Pearl Drops: Serbian Folk Poems performed by Zeljka Cvjetan Gortinski

Clementine with my folk poems.

Why I Read It: I’m trying to expand my reading horizons to include poetry.

Where I Got It: From the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: If you’re a fan of epic poetry, this is intense, deep, and culturally significant.

Narrator: Zeljka Cvjetan Gortinski

Publisher: Spoken Word Inc. (2012)

Length: 1 hour 13 minutes

I’ve never really been into poetry, which is probably short-sighted of me. Earlier this year I dug into Gilgamesh, and loved it. I think I simply need the poetry to be somewhat epic, intense, historical, or culturally significant. This collection of Serbian folk poems hits all those notes for me. Each poem was performed with such eloquence and intensity that my heart and mind were immediately hooked. The three poems each tell a serious tale with moral warnings for the listener. Indeed, these poems aren’t filled with lilac bushes, wondrous sunsets, and the sighing over a lady’s love token. As described on the inside panel of the CD, these three poems were passed down through oral history starting somewhere in the Middle Ages. Most Serbian folk poems and tales have women as supporting characters, but these three feature mothers, each in a different plight.

The Building of Skadar tells the tale of a woman sacrificed at the construction of a significant building. She is walled in; however she has a small son who is not yet weaned and she begs the men to leave a small hole for her bosom so she can continue to suckle her child. It was a chilling tale.

The Mother of the Jugovic tells the tale of Mother Jugovic asking God for the eyes of a falcon and the wings of swan so that she may fly over a battlefield and see what has become of the brothers Jugovic. Essentially, it is about the loss a mother feels when her sons die in battle.

The Wife of Hasan Aga captures the tale of the Lord Hasan’s wife once her lord husband dies in battle. Her brother arranges for her to marry another lord and she does not wish to leave her children from her first marriage. Because she is forced into the marriage, she requests a long veil for the wedding procession so that she will not see her children as she passes, as her heart will break. However, they see her and call out to her and as she embraces them and says goodbye, she dies of sorrow.

The narration was excellent as Ms. Gortinski has a deep and smooth voice. Her eloquence combined with an excellent choice in background music made this a haunting and moving listening experience. Each poem is told in English and then in Serbian. I listened to both versions even though I don’t understand Serbian just to hear these poems in their native language. The seventh track is performed by Savo Kontic, a respected gusle player. I found this last track to be interesting, but quite a different pace and tone from the rest of the CD.

What I Liked: The overall deep, serious tone; the historical and cultural significance of these poems; the narration and accompanying music were excellent matches to these poems.

What I Disliked: The seventh track was a bit jarring as it didn’t really match the rest of the CD.

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8 thoughts on “Pearl Drops: Serbian Folk Poems performed by Zeljka Cvjetan Gortinski”

    1. It started with a poem about markets and goblins that I really liked, then I tried Gilgamesh, which was excellent, and now Serbian folk poetry. Not sure where this thread will lead, but I’ll follow it as long as I enjoy it.

  1. I stumbled somehow into your blog and then found this post. I just could not believe it. I’m from Serbia and these poems are must read in elementary school. I did not know that there is recording of epic poems in English. It’s good to know, they can be interesting gift. 🙂

    I do not blame you for not liking the gusle. It’s an old instrument and I honestly don’t know anyone who likes listening to them. At least you did not hear them in person – it’s even worse. LOL

    1. Ah! It’s good to know that I am not simply uncultured because I did not enjoy the gusle. The poems were awesome; the gusle….was on the different end of the spectrum.

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