16 / 2002
Teja Pribac

Bert Pribac’s Spiritual Development as Reflected in his Poetry

“Since greatness in literature is beyond my reach I devote myself to writing the truth about myself and the world around me, the truth, such as seen through my eyes. I can only give what I have. I had neither time nor fervor to aspire to something more.” These are the modest words of Bert Pribac on his literary efforts, quoted from “Zakaj pišem pesmi” (Why I Write Poetry; Svobodni razgovori, X/3, 1993, 8). As Pribac points out, his poetry reflects his perceptions, sensations and viewpoints on issues and people. Therefore, his poetry enlightens us as to his spiritual growth from his youth to the old age.

Youthful playfulness is cut short by the enforced decision to follow the path of wanderers, beggars and perpetual pilgrims of the world. Consequently, the beginnings of his life as an emigrant are characterised by pain and despair, caused by the realisation that he lost his home, friends and the most intimate moments of his life.

After his desperate hope for suitable life under the Southern Cross dies, the poet is driven to console himself with dreams. Dreams alone can conjure up the homey atmosphere of his beloved Istra. However, the Istra of his youth acquires the strongly idealised features, reflecting his wishes and hopes. It was a long time before Pribac abandoned his dreams of the lost paradise, forgot his grief and accepted the fact that Istra shows no greater kindness to her children than Australia shows to hers. To be brought face to face with the cruel and inexorable reality that denied him the opportunity to live in harmony with the spirit and the truth was a harsh blow for the poet.

But as he was suffocating in the dark abyss of loneliness and hopelessness, he discovered a path his instincts told him would lead to salvation. He realized his aspirations weren't directed to Istra or any other place in the world. Emigration wasn't what brought him far from home. Displacement was a direct result of his human nature, tainted by sin. This is one of the main themes od his second Australian period. Consequently, he'll be a stranger everywhere in this world, as his kingdom wasn't on Earth. Pribac discovered God: God is the one, who can give him shelter, as God is and will remain his home.

But God cannot be reached directly, but rather only through love for everything in his creation and the absolute devotion of soulmates in the vortex of religious eroticism. In his paradise rediscovered, Pribac found a soulmate with whom he could share the holiest experience of our being.