Review of the book Rúnimirce an Anama (for the journal Cyphers)
(Translation into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock of the selected poems of leading Macedonian poet Nikola Madzirov, published by Coiscéim 2010).
"If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise." (William Blake)
This review provides a very brief introduction to the work of a poet whose work is little-known in Ireland as of yet but whose voice and artistic vision are both unique and extremely beautiful. Born in Strumica, Macedonia, in 1973 Madzirov is a poet and translator whose poetry has been translated into twenty different languages thus far. One of the leading Macedonian poets of the younger generation his latest book Relocated Stone (2007) received the Hubert Burda Award, which is presented to authors born in Central and Eastern Europe. His language and his artistic sensibility are new and exciting and he is ploughing out a new aesthetic field of vision, a fresh artistic terrain. In an era when many artists have retreated into themselves and where large sections of the public may question the efficacy of art to generate change, philosophic or social, Madzirov reminds us that the we human beings are made from both flesh and spirit, that the crisis of modernity is both social/political and spiritual, that the meaning of life is much more profound than the simple accumulation of wealth or the apparent self-sufficiency of each and every one of us. French thinkers including Péguy and Mounier have reminded us of the necessity to change hearts and to personally struggle towards our sense of destiny in this world. So too with Madzirov’s poetry. It is a stark reminder, a wake-up call to those who read it: without remaining open to the transcendent, to the Mystery, we are lost. The weeds will always grow alongside the good plants, it is the nature of the human condition, the nature of History itself.
“Beauty will save the world”, Dostoevsky wrote and it is this realisation of the spirit in Madzirov’s poems which set him apart and answers our innate need for beauty, for love – without which we might lose the will to live:
Lá Nua Gach Lá
D’athmhúnlaíomar an domhan
as an nua ó lá go chéile:
anseo a bheidh na sléibhte,
thall ansin na cathracha,
inniu rithfidh na haibhneacha
isteach sa seomra suí.
Agus amárach arís eile
Bíodh na heitleoga sa spéir seo
na sosanna cogaidh thall ansin.
Sinne amháin a fágadh ar lár
sa chluiche seo,
chuir an nádúr sinne
sa suíomh céanna gach lá –
bhíos-sa réidh chun titim im chodladh
i mbosca lasán – tusa i gcás veidhlín.
Tá Duine Éigin ag Cnagadh ar an Doras
Ní ligfidh tú isteach é.
Tá duine éigin ag cnagadh ar an doras.
Ní ligfidh tú isteach é.
Tá na buillí agat á gcomhaireamh.
Tá duine éigin ag cnagadh ar an doras,
ar bhuillí do chroí.
Madzirov’s poetry can be read quickly but to find its true essence requires time and time is a major aspect of the creative process, of the human spirit and its longing, those longings which are common to every human heart. His writing is evidence that our hearts do not have need always for the “grand gesture”, it is the small acts performed in love which really matter in the end:
SNÁTHAIDÍ AN CHLOIG
Tar in oidhreacht d’óige
ón albam grianghraf.
Aistrigh an ciúnas
a leathann is a chrapann
mar ealta éan sa spéir.
Coinnigh id ghlac
an liathróid shneachta mhírialta
is na braonta a ritheann síos
líne na beatha.
Abair an phaidir
tríd an nglas ar do theanga –
is síolta iad na briathra is iad ag titim i bpota bláthanna.
Sa bhroinn a fhoghlaimítear an tost.
Dein iarracht teacht ar an saol
ar nós na snáthaide móire tar éis mheán oíche
is scoithfidh na soicindí láithreach tharat.
Madzirov is fascinated by time in a world where everybody thinks they will live forever. In fact it is his exploration of the relationship between time and art which holds the key to understanding his poetry. In many ways, his poems are like short films, small visual vignettes where he attempts to record time through its visible signs, its outward and spiritual manifestations. His poetic vision is one where time is no longer solely linear in nature; it is time “always becoming” - or as fully realized in past, present and future. It is this movement of time over a particular landscape, the feeling that is time anew which is both disturbing and beautiful at the same time. It is that moment of oscillation between invisible borders, the human spirit hovering in a manner Beckett (1979) termed the “Unnameable”:
…perhaps that’s what I feel, an outside and an inside and me in the middle, perhaps that’s what I am, the thing that divides the world in two, on the one side the outside, on the other the inside, that can be as thin as foil, I’m neither one side not the other, I’m in the middle, I’m the partition, I’ve two surfaces and no thickness, perhaps that’s what I feel, myself vibrating, I’m the tympanum, on the one hand the mind, on the other the world, I don’t belong to either. (1979, 352).
Madzirov links us again to the Eastern Christian and Orthodox notions of time and art. His poems are a reminder that the spiritual dimension of art frequently lies in its iconic character, that which is a reflection of God’s glory, the image as a manifestation of time beyond time:
Mairim idir dhá fhírinne
im sholas neoin ar crith
i halla folamh…
[ I live between two truths,
Like a neon light trembling in
An empty hall…]
It is the feelings which Madzirov’s poetry generates “beyond the page” which make them haunting and unique. They awake emotions in the reader which are not always possible (nor necessary) to explain, emotions which generate thought. His poems reflects an artistic consciousness which seeks the transcendent and endeavours to see beyond the limited impasse that is the reality of sensation. His poetry reasserts man’s natural desire to “live to the full”, to be “exalted” This is their particular and beautiful power. This book would never have been birthed without the strange beauty of Gabriel Rosenstock’s translations into Irish. Translation is a much-derided art form but one which is the life-blood of literature, of language itself. Without a clear understanding of the emotional impact that is the poet’s gift, we cannot perceive the emotional resonance of words which are beautifully-written or evocative. It takes a true crafter of language such as Rosenstock to comprehend the intimate nature of words and all their quirks, vagaries, and emotions. Any language which encloses itself away from the others will almost certainly exhaust itself and die. To place a weir where water should flow is always wrong. Rosenstock’s haunting translations remind us of this reality.
Dr. Mícheál Ó hAodha
Roinn na Staire agus Litríocht Chomparáideach