Blesok no. 60, May-June, 2008
Essays


Where After the Last Poetry of Ante?
(To the legacy of the golden poetic seed of Ante Popovski: Две тишини, Коска паленица и Пророчки труби. – Скопје, „Pro Littera“, 2005)

Kristina Nikolovska


I am of those generations that shall be proud that we had the honor to personally know him. I am one of the lucky ones who could not only listen to the voice of the poet, but also to experience his voice, his poetry live. Since I was a little child, his voice for me was somehow – Macedonian, maybe the most Macedonian voice that I had every heard. And his speech was – the most Macedonian it could be. The intonation, the cultivated expressiveness, that it how it was.
    For Popovski's poetry simple makes “love” to the language. It makes open love with the Macedonian language. It challenges it, seduces it, tempts it, shapes it, makes it” prouder, straighter, more dignified. This poetry is like a woman, a lover, who loves her lover in the most beautiful way. It pays him a public tribute, blesses him eternally, encourages him to have him understand how great his is.
    In this way, with the holy poem, the Macedonian language was also sanctified. Our thought, our kin was sanctified.
Together, they uplift is, gives us the right to respect ourselves and to resurrect. This is an eternal right. And it shall give the same right to those who come after us.
    This poetry decided to give meaning to what had been without a meaning, in its own, unique, brilliant way.
And we had the privilege to have it.
    With Ante Popovski's poetry, we all became greater, Venko and I, the audience, all of us.

* * *

Today this room is full, our writer's “home” is full, because we have all crowded today. But, no matter how many of us there are, double, triple, today we all have the right to share the feeling that we are lonely. At this moment, we gathered as a big, huge sad family that misses the wise member whom we always expected to teach as a virtuoso, as a wise man, as a parent of the refined word. That is how he taught us. I think that we still wait, and we have the right to expect every piece of “gold” from his verses.
    That is how we also encountered the most recent “house of verses” of the poet, – the three posthumously printed books of poetry: Две тишини, Коска паленица, Пророчки труби, published by “Pro Litera”, with the blessing of the Ministry of Culture.
    Две тишини is the latest poetic “breath”, a rarity unheard, unpublished, unshared so far.
    If these verses are accessed as our relic, then there is no bigger sacralisation. If this poetry is experienced as bread and wine, as a piece of the “body” and “blood” of his poetry – then it is a big, dignified communion. If we are believers in poetry, and we are such, then let us share this holy act together. The creator of the words is asking as from afar to do this. I know that he would want us to do this as noble as we can.
    That is why today is a holy day for poetry, today we will all become sacred, if we listen to his verses, if we experience them together.
    If there are collective moments of massive unhappiness, as there are moments of common happiness, when thousands of people feel the same, or at least similar, then today is the day when we can join via: same feelings, same moods, same thoughts and dilemmas. We can do this via his words, his legacy, his conscience. And his supreme conscience was poetry. His supreme candor, and honesty was poetry.

* * *

I am on of those who live the poetry of Ante Popovski. My life has more value because of the deep, intimate, long friendship with his poetry. This poetry “gave birth” to many new worlds. And it will give many more births. There is “my”, “our”, “your”, “their” world with this poetry.
    It heels in the most beautiful way, not as a doctor, but as a natural, genuine poet. People have always healed themselves by words. Today, we shall heal together a bit.
    I claim that Ante's poetry is one of those that can even save a life. To drag you away from the bad.
    Because he is benefactor, a father of temples, spiritual ones in which we enter, we calm down, we support, we are listened to and understood. Because Ante understood us all even before we started to understand and comprehend him.



* * *

In Две тишини he “asks” from us to seek, to experience “the silence between two words”, like in the first, untitled poem, a “portal-poem”:

    There it is below, between two coasts,
    in the silence between two words,
    the warm seed of its own language,
    leaning on its shadow it waits for nothing and – nobody.      (25)

    Not only that he asks from us to “enhale”, “taste” the silence between two words, but also to think of the distance: between two men, between two thoughts, between two emotions, between two coasts…
    This “space” between two words is a “holy place” for their Creator Ante. This is how he experiences this space in a completely different poem:

    In the space between two words,
    in he transition from one to the another
    there is the end. The silence comes first
    and then, together with my mother tongue
    ingrown like my twin
    we will remember this light together –
    our birth place.       (193)

    The poet is a “twin brother” to his and our language. Their birth place is this silence-light. This “birth place” was created (if I understand well and if I am on the right path as an interpreter) from the “warm seed of its own language – from the previous poem.  
    If Šopov wanted to depict the “birth” of the word, then Ante goes further – he wants to reveal – a new secret. If silence precedes “the birth of the word”, as he says, then there is another “birth” that follows, not only “birth of words”, but also “birth of silences” between them. The shaping, and even the dosing of silences between words is similar to biological phenomena. If the life is preceded by the non-existence or silence, the pre-silence, then the birth is the word – life. But life is also abundant with silence, emptiness, abysses, or episodes, phases that we grow out of. Then, the new next word that follows gives a full meaning to the silence that “lived” between two words.
    Here Ante has put together a whole “planet” between two words, he has given a “mind” to millimeters” or the “oceans” between them.
    I will give myself the right to understand that he maybe wanted to encourage us to give meaning to our “emptiness” in our lives ourselves. To teach us how to “stitch” the empty, dark spots.
    But how? As we would ask a possible “teacher of life” – if there is such a person or such a profession. If somewhere sometimes the subject of “teaching living the life” is introduced, then the first literature can be this poetry. Poetry that in its own way has already “outgrown” the psychotherapist, the doctor, the preacher or any allegedly competent person.
    The emptiness between two silences, maybe between the “non-being” and death is proposed to be filled in with life by Ante in a discrete, indirect way. If life is between these two silences, then what is found between the two silences in poetry is the word.
    This cult spot, this “insides” of a woman giving birth, which “grows” in a natural time, reminds me of the time that Julija Kristeva calls a “woman's biological time” (as opposed to the man's one, which is a “project time”). This woman's time is carried by nature, it gives it where it wants. And it wanted to give it to the poetry of the great poet. It is fertile, quite fertile is the “ground”, the soil that gives birth between the two blessed words of Ante. Even between each two words. And between each two phonemes or between two poetic gestures or movements. And his self conscience of this is crystal clear, but not shown in public, because of his modesty. That is why he never underestimated us, although he had obviously understood us more than we could understand him; that is why he left us verses as the ones in poem entitled He Chose His Words:

    That is so, he thought,
    Because without you there is no beginning
    And without you there is no end either…   (201)

    Without pathetic, calmly, moderately he reminded us not only of the first scream at birth, but of the last word before death, their small mini-episodes, life-blocks, phases of our lives. The small subbirths and subdeaths, multiple in the course of a simple mortal life. This oxymoron asks us to be born again: “to place” many of our lives in a single life. Just like the poem “collects” more of its lives (and smaller poems) and in this way has more meanings (something like a multiplied polysemy in the theory of literature), our lives should become a “dwelling” or a “house” of more meanings.

* * *

One of the most beautiful, most precious, most voluptuous “houses” in which I have ever “lived” – is Ante Popovski's poetry. I honestly and warmly recommend you and ask you to wish to “move into” and “live in” these castles, palaces, where you will be treated as an emperor.
    If there is a scholarly, competent evaluation of frescoes, if there is a “measure” for the pricelessness of our prides in the temples of this country, is there a measure, an evaluation, or a subspecialist to measure the pricelessness of these verses? If there is, then these verses should be protected by UNESCO, then we should join the European Union today, then Macedonia shall grow and be one of the biggest countries in the world… But, there is no measure for this evaluation, there is not even a science, or, if there is, this poetry is not worthy of it. Even if there are more sciences joined, more “readings”, I know that one will only reach some place. And again, it will be clearer to him than to all of us.
    This national collection can be imagined as artistic paintings or as a gallery of icons. If each of his poems is framed and exhibited as a painting, or we set it as an icon, then there will be a priceless exhibition, which will ask for a separate huge facility, our “holy place”.
    Because Ante is the big Macedonian donor, benefactor, well doer, a tireless investor. A creator… who left as a legacy for us the most precious “books for life”. He left a heritage for the hermeneutics scholars, philosophers, stylists, poets, and even doctors. The “poetic testament” is the book    Две тишини, which we promote today. It is a crown (or the last word) of his poetry. Quite consciously.
    If he unconsciously often consulted the supreme Creator, in maestros Holy Poems, then he unconsciously became our, Macedonian Creator, who will modestly greet you on the street, talk to you, and somewhere there he shall “carve” verses, wanting to help us, as his close of kin. Us, his kin, his seed…



* * *

The legacy poetry of Ante Popovski is a “supreme meaning” between two silences that could happen to this country and this culture, for which he cared as his own daughter, taking care that nobody “dishonors” her, thinking of:

    The honor that you tried to take from
    Our fatherland…      (153)

* * *

Maybe it is time that I apologized for my emotions, maybe it is time that you forgave me that I dared at all to speak about His word, but maybe this poetry made me such. And it shall also shape and reshape you. As of today, I think, once this verses of Ante are heard for the first time, the poets shall become more poets, the doctors more doctors, the politicians more politicians, or in short – the people more people. For we were addressed by a more of a man, more than a human, more of a poet… May all those who were dedicated a poem in this book be proud, but let us the unnamed that are being addressed also be proud.
    How can be not believe him, when he proposes, even if we lose everything in life, even if we can not have children, that paradoxically, the only “way out” is “birth” or “rebirth”. And what is the seed of the new fertility after some “death'? This is what Ante says:

    There is nothing which is not word.
    Not even the eternity, not even transience.
    A living remnant of the creation times
    the word continues to create living worlds
    as opposed to the deserts in our souls.      (143)

The “creator word”, the “mother word” of the future, which we are yet to fill with meaning, is the biggest cult “seed” of the new worlds. That is how Popovski's poetry “gives birth”, that is how the syntagms are “fertilized” via: love, magnetism, “chemistry”, and even the “marriages” between words. The sentences also become “partners”. This is how the poems themselves “talk” to each other.
    “Golden seed” are the poetic legacy, Две тишини, Коска паленица, Пророчки труби, Светата песна and you know what other collections I have in mind.

* * *

For only Ante and nobody else asks us alone:

    Whom
shall I keep quiet
    Who shall teach me
    How to live without myself?       (36)

    When we have already “left ourselves” or when we have become aware that it happened long ago, silently, quietly, we have the right to ask: “How?” “How further?”
    If we have forced ourselves and used to be without others, without those whom we love, “live” or only “finish living” the “rest of the life”, even by force, are we so cursed to force ourselves to “also live without ourselves? There is no bigger loneliness. We are becoming “guests” of our own life. We see off ourselves, even before the others see us off. We see ourselves as we depart. Every day. Without anybody finding out. In secret.
    And it all happens – in time. Now Ante will correct me and teach me with his verses: “[what] we the living comprehend as time”. The poem The Preacher reads this:

    Never and nowhere He mentioned the thing
    that we the living comprehend as time,
    and here, we basically
    differ from the Preacher
    we never wanted we never could
    understand that it was not the time
    but life itself
    that passed for us.      (32)

    And indeed, this is how we constantly regret the “time”. What “we have lost”, what “never happened”, or what “happened” in that time, or what we do not have and we shall not have ”the time” to “happen”. If I understood Ante well, it is “not the time that passed”, but the life. Because he says: “ we never wanted we never could understand”. Or he wants to tell us that we did not understand at all “what time was?” and “what life was?” These categories are not the same after these verses. The school book or the philosophy dictionary would not be same after this distinction. We too are not the same. What do we do? Do we fill in “the time”? Do we naively believe that we “fill it with meaning”? The illusion is even cute. When we are most convinced that time “passes”, that is “runs away”, the Preacher knows that our “life” passes. But the drama that we use to occasionally remind ourselves that life passes is pathetic or unnecessary. When we think that we were the most conscious that it happens, via drastic comparisons, via someone's death, then or in those more dramatic situations, we usually think of ourselves only. It is then that we are trapped or in an illusion that “life passes by”. No, it also passes by in far more banal situations, in far more everyday episodes, … and maybe it does not pass only on one spot. Where?
    In the poetry. If Ante understood and he claims that “fear is older than the poem”, can it outlive it, defeat it, win over it, outsmart it, as an old woman. Can it wind it – by life, and can it lose – by death? Like in any game, chess for example?
    I think that it has already done it, it did it bravely, in the bravest and most cunning possible way. Ante's poetry has cleared with “fear”, because it says:
    “I stand before a noble challenge: to return the fear with a –poem! Fear is older than the poem, but that is the advantage of the life that I defend: I left everything that I had to it, I did everything that I could for it, and it is quite natural that it is I who defend it and not its shadow.” (30)
    Is the victory over fear – maturity? Does it mean that the poetry is the place where this victory can be seen in a most crystal way? And be shared with another?
    So. So, if we make an effort to seek for the most delicate, most essential questions in Popovski's newest poetry our path to knowledge shall be shortened, we shall save years of unnecessary thoughts, maybe we shall finally find the strength with him and him only, as a “doctor of the soul via word”, as an invisible and unordained “preacher” to finally clear with our long term compromises, illusions, masks…



Poetry that has the strength and right to get directly involved in your lives, more than a mother, more than a benevolent parent or a wise old woman, more than the closest, it is not only the supreme wise one, but it is also the most needed “house” in which we should “enter”. There, they will calm us down and comfort us that:

    Truly, life was maybe not good
    
But is was beautiful…

    What do we do with this sentence? Can it be everybody's? Can we agree that although “it was not good” to us personally, it is nevertheless… irresistibly beautiful.
    
Even if we are 90 years old, this sentence “it was beautiful” still wishes that it was not in the past tense. Here, on this spot of “thickened awareness”, the idea of a beautiful life starts to grow. And we understand that in the meantime we have only “prepared” for this general, someone's “beautiful life”.
    But, the paradox returns as a boomerang. Maybe for the others, our “poor”, “bad” life is their imagined, “beautiful life”. Do we grieve for other “beautiful” lives, and we live our own “bad” ones?
    Most often yes. For “other's” yard is somehow more beautiful than ours, ours is neglected.
    Or have we imagined that ours is the most beautiful, and then we are blind that our neighbor does not need a yard at all.
    Do we speak of “happiness”, “beautiful life”, more precisely of the idea or the “commercial” of a so-called “beautiful life”?
    This is how Ante sets the issues. First, he advises us and teaches us to be open to ourselves:
  
    This light that teaches
    how to speak with ourselves
    most honestly,       (161)

and then:

    It all depends on the honesty
    with which you speak to yourself
    and the readiness
    to understand yourself as a stone…      (16)

    The degree of “honesty”,
I would say greatness, and even the “age of honesty”, which we have (or do not have) is the best approach to knowledge on the evaluation of: quality of life, and even everything else. When, how shall we face it? In our old age, shall we say: “life was like this”, or sooner, shall we decide to be “directors”, “architects”, “pilots”, “bosses” or our own life. No matter how much we love it or accept it. If we first accept it or agree, at least in our face, then we shall accept it easier; our voice, our verse, our wishes, our illusions, and then the ones of the others too.
    That is how Ante “entered” all of us, he stayed in all of those to whom he dedicated or did not dedicate a poem, that is how he wanted to “get out of” us, and to calm us:

    It is not very difficult
    to become a stone; freestone and marble,
    even. It all depends on the honesty
    to yourself, the truthfulness
    with which you accept or not
    the truth that surrounds you, which has
    big, open eyes that can see
    on the other side. When it happens,
    you can say: you are a stone,
    the world grows on your ruins as well…      (162)

    When those who love us die before us, they scare us, as if preparing a softer, warmer ”field” which awaits us when we join them. They go before us, as if in “cold water”. So Ante, who “buried the fear” by a poem, asked it to help us, to be with us, when it is the most difficult. His poem. His silences and nonsilences.

* * *

Now I too have the right to ask: Where after Ante Popovski's poetry? Where after the newest distressing truth or honesty? Because, according to him:

    The word has big eyes, he thought
    It watches far behind…      (202)

    And in another poem the word is a “soul of the soul”:

    Because the word is a way out
    
Of the dark forgetfulness of the matter
    And a souls of the soul.      (213)

    Where
after this poetry?
Ante said in the last verses:

    Just a while longer and I shall return home…      (137)

    And he also said how, in another poem:

    Here I am, I rose and I set in the word…      (191)

    He also said how it will happen:

    (…) Over there,
    we shall go to bed alone,
    for we only gave the life
    something of our own,
    while we gave death everything…      (61)

    In Две тишини the poet said good-bye to all, and he said good-bye to himself, with the dearest that he had – the word. He did it with the poem He Went to Bed with the Word:

    He is not here,
    he left.

    (…)

    He chose a poignant chamber
    and he went to bed with his word
    now nobody knows
    if he is silent or dreaming.

    He is not here,
    he left.      (192)

* * *

Where after Ante's last poetry?

* * *

Today we “entered” it together, and we will have to “exit” alone.
    Today, we shall all be quiet in the same silence, we shall take it to our homes.

* * *

In the end, I want to publicly thank Macedonia for giving us Ante, and also to get angry to death for taking him from us

Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska




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