in literature in Zagreb. She lives and works in Split, where she writes on the arts for Slobodna Dalmacija, the local paper, as she has done for many years, concentrating on historical monuments. In 2000 she received the Vicko Andrić conservation award for her articles on national historical monuments.
She made her debut as a poet in 1982 with Soba (A Room), which was largely concerned with describing intimate spaces and examining personal emotions pervaded by an explicitly and distinctly Mediterranean perspective. A few years later, in 1990, she published a volume of prose poems, Kovači sjene (Forgers of Shadow), in which she found her own personal style, which she has proceeded to develop in five subsequent books of poems. She also has recourse in them to what is generally known as vers libre, which is to a degree founded on premises close to the poetics of the prose poem. Her poetry, then, can be regarded as part of a significant movement in Croatian literature, that of the prose poem, which continues to resist fashionable trends and the commercial demands of a national literary marketplace made up as it goes along. And Benić is indisputably one of the most important figures in that movement.
A persistent feature of her poetry is the construction of a world that manifests itself on the borders of reverie about a non-existent reality, on the verge of vanishing, most often apprehended through a sequence of artefacts. Here too, consistent with the erasure of the determinants of so-called high and low culture, we encounter objects and images of a completely private nature side by side with references to works of art, speaking in their own language of the many dimensions of Mediterranean culture as the only material universal from which they sprang, and to which they must, ineluctably, return. One critic has observed that Gordana Benić’s poetry is largely determined by “nocturnal, lunar figures”, which lend her style an “ontological quality of fragility and brittleness, transparency, almost inscrutability”.
The poet and critic Zvonimir Mrkonjić has written: “[She is] a deserter from Romanticism, despite her prose poems usually occupying the present tense. On the other hand, she lays claim to the standpoint of a planetary folklore, where, historically, she falls victim to the contemporary mass media world, where all is materialised and consumed, at any cost. In respect of this poet, the mass media should be apprehended as a metaphor: the contemporary media world is for her not technical but spiritual and Spiritist. Furthermore, one might say that that the medium of omniscience is itself poetry . . . Today the ‘virtuality’ obtainable through the resources of the computer might trouble a poet with its resemblance to a fugue from a functional contemporaneity. Yet today it is possible to speak of fantasy as a science, researching and categorising all the projects of the Fugue, especially those which surrealism instigated in literature, painting, and the cinema. In its every aspect, this syncretism of the fantastic nourishes the poetry of Gordana Benić.”
Soba, Književni krug, Split, 1982
Kovači sjene, Književni krug, Split, 1990
Trag Morije, Hrvatska sveučilišta naklada, Zagreb, 1992
Dubina, Meandar, Zagreb, 1994
Laterna magica, Književni krug, Split, 1998
Balada o neizrecivom, Meandar, Zagreb, 2003
Unutarnje more (Selected Poems), selected and edited by Zvonimir Mrkonjić, Matica hrvatska, Zagreb, 2006
Godine sfinge, Ex libris, Zagreb, 2003
Tinova nagrada, Croatian Writers Association, for Laterna magica, 1998
Vicko Andrić Conservation Award for journalism on historical monuments, 2000