Blesok no. 71-73, March-August, 2010
For A Piece of Chocolate, A Gulp of Coffee per Written Line and Something More
(Zvonko Taneski, "Chocolate in a Portfolio", Blesok, 2010)
The interpreter is by definition external to the text that he analyses, but according to the classical concept, he should be as much closer as possible to each author, to dive into his world, to mix up with it (2004: 131-132). Just as Zvonko Taneski has found food (chocolate in particular) i.e. indulgence for his experience of integration into another culture (first in the Chzech, and now more and more in the Slovac one), I also found my exotopy in reading this indulgence of his. And the exotopy of the reader is an advantage, not a handicap (2004: 132). On the other hand, the interpreter of the text is a passer-by in his way, he tries to achieve that the readers and writers are described better (2004: 285). Because the reading, as watching films, or spending time with friends, drinking coffee, sharing the last piece of chocolate help you realize that you exist only when related to others. Completely alone you are nobody, without any ideas about yourself. Dedicating to the interpretation of the others, as Tzvetan Todorov stresses, you are given the possibility to convert the shortcoming into an advantage and thus the doubt in your own ability to be liked by people is transformed into an incredible abnility to interpret/understand the others. I don't know how much this text will show the degree to which I merged with Taneski's verses by being brave to speak on their behalf. However, I am expressing them and at the same time they express my convictions better than I could have done it myself:
(being naked in your soul is the ultimate nakedness
which still has a price –
you can lie in everything else).
(from Interruption of the Poem and Life)
The books will exist as long as there are stories that are convinced that they have to be told and as long as there are readers (and the writers are readers) who, when reading these stories, are convinced that they have to be completed, says Dubravka Ugrešić (Забрането читање. – Скопје: Сигмапрес, 2002, 203). Thus, this poetic manuscript Чоколада во портфолио [Chocolate in a Portfolio] (Скопје: Културна установа БЛЕСОК, 2010, 112)
My book, open up completely
as a vein filled with bulging blood,
as a jug of wine for thirsty lips,
as a news of the moving
as an unfinished travel,
as a search out and inside oneself,
(from An Open Book)
These are verses that are consumed as a piece of chocolate which satisfies the need for sugar of the body after lunch, after a smoked cigarette, after love passion. These are verses that yearn to be read as a delicacy:
Can I assist her
as an inspiration, as a worm, as an anxiety,
as a restlessness, as a gulp of coffee after a written line?
(from Can I?)
These are verses that we indulge when they become somebody's thirst, like in the motto of the collection:
The more poems, the less poetry!
If you grant verses, give thirst!
Are there enough thirsty people?
The choice that his verses are put under the chocolate mark is maybe because of the knowledge that the border between enjoyment and evil is strongly manifested in chocolate itself. It remains a first stronghold of the final ideological inadaptability of the other, the colonized, the de-individualized and exploited. Its polymorphous nature is experienced as a challenge because we can also consume it as powder, icing, but also to nibble it in pieces, without thinking that besides water, chocolate also has the privilege to appear/exist in all three aggregate states. Water is life, isn't it? This also means that chocolate is life? Well yes, if one takes into consideration that this polymorphous nature, as well as its closeness to warmth and its passion to color everything that it touches stimulates the archetypal fantasy. His, mine… yours…
The poet Zvonko Taneski plays a double role, because his I appears at the same time as a object and as a subject. Actually, at the moment when one starts to speak about himself, it is doubled, says Tzvetan Todorov. The object suffers, but the subject is – happy. (…) As anybody, telling my life, I give it a shape, I look for a reason for everything and I forget want spoils my story-telling (2004: 302-303). Taneski himself has already anchored his recognisible temperament and original spirit in the more recent developments of the Macedonian poetry. However, this most recent collection also presents a bit refreshed “nomadised” discourse, coming from the very forms of existential, but also the spiritual “moving” initiation, which the poet has been passing through in the course of the last several years. Bratislava is in the centre of his existence, and the verses If you once come to Bratislava / remember that you are not home, / but there is somebody to lean on when it's needed, bring a distant allusion to the well-known verses by Mateja Matevski When we went to Istanbul / and the River stayed / along the Vardar along the Danube along the wind (…) When we went to Istanbul / along the field along the sea along the sorrow.
Therefore, these verses have what Tzvetan Todorov stresses about himself: I suffer a bit as a foreigner, and I also make use of it also… (2004: 125). Hugues de Saint-Victor's formula which is more and more accepted as the credo of the apatrids and nomadism, which is: Man who finds his sweet fatherland is but a gentle beginner: the one for whom every ground is his own is already strong: but only the one who is perfect for whom the whole world is a foreign country (2004: 130), is the one based on which Taneski's verses are written. For the nomadic poet the world is a big, accessible and diverse “semiotic experience”. The contemporary poet exists and is perceived in the specific poetic prism as a rich, open, bulging and complex writing, but also as a usual/everyday, real but also imaginary travel and living in Bratislava, then in Vienna, Moscow, Petersburg, Maribor, Venice, Krakow, Paris, Skopje…
We tie the imaginary travels in blown
Balloons and give them out of solidarity
(from Lyrical Subject Direct Statements: The World Is a Jungle)
For how long will the personal experience (body of the spirit)
iron my shirts
and my clothes for a walk along the meridians?
Still, instead of sliding into the careless escapism of the shot-term condolence and sensual pleasure, Taneski's poetry gets into thematisation and revealing of the internal division. The intimate battle that is waged between the lyrical I with its uniqueness – independent from the social fulfillment and success, on one hand, and on the other the so called social I, which represents the layer of events of the lyrical subject, which determine its apparent, socially shaped realization as if manifesting the “alienated man” of Tzvetan Todorov. The poet Taneski, as man Taneski, is the one who tries to be assimilated from the position of the foreigner, and who are the moment when he accepts his naturalization, when he finishes his integration, discovers himself as an “alienated man”
when the verse is still naked, undressed in the wardrobe
make an interruption of the poem and life.
have a successful abortion.
(from Interruption of Poem and Life)
Taneski's poems are at times full with a certain dosage of parody and irony, which here brings to life very rich connotations like in the poem A Short History of the Love Affair which is an exceptional miniature: Across the Balkans / in the young seal nestling ground / We started with scratching / We ended with slovacking. A typical element of this poetry is the sense of self-irony, as the immanent component of a post-modern and first of all, urban sensibility. Still, the poetic discourse of Zvonko Taneski generally can be interpreted as a metaphor of the wish and thirst for opening and knowing new spiritual spaces, which are sometimes typical in their “cracking” in the communication and lack of trust in the language, which stays away from the world of profane communication. Taneski also speaks openly about this:
The language plays with its forms,
with its function of a duty officer,
trying to check my throat
swallowing the grammar rules:
like candy, like chocolate, like a novel
Poor game, muse!
We have just used to linguistic work
and here are the literates with their fantasy –
searching for cracks in their tongue,
to expand their imagination.
(from A Good Hunter)
In some of the poems the yearning for a seeming absolutisation of the auto-referentiality is also strong (via the personal coloring of the chronotopes), to the degree of elipticism and hermetism, where the so-called meta-poetic discourse is interiorized to such an extent that it becomes a structure-creating principle and a modelative dominant.
At the level of motive-thematic obsession, one can underline that the lyrical subject of this poetry tells about his personal experience from the nomadic campaigns that he had undertaken, but at the same time diving into the text with the help of the authentic force of his “mystic” confession tone. In Chocolate in a Portfolio we will also find many verses filled with the charging of the introvert poetic self-analysis, which would be interpreted as a skill and endurance in the process of renewal of the intimate touch with life. The author's portfolio is filled with unusually rich, strongly expressive images, which are stretched through the bitter “hybrid” time looking for the sweet “chocolate” taste of the unknown, which will embody these images through shivering pulsations in the stadium of the creative meta-empirical I, relieved from the weights of the timeliness that can be spent, the temporariness and the seeming pain of existence. It is interesting to study the individual poetic experiment of Taneski, which is filled and fertilized with a number of cultural traditions and textual modalities, and it established an exciting experience of the specific temporariness, but it also opens qualitative new dimensions of premonition, self-awareness in the tempting act of the self-experience and shaping one's own fatum of fluidity. Such a touch in the collection Chocolate in a Portfolio is heterogeneous, multiplied, placed in an un-identical space – in a conglomerate where more layers, tendencies and rhythms cross.
That is why the reading effort when overcoming the poetic exaltations of Zvonko Taneski would be a sacrificial imperative of the creative indulgence, which should be undoubtedly experienced because it also prefers the encounter of cultures instead of the civilization shock, as well as because it prefers the value of the person to the banalised happiness of the humanity.
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1. Цветан Тодоров. Должности и наслади. – Скопје: Фондација за македонски јазик „Небрегово“, 2004, 131.
2. … it is Bakhtin, stresses Tzvetan Todorov, introduces a category, a word which is a bit difficult to translate from Russian вненаходимост, which I translated by “exotopy”, which helps that it means what I called “allienation” (2004: 131).
3. The unit is not somebody who already exists, who then enters a relationship with the others: it is constructed of relationships. But the time passes, and the identity is constantly shaped (…) It is an approximately alchemic process – and all the people have the wisdom stone: what converts the case of an encounter into a necessity of a life (2004: 286).
4. See „Другите во мене“ in Должности и наслади. Ibid. 284-288.
5. See Svetlana Slapšak. „Čokolada“ in Ženske ikone XX veka. – Beograd: Biblioteka XX veka, 2001, 65-69.
6. Eating chocolate can symbolically be connected to the symbolic eating of the body which is related in an erotic metaphor. The irresistibility of chocolate comes from the complicated narrative and visual products which express the gender and racial tensions, injustice, prohibitions, as well as censorships of the ruling cultural models, but also the spirit of resistance. For example, the soldiers carry chocolate with them, says Slapšak, to also redeem the sins (end of troubles) and eventually buy new sins.
7. In “alienated man” (=dépaysé) at the same time I envisage departure from a homeland and new point of view, different, surprising, that is casted over the land that accepts you – in fact, this time, alienated point of view. And I saw that state as richness, not as poverty. (2004: 130).