Zvonko Maković(1947), the poet and art-historian, has been awarded the coveted Goranov vijenac (Goran's Wreath), a Croatian national award, for his overall poetic opus. He writes poetry, critiques of visual arts, essays, columns and scientific papers in the field of contemporary art.
The poems of Zvonko Maković deal with the particulars of place, details of objects of everyday use left on the table in his room, sometimes even with the names of real people and haphazard views taken from the window on days that could not be distinguished from other days in the continuum of human existence, except – perhaps - in the highly individual and arbitrary act of photographic registration of fragments of reality.
In the motto of his collection titled Fear, Maković quotes a line from The Death of Virgil by Broch: "I lacked patience in comprehension / and that is why I wanted to write all / because nothing is more poetic than that.”His urban poetry, written in a simple language and style, concentrates on the immediate environment. Running through all of his work is what might be called existential suspicion. He questions reality and disbelieves easy recipes of the sublime. The lyrical voice in his poems exists between commas of an attempt to describe the world of objects taken as they are. His imaginative awareness of experience is concentrated, but completely devoid of the possibility to transcend reality by using metaphors. His poetry of intellectual qualm is very far from the phenomenological need to objectify and somehow make communicable concrete individual experiences. Maković is a post-modern writer who no longer believes in the poet’s ability to communicate intense and personal experience to others, and to express by them the truth; "retaining all the particularity of experience, to make of it a general symbol", the way Eliot did. Beyond any symbolism, even the kind deeply rooted in actuality, Maković achieves something of that poetic sincerity and spare lyricism he has been looking for.
Indiscriminate and chaotic, the world of natural phenomena opens up to the never-ending process of the creation of metaphores. In fear of metaphor, the poet takes the only tenable philosophical position - that of doubt and wonder. In the poem 'Epitaph' from the early period in his work, Maković writes: "I was sent down the river to discover the main current. I keep on searching, but it shrinks back from me." Although many themes of his early manhood reach their full flowering in the later period, Maković has definitely shifted the focus of his poetic interest from writing about fundamental existence to writing about the existence of words that describe anxiety and unease of the human situation. The principal poetic "persona" speaking in the first person, lives somewhere "in between", crouched "between object and subject of a sentence", like a conjunction that seems to be of minor importance for the plot made of misunderstandings. Nonessential, incidental position of the post-modern lyrical voice that speaks only "in passing" cannot be compared to the egotism of those authors who believe in the writer’s vocation.
The poetry of Zvonko Maković is definitely poetry made by an intellectual, but it does not insist on bookish knowledge, visionary enlightenment and artistic improvisation. It does not startle its reader or amaze him with itself. Not even with its subject. It does not speak in reaction to anything; it does not even make point of escaping from conventional and middle-class values. It is not a poetry of disengagement although – for example – it does not care about capital letters. Maković can use the rhythm of the spoken phrase, but he does not believe in "beatitude through spontaneity" signaled to the reader by the use of down-and-out "street language" as in American "beat poetry" and Croatian poetry written by the generation of poets born in the seventies. Maković does not speak in the literary tradition like some of his colleagues (Paljetak, Petrak, Mrkonjic and Maroevic), filling in with colloquial material the sonnet form inherited from Croatian literature of the Renaissance. He has but one story to tell us, how the world lost its innocence when objects end entities lost their natural and motivated "true names." The lyrical subject of one of his best, often anthologized poem, The Golden Age says: "my environment is the object I touch first and I pronounce its name." Stating this, not only in Comets, comets ..., but also in his more recent collections, the poet and art historian Zvonko Maković reveals the vulnerability and resignation of the typical 20th century intellectual in times of violence, who cannot see any chance to establish a post-catastrophic identity. This identity is fragmented like a photograph torn into pieces. It is based on the list of objects the lyrical subject can register with his senses in a particular situation that has lost its link with eternity. The main power of this act of esthetic resignation and ethic disillusionment is in the touching simplicity of Maković’s literary style, so strongly contrasting those loud proclamations which all to often follow drastic scenes of violence and death.