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Review: Six Macedonian Poets, ed. Igor Isakovski

Ian Brinton, Translation and Meaning, POETRY SALZBURG REVIEW No. 22, Autumn 2012

... By contrast the small Balkan country of Macedonia may seem geographically less Gothic but, as Ana Martinoska points out in her introduction to the new Arc Publication anthology, Six Macedonian Poets, there are no nations or literatures that are small, insignificant or culturally less important than others and every culture and genre should be presented to a broader audience without hesitation or fear of marginalisation. (Scorpius Balcanicus or How to Read Macedonian Poetry, p. 11) The volume of six contemporary poets is edited by Igor Isakovski whose own poem about its own creation evokes that moving outwards and return that the Mobius strip gives us:

you need whiteness
scary whiteness
voracious emptiness
and decisiveness
a hand as steady
as a surgeon's (or a butcher's)
calm thoughts punctuated by little disturbances
as images enter and exit
without any resolution
whispers and shouts from the past but never in unison
except in some contrived poem

How to Write a Poem, p. 123

The quest for definition of an ars poetica plays with Lacan's 'goal' and 'aim' where the poetic drive is satisfied by being thwarted and not attaining its end: it does not miss its aim since the very path to its goal is its end and it achieves this by curving back on itself. The draughtsman's hand needs to be steady like the surgeon if the Escher-like topological landscape of the poem is to remain true.

Martinoska's introductory comments refer to the act of translation as being one of the best forms of cultural representation, as a mediation among languages and nations, cross-cultural and inter-cultural communication bringing the world closer together, both in time and space. (Scorpius Balcanicus P.12) Illustrating this it is worth turning to Kata Kulavkova's version of an old tale of Babel's tower:

Once there were many tribes and they all spoke the same language.
And grew strong, stronger than God.
And they built a magnificent tower.
As a symbol of their strength.

When the one above realized language is power
and power brings people together,
he destroyed the tower.

He razed it to its foundations.
Only then the one above
would allow himself
to be

A Babylonian Tale, p. 103

There is something both disturbing and reassuring about the conclusion above: on the one hand it suggests a tyrannical concern for keeping people from sharing ideas whilst on the other it celebrates the individual voice that cannot be merged into the sounds of another.

It is this contrast of the one and the many that lies beneath the prefatory remarks to another anthology. Six Latvian Poets, in this fine series of New Voices from Europe and Beyond. The series editor, Alexandra Buchler, refers to translation as the outcome of a dialogue between two cultures, languages and different poetic sensibilities (Series Editor's Preface, p. 9), a dialogue between collective as well as individual imaginations, conducted by two voices, that of the poet and of the translator, and joined by a third interlocutor in the process of reading. (ibid.)