A Synchronistic Experience in Serbia

[block_title title=”A Synchronistic Experience in Serbia”]by Richard Berengarten[/block_title]

I was saying that only I could reach to the other’s (inner) life. My condition is not exactly that I have to put the other’s life there; and not exactly that I have to leave it there either. I (have to) respond to it, or refuse to respond. It calls upon me; it calls me out.

Stanley Cavell

In May 1985, I visited Serbia from my home in Cambridge, England, to run a series of poetry writing workshops for pupils in Serbian schools, mostly in their early teens. With my daughter Lara, who was then seventeen, I travelled to Belgrade and some smaller towns and villages in the central and western region of the republic, known as Šumadija (šuma, ‘wood,’ ‘forest’). The project, which included a group of local teachers of English, was set up and led by my friend and colleague Branka Panić, director of a language teaching centre in Belgrade, in collaboration with a Serbian publisher of children’s books and magazines. As I didn’t know Serbian at that time, when conducting these workshops, I spoke in English and the teachers translated for me. The boys and girls wrote their poems in Serbian. Our group travelled from town to town in a minibus.

One of these poetry workshops took place on a sunny morning on May 25 in a school in the city of Kragujevac(kraguj, ‘vulture’). A large number of pupils were involved in several sessions, and the events filled the school hall. There was a bright, enthusiastic, expansive atmosphere and a sense of novelty and pleasure about these workshops. Afterwards, with Branka and Lara, I visited the city’s memorial museum in Šumarice (‘woodland,’ ‘spinneys’), a hilly park of 350 hectares just outside the town.

 

Nothing could have contrasted more strongly with the mood of these poetry workshops than the history of Šumarice. Here, on October 21, 1941, 2,672 people were massacred. Most of these victims were male Serbs, including boys pulled directly out of classes from one of the main schools. Victims included forty local Jews, an unregistered number of Roma, as well as prisoners from local jails, and some Serbian women and girls.

Following their whirlwind invasion in April 1941, the Nazis had fully occupied Serbia by the beginning of May. The massacre was a punitive reprisal for a night-time ambush by a Serbian resistance group, near the village of Ljuljaci, on the narrow hilly road between Kragujevac and Gornji Milanovac, at a spot lined by woodland on both sides, on October 16.  Nine German soldiers were shot and twenty-seven wounded, of whom one died later. A ruthless edict had been published by the occupiers, stating that in the event of a single German being killed, one hundred members of the Serbian population would be executed. For a single wounded German soldier, the toll would be fifty executed.

Three days after the ambush, the reprisals were swift and merciless.  On October 19, 20 and 21, 1941, 2,797 people were massacred at Šumarice, in Kragujevac itself, and in the four nearby villages of Maršić, Mečkovac (aka Ilićevo), Grošnica and Beloševac. Those killed included at least 27 women, 217 children of secondary school age, and 25 children aged between twelve and fifteen. The largest killing site was at Šumarice.

 

 

Our visit to Kragujevac coincided with a national holiday linked to the birthday of the former Yugoslav president, Josip Broz Tito. Five years after his death, May 25 was still being observed as Dan mladosti (‘Youth Day’). Because our entire focus had been on the poetry writing workshops, Lara and I had been given no advance knowledge by my Serbian colleagues either of this event or of the wartime massacre, so we had no idea at all of what to expect. Our friends had told us after the workshops that we really ought to visit the museum, but excused themselves from coming with us. They had already been there; and a repeat visit would be ‘too upsetting.’ But Branka kindly agreed to accompany us. I’d never visited the site of a massacre, and nor had Lara. I was curious to visit Šumarice, even though I knew nothing about it and the visit hadn’t been envisaged in any way, let alone prepared.

As we arrived, the memorial park presented a curious and completely unexpected scene. The place was thronging with people on special outings. Groups were arriving from many other Serbian towns and villages. Children and teenagers poured out of various hired buses, and pensioners out of others. Many families were coming in by car. Hundreds of people milled around us, and in the queue outside the museum there was a good deal of noisy chatter and friendly jostling. The weather was balmy, and the area around the museum brimmed with youthful energy. In extreme contrast, the memorial park itself, a green area of 350 hectares expressly dedicated to the commemoration of the massacre, retained its own underlying, passive calm. It would be hard to visit this place at any time and not be reminded of the events that had taken place there in 1941.

On both sides of the straight road leading from the town to the museum, large banners had been strung up, on which fluttered phrases inscribed in Cyrillic script. Branka explained to us that these were blow-ups of short messages that had originally been scribbled on scraps of paper by some of the men and boys who’d been selected by the Germans for execution. They’d been interned overnight in a disused barracks before being marched out to be shot the next morning. They’d known or at least expected the fate that was awaiting them. These short messages, written in and through communal and individual terror, overwhelming panic, utter helplessness, and extraordinary bravery, were remarkable documents. Much later, when I tried to render some of them into English, I discovered that they had a heartrending, tragic poignancy, a dignity that utterly defied adequate translation.

Eventually, Lara, Branka and I found ourselves in a queue of people waiting to get into the museum. The building was quite small and, once a hundred or so people had entered, the keepers closed the glass doors to prevent overcrowding inside. The previous group needed to be allowed to percolate through the building to the exit on the floor below, before we could be admitted. We stood outside, in a crowd of strangers, waiting our turn.

 

 

Thirty-three years later, I still have a crystal-clear memory of what happened next, in all its detail. Lara and I were standing close to the glass doors of the museum, slightly bemused by the chatter and bustle around us. I had my arms folded in front of me, so that my right hand cradled my left elbow and my left hand was slightly raised. Lara stood to my right, holding our camera. My eyes were focused on the statement printed in large letters on the partition wall inside the museum, facing through its glass doors so that it could be read from outside: Machen si mir dieses Land Deutsch (‘Make this land German for me’). Beneath it was attached the name Adolf Hitler. At that moment, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a small movement on my left hand.

Looking down, I saw that a small blue butterfly was perched on my left forefinger, its wingspan hardly more than the size of my thumbnail. I gazed at it in disbelief for a second and nudged Lara with my right elbow. ‘Look,’ I said. ‘Quick, take a photo.’

Lara pulled out our camera and took the first of two photos. In my astonishment, a vast number of impressions and ideas flashed (flooded) across my mind at once, as the horizons and boundaries of ‘normal’ perception, thought, and observation suddenly opened wide. Then the tiny butterfly lifted off my finger but, rather than flying away, flittered around in front of my face and just above it. It seemed to be performing a little aerial dance. Then, it settled back down on my finger again, the same finger as before. ‘It must like me,’ I thought. I asked Lara to pass me the camera, slowly stretched my left arm out in front of me and, using only my right hand, managed to focus the apparatus so that I could take a slightly better close-up shot. I had to manipulate the camera carefully because I’m left-handed, and my right hand isn’t as flexible as my left. In terms of clock-time, although all this must have happened in a few seconds, I remember it as a moment in and through which the here-and-now expanded into a kind of timelessness, and time and space either stopped, or stopped being relevant. Time itself seemed to expand (disperse) and collapse (implode) simultaneously, and while ‘things’ were transformed because of this—somehow (and paradoxically) they also remained entirely ‘normal’: that is, exactly as they’d been previously. I’ve captured, or at least suggested, some of these complexities of response in ‘The telling, first attempt’, although the word attempt in the title clearly indicates my sense at that time that language itself—even language, the richest, finest, clearest of our communicative gifts—wasn’t adequate to expressing the fulness and subtlety (essence?) of such an experience, which leaks away, as it were, through minute cracks in language’s jar.

I don’t remember much, if anything, of what happened immediately after that. I know that I retained some immediate visual and spatial impressions of the museum’s interior, because I recalled them later on, when they became relevant to me as triggers for research. But the incident itself, of the butterfly perching on my finger—and then returning, and then flying away again—together with everything that had led up to it, has been engraved into my memory ever since, with a cut-glass clarity, scattering multiple refractions.

 

 

Our tour of Serbia continued and we moved on to other towns. As soon as Lara and I returned home to Cambridge, I had both our photos developed. Although these were of nowhere-near-professional standard, especially by comparison with the extraordinarily fine detail of modern digital photography, the first shot that Lara had snapped and the second that I’d taken both yielded quite clear images of the little blue creature astride my finger, almost as if it had been posing there, sunning itself, waiting—even somehow wanting (?)—to be photographed. Our camera had contained a colour film, so the butterfly’s delicate blueness came out clearly enough: wings edged in lacy whiteness, and a black contoured band, a kind of wavering border, between wingtips and the inner dominant blue.

Around that time, I wrote two poems to record the experience. They arrived spontaneously and effortlessly: first, ‘The blue butterfly,’ followed by ‘Nada: hope or nothing.’  The second poem contains two lines (‘A blue butterfly takes my hand and writes / in invisible ink across its page of air…’), which express my acute sense at that time that, rather than my writing them, both of these poems were writing themselves through and out of me. That’s to say, rather than my own will, intention (ego) being in control, the butterfly had somehow entered my imagination (psyche), and was guiding and guarding my hand in, through and along the entire compositional pathway.

It was hardly surprising that after the arrival (delivery) of these two poems, I realised that there was considerably more to be said—and done. As it turned out, these two poems eventually became the core of a book.

Thanks to the resources of Cambridge University Library, one of the great libraries of England, I was able to do some preliminary research into the Second World War in Yugoslavia. I began to delve into this subject from as many angles as possible, including records of German war documents. During this period, I also received and accepted several further invitations to various parts of the then-Federation of Yugoslavia, in Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia. These visits were short, usually lasting no more than one or two weeks: I went either to train English teachers on residential courses sponsored and planned by the British Council or to attend literary events organised by the Serbian Writers’ Association. As a result, by 1986 I had a good number of friends among both teaching and literary communities in Belgrade and in Split.

In my early twenties, I’d lived in Italy and then in Greece, and knew both countries well. Now, in my mid-forties, I was discovering that the more I learned about Yugoslavia—which, at that time, I first thought of as the ‘space between’ Italy and Greece—the more curious I became, the more attracted, and the more I wanted to discover about this zone as an entity in its own right.

 

 

Then a new possibility emerged. Branka Panić’s language centre in Belgrade needed a qualified native-speaker to teach English, and a job was to be advertised in the UK through the British Council. By this time, I’d already given poetry readings and run several poetry workshops at this centre, and had several friends there. If I went to live in Belgrade, I’d have the chance to experience Yugoslav—and more specifically, Serbian—culture first-hand, learn some Serbo-Croatian,[1] and work on The Blue Butterfly. I decided to apply for the post, and was interviewed by a laconic mandarin at the British Council’s head office in Davies Street, London. ‘I see no reason,’ he drawled, snootily and almost absent-mindedly, ‘why we can’t accept you.’ In this way, a new phase in my life was set in motion.In 1987, Yugoslavia didn’t figure especially prominently in the consciousness of most of my English literary acquaintances. I found myself being asked sceptical questions: ‘Yugoslavia? Why on earth are you going to live in Yugoslavia?’  But I didn’t feel like arguing, and in any case, had always been attracted by edges, borders, and zones of intersections, criss-crossings and crossovers, rather than self-appointed, self-important, big-time ‘centres.’ So, I took the quick way out and answered, ‘I’m going to chase butterflies,’ thinking of Georges Brassens’s song, ‘La chasse aux papillons.’

I lived in Yugoslavia from 1987 to 1990. I was 44 when I arrived and 47 when I left. During that time, I wrote many poems that would eventually find their way into The Blue Butterfly. Following my return to Cambridge in June 1990, I worked sporadically on the book, doing more research, following up various themes, and writing more poems as and when they appeared. I wasn’t in a hurry. I knew that this book, with its inception in the synchronistic event of 1985, needed to gestate, emerge, and ripen in its own way and in its own time. I thought of this book as a single composite poem, an organic whole, rather than as a collection of disparate shorter pieces. As things turned out, it took me twenty years to complete. (Another way of putting this is that my little butterfly turned out to be a particularly heavy specimen, and that it took me twenty years to free myself from the almost weightless weight of its momentary touch on my finger.) The first English edition was followed by the Serbian, and the translation was utilised as the oratorio for the open-air choral and dramatic commemoration at Šumarice in the same year.

 

 

After writing ‘The blue butterfly’ and ‘Nada: hope or nothing’ in 1985, very soon after my return to Cambridge from Serbia, I began to realise that something larger was gestating in me (gesturing to me), of which these two small poems were only indications (forerunners, harbingers). What this something was, or where it came from, I didn’t at first understand at all. Even so, I did trust its source and its impetus and did so instinctively. I also fully recognised what it was doing—which was calling me (calling on me, calling me out): to write. And while I could scarcely help recognise that these two small poems possessed their own intrinsic qualities of authenticity and depth, it dawned on me that they were also glimpses of a vastly larger and more extensive inner seam, which, so long as I was attentive and patient, I might possibly be capable of exploring and mining. This seam, I realised at the time, and expressed later, ran deep into and through my own personal psyche, both as a Jew and as a poet, entwining these two lodes. And from responses to these poems in Serbia, later on I also realised how deeply it runs through the intersubjective identity and history of the Serbian people too. This set of discoveries surfaced very slowly and gradually: it assembled itself piecemeal, during and along with the composition of the book itself, evidently incorporating (embodying) my full volition, while somehow appearing of its own accord and revealing the whole of itself only in its own good time.

Evidently, my job was to listen, watch, scry, follow, delve—and keep listening and watching for the deeper sources of these two initial poems. Eventually, my butterfly-experience and the poems that flowed out of it would touch and activate (resonate) an archetypal chord not only in myself but in others.

 

 

In the Greek tradition, the paradigmatic call to the poet to compose and to sing is delivered, mysteriously, by one of the Muses, daughters of Mnemosyne, goddess of Memory, and of Zeus, king of the Gods. The nine daughters of Memory are the nurses, guides, and guardians of poetic inspiration. In the opening of his epic masterpiece, Paradise Lost, John Milton calls on his Muse, Urania: ‘Sing heavenly muse.’ Urania, highest of the Muses and patroness of astronomy, is named after the heavenly god Uranus, or Ouranos. Even in Modern Greek, the word ουρανός means ‘sky.’

Who, then, was calling me, on me, calling me out? Certainly, not Urania.

I had felt, even during or immediately after the event, that the butterfly landing on my hand was a message that involved the soul. I knew, too, that in ancient Greek the single word ψυχή (ancestor of our word psyche) meant both‘butterfly’ and ‘soul.’ What’s more, in my mind, as I stood outside the museum gate at Šumarice, it wasn’t so much that the butterfly symbolised the soul in any conventional modern sense, but that butterfly and soul were one. And this integral cognitive and linguistic connection between butterfly and soul, through the word ψυχή, occurred to me at that time. Whether this recognition happened simultaneously with the butterfly landing on my finger or in the nano-seconds after it, I can’t be sure; but, certainly, this meaning (meaningfulness) was key to both the core-event and the entire experience. And as for this particular butterfly, I was now coming to think of it as ‘my’ butterfly, sensing that I had a special bond with it. And I began to have extensive discussions with myself about the creature; and in some of these, I found myself addressing the creature as part of myself.

Clearly, then, my Muse was ψυχή, the butterfly-soul. And this entity or being had already ‘chosen’ me, simply by sitting on the forefinger of my writing hand. Equally clearly, this Muse of mine scarcely belonged to the Empyrean (aetherial) heights, but rather to the lower air, and to the gates between life and death. I recognised, too, that these gates had been opened up to me—in me, and through me—gradually and progressively, ever since 1957, when as an Anglo-Jewish boy of thirteen growing up in London, I had first learned about the Nazi Holocaust.

Nor did I need anyone to explain to me that, in Greek mythology, the gates between life and death are those between this world and the Underworld, ruled over by Hades and his queen, Persephone, daughter of Demeter. I knew too, that the myth of Persephone enacts (re-enacts, embodies, encapsulates) the natural annual cycle and the theme (motif, imagem, symbol—and also archetype) of rebirth, even though it didn’t occur to me consciously at that time to connect this intellectual (bookish, theoretical) knowledge with the fulness of the emotional (heuristic, transformational) experience that I was undergoing in the wake of this synchronistic event.

Thinking of this (and thinking it through) in retrospect, as I write this account in 2019, thirty-four years later, it’s clear to me that the meaning of the proximity of the massacre and the butterfly-soul or soul-butterfly in the synchronistic event, involves rebirth. And at the time, to me at least, an immediate, direct coincidence (connection, link, mesh, merging, bind, bond) was established between the butterfly and the massacre. This involved a metamorphosis—perhaps even a metempsychosis.

 

 

Even so, if I were to interpret the creature as a perfectly articulated materialisation (embodiment, incarnation, appearance, epiphany) of the soul, the question was, whose? At some point in this inner debate with myself, now indiscernible and unrecapturable, I developed the sense that the butterfly’s message to me wasn’t only personally directed at me—to me, for me—but that it was entirely clear and very simple. After all, the creature had come, whether by chance, accident, or ‘of its own accord,’ to sit on the forefinger of my writing hand, no-one else’s. Wasn’t there, then, at least according to the mode of thinking that I was applying then—and am also and still applying here—that is, the ancient, Neolithic, symbolic, mythical, mythopoeic mode of poetry, rooted in correspondences and their accretions—wasn’t there at the very least a kind of elective affinity between my writing hand and this soul-butterfly or butterfly-soul?

As for the inner meaning of my butterfly’s message, my sense developed that I was being directed (asked, tasked), called (called on, called out), told (and even tolled—almost as if I were some kind of bell)—to write about (and to write out) the massacre. This calling to me at least was as clear as any call (or call-out or call-up) possibly could be, delivered in the soul’s own code-language, a code that had no need of human words. Its meaning and meaningfulness were self-evident, in the blue butterfly’s arrival on my writing hand.Afterword: The Butterfly, the Soul and Rebirth

Any child who has watched any one of the mysterious transitions in the life-cycle of a butterfly—from egg to caterpillar, from caterpillar to chrysalis, and from chrysalis to flying adult (imago)—is likely to be enthralled by the experience. And it’s a small leap from this natural observation to an adult’s understanding of how in ancient Greece this creature should have become identified with ψυχή, the soul, and to have evolved as a symbol for both emergence and transformation. For, since the transformations in a butterfly’s life are visible embodiments of natural metamorphoses, by extension and analogy they’re evidently interpretable in terms of both rebirth and metempsychosis.

C.G. Jung introduces the key theme of rebirth into his famous discussion of his patient’s dream of a scarab, which was followed by a similar insect flying in through the window of his consulting room during an analytical session with the same patient. This episode has almost come to be read as a paradigm for his theory of synchronicity itself:

It was an extraordinarily difficult case to treat, and up to the time of the dream little or no progress had been made. […] Evidently something quite irrational was needed which was beyond my powers to produce. The dream alone was enough to disturb ever so slightly the rationalistic attitude of my patient. But when the ‘scarab’ came flying in through the window in actual fact, her natural being could burst through the armour of her animus possession and the process of transformationcould at last begin to move. Any essential change of attitude signifies a psychic renewal which is usually accompanied by symbols of rebirth in the patient’s dreams and fantasies. The scarab is a classic example of a rebirth symbol.     (Jung, The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, 439, §845)

In commenting on the transpersonal or archetypal nature of this episode, Roderick Main writes:

Whether or not the patient in the incident […] had prior exposure to images of scarabs, and whether or not she could have acquired from her personal experience a disposition to produce symbols of rebirth, the synchronicity suggests that some factor larger than her personal psyche has been involved in the organisation of the events—a factor that encompasses the external world of nature in addition to her psychic world.  (Main, The Rupture of Time, 2014: 133; emphasis added.)

And he adds:

Further, as Jung’s example of the scarab beetle indicated, the content of synchronistic events is often mythic. This is not surprising if we bear in mind that, for Jung, synchronistic events are based on the activation of archetypes and myths are the narrative elaboration of archetypal motifs.  (ibid. 163; emphasis added)

Jung’s and Main’s perspectives richly inform my ‘understanding’ of the incident of the blue butterfly landing on my hand. Experientally, this event involved both the process of transformation and of psychic renewal. It included a factor larger than the personal psyche in the organisation of the events, and this factor not only encompassed the external world of nature, but did so in ways that activated archetype and myth. And even though the word ‘understanding,’ with all its connotations of logically presented, rationally argued, causally derived, and consciously motivated and directed interpretation, is hardly the right one here—since the core of whatever I do understand remains richly incomprehensible, radically inexplicable, ineluctably acausal, and ineffably mysterious—in short, entirely beyond me—I still can’t think of any better word. This event changed my life, and it still resonates in and through me. I return to it again and again, and it won’t let me go. But that’s all right. The blue butterfly binds me into joy. For whatever may come after it, to have been visited even just once by the muse in a form that the Greeks designated as that of the soul itself, can scarcely be construed as anything less than a blessing.

                                                                                                                     From Balkan Spaces
forthcoming from Shearsman Books, 2021

[1] The expressions Serbo-Croatian and Serbo-Croat are no longer politically correct either literally or in terms of taste. I use Serbo-Croatian non-controversially here and in accurate historical context. Since the demise of Yugoslavia, the term has been systematically suspended and superseded by the separate linguistic designations Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian and Montenegrin, each of which claims its own separate identity despite almost total mutual comprehension and, in terms of both grammar and vocabulary, many more points in common than differences. See ‘’Declaration on the Common Language,’ online at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_on_the_Common_Language

Three Poems from The Blue Butterfly

The blue butterfly

On my Jew’s hand, born out of ghettos and shtetls,
raised from unmarked graves of my obliterated people
in Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia,

on my hand mothered by a refugee’s daughter,
first opened in blitzed London, grown big
through post-war years safe in suburban England,

on my pink, educated, ironical left hand
of a parvenu not quite British pseudo gentleman
which first learned to scrawl its untutored messages

among Latin-reading rugby-playing militarists
in an élite boarding school on Sussex’s green downs
and against the cloister walls of puritan Cambridge,

on my hand weakened by anomie, on my
writing hand, now of a sudden willingly
stretched before me in Serbian spring sunlight,

on my unique living hand, trembling and troubled
by this May visitation, like a virginal
leaf new sprung on the oldest oak in Europe,

on my proud firm hand, miraculously blessed
by the two thousand eight hundred martyred
men, women and children fallen at Kragujevac,

a blue butterfly simply fell out of the sky
and settled on the forefinger
of my international bloody human hand.

Nada : hope or nothing

Like a windblown seed, not yet rooted
or petal from an impossible moonflower, shimmering,
unplucked, perfect, in a clear night sky,

like a rainbow without rain, like the invisible
hand of a god stretching out of nowhere
to shower joy brimful from Plenty’s horn,

like a greeting from a child, unborn, unconceived,
like an angel, bearing a gift, a ring, a promise,
like a visitation from a twice redeemed soul,

like a silent song sung by the ghost of nobody
to an unknown, sweet and melodious instrument
buried ages in the deepest cave of being,

like a word only half heard, half remembered,
not yet fully learned, from a stranger’s language,
the sad heart longs for, to unlock its deepest cells,

a blue butterfly takes my hand and writes
in invisible ink across its page of air
Nada, Elpidha, Nadezhda, Esperanza, Hoffnung.

The telling (first attempt)

In that moment, I remembered nothing
but became memory. I was being.
And as for before? Before – a mouthing
of half-dumb shadows had been my hearing
and tunnels sculpted and bored through fearing
the whole bolstered scope of my seeing.

Now my ears awakened in an alert
attentive and percipient listening
to scoured shells of voices, wholly prised apart
from those dead mouths, pouring their testament
onto spring wind, stirred by the instrument
of the butterfly at rest on my finger, glistening.

And I saw the May morning sun shoot fire
on the hillsides, which still glowed green, intact,
and those massed children, I heard as a choir,
although still only schoolkids, who chattered.
Nothing was marred or maimed. Everything mattered.
Matter was miracle. Miracle was fact.

As though an index to the infinite
library of nature and history
had tumbled into me, and a fortunate
finding of buried keys, of forgotten
reference and disappeared quotation
had filled my sight, as gift, as mystery,

all was ordinary, still – and, yet, otherness
without seam. The world didn’t sheer away
but was its very self, no more nor less
than ever, but tuned now to its own being,
and the heard and seen were hearing, seeing,
spirit within spiral, wave within way.

 

From The Blue Butterfly, Shearman Books, 2011Richard BerengartenRichard Berengarten (b. 1943, London) is an English and international poet who lives in Cambridge. His work and thought have been strongly influenced by both C. G. Jung and David Bohm. Several of his recent writings include specific explorations of synchronicity, including Notness, a series of 101 sonnets (2015) and Changing (2016), a book-length poem written in homage to the I Ching. During the 2021 Pari webinars on Synchronicity, Mind and Matter, he will share extracts from both these works. Other books of his include: (poetry) Tree (1980), Black Light (1983), Croft Woods (1999), The Balkan Trilogy (2005-2007),  Manual (2013), and the multilingual web-based Volta Project (2009-) and Albero Project (2017-). His prose writings include: Keys to Transformation (1981), Imagems 1 and 2 (2011, 2018), and Balkan Spaces (forthcoming 2021). In the 1970s, he founded the now legendary international Cambridge Poetry Festival. He has lived in Italy, Greece, the USA and former Yugoslavia, and worked in Eastern Europe and China, and his poems have been translated into more than 100 languages. He is a Bye-Fellow of Downing College (Cambridge), an Academic Associate of Pembroke College (Cambridge), a member of the English Association, and a Principal Counsellor of the Medellin International Poetry Festival (Colombia). He is married to Jungian analyst Melanie Rein.