Vladislav Petković Dis

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Vladislav Petković Dis.

Vladislav Petković Dis (Serbian Cyrillic: Владислав Петковић Дис; born Vladislav Petković; 12 March 1880 – 16 May/29 May 1917) was a Serbian poet, part of the impressionism movement in European poetry, known as Moderna/Symbolism in Serbia. He was born in 1880 in Zablaće, near Čačak in Serbia and died in 1917 on a boat on the Ionian Sea after being hit by a torpedo. He was also known as a war poet.


Vladislav Petković was born in Zablaće, a village near Čačak, in the Principality of Serbia. He made his way to Čačak, graduating from the Gymnasium and Teacher's College in 1902. He was appointed temporary teacher at Prlita, a village near the town of Zaječar. He did not like teaching, and his small output of poetry brought him little income. In 1903, he moved to Belgrade, and became prominent in the literary life there, when his poems appeared in Idila, a literary magazine.Vladislav Petković chose his appellation "Dis" as a repetition of the middle syllable of his first name, but also as the name of the Roman god of the underworld. He was a frequent evening visitor to the Belgrade's kafanas in Skadarlija and elsewhere where he would drink and compose new verse at the same time.

He obtained an appointment as a customs official with the municipal government, giving him a good income and leisure time to write. He was named co-editor, with Sima Pandurović, of Literary Weekend (Književna nedelja). Both Petković-Dis and Pandurović were considered the enfants terribles of their literary world (both being under the influence of Charles Baudelaire and other French Symbolists, like Šantić, Dučić, Rakić, Ćorović, and even Skerlić before he abandoned the movement). After the demise of the magazine, he married Hristina-Tinka, with whom he had two children, Gordana and Mutimir.

He wrote Spomenik (Monument) in anticipation of World War I:

And it still seems that,
as my soul dreams on,
the monument lives on,
ready for eternity,
reborn into new traditions,
tempering young ambitions
to erect the next monument.

During the outbreak of the First Balkan War he was conscripted by the military as a journalist. He was the war correspondent covering battles of the Serbian Army in the First Balkan War (1912), Second Balkan War (1913), and World War I that followed. In 1915 he joined the Serbian army in their retreat to Corfu.

From Corfu Petković-Dis was sent to France to recuperate and write about the entire tragedy. In 1917, on his way back, on either 16 May or 29 May (varying sources), he became a civilian war casualty after boarding an Italian ship, destined for Corfu. It was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in the Ionian Sea. He is said to have predicted his unfortunate destiny, for one of his most famous collections of poems is called Drowned Souls, earning him the reputation of a cursed poet. He was 37 years old.[citation needed]


His nickname Dis was derived from the three letters in the middle of his first name "Vla-DIS-lav". He introduced irrational and subconscious images into Serbian lyric poetry. Some of his most famous poems are Možda spava (She May Be Sleeping) and Spomenik (Monument).

In Spomenik, Petković Dis dreamed of a monument:

It has a long life,
Today it descends into new legends,
To prepare our descendents for the next monument.

Petković Dis was writing in 1913, just after Serbia wrested Kosovo from the Ottoman Empire and installed an obelisk on the site of the famous medieval battle when Kosovo was severed from Serbia by the Ottomans. Dis's poetry was not well received at the beginning by Jovan Skerlić, one of the most distinguished Serbian literary critics of that time, who did not care for the poems' morbid and sinister tone.[citation needed]

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