Blesok no. 85, July-August, 2012

Poetic Trigonometry: On the European Native and European Alien
(Ivan Djeparoski, The Abduction of Europe, Skopje: Dijalog, 2012)

Sonja Stojmenska-Elzeser

This collection consists of thirteen poetic triptychs, a kind of the triangular mirrors in a kaleidoscope that vibrate through space and time, thus creating unusual sparks of the enigma called Europe, seen through the prism of the author’s intimate experiences. These, in turn, tell us that outside of the deafening gibberish of Euro-themes, with its everyday pushing and pulling, the sentiments, thought processes and experiences of and about Europe and the European spirit can exhibit a refined, stylized poetic expression, and most definitely, examine, up close and personal, the said problematic and painful sites, identified by a dozen of scientific studies, political speeches or media debates. Most of the verses in the collection find their roots in the real (physical) journeys the author took while traveling to various European cities (primarily, as part of the unusual project-event called “Literary Express Europe 2000”, as well as other specific trips, precisely documented through recently marked dates), but at the same time, a part of them are founded on the spiritual quests and adventures of the European culture and tradition, a sphere Ivan Djeparoski calls home. As a philosopher and a refined and educated aesthetician, Djeparoski, quite autonomously, creates collages out of philosophical statements and film scenes, titles of philosophical treaties and daily headlines, verses by famous poets and political phrases, mathematical operations and scientific theorems… In a Kantian fashion, the poet demystifies the emblematic European emblems and lines them up, partnering them with today’s parameters, which he then reduces, quite mercilessly, to tourism, spectacle, profit. With a good deal of irony and resignation, he returns to the infinitely endless counter-points of the familiar binary stance, namely, East-West, Europe-Asia, Europe-Balkans, Turkey and Europe, Europe and I, Europe and You, etc., which, in the end, trickle away as tiny soap bubbles under the ultimate binary opposition, life-death. The abstraction called Europe, a set of personal traveling experiences, encyclopedia-riddled knowledge of the humanities, underlines by a philosophical mindset and civlizational values, awakes in the poet ambivalent feelings, which he examines further through the Freudian concept of ‘unheimlich’, something uncomfortably close yet distant and foreign; or, frighteningly personal, a part of one’s essence, but also something to run away from; familiar and internalized, yet something he ‘calls an (im)permanent home’. Djeparoski’s entire collection, which is called, far from an accidental choice at best, The Abduction of Europe, bears the bitter taste of stigma and stigmatization, something characteristic of the Macedonian intelligentsia for the past few decades, undoubtedly European in their spiritual habitat, yet never quite so there if taking into account their passports.
The two triptychs in the collection preserve a continuity of Djeparoski’s poetic world, since they are in fact continuations of his earlier poetic collections (Images from an Exhibit and Eclogues). In the now ‘new’ images, the poet focuses on several paradigmatic paintings: Rembrandt van Rijn’s “The Abduction of Europa”, and Vincent Van Gogh’s “Shoes”, as well as Michelangelo Buonarroti’s frescoes at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, and the fresco “The School of Athens” by Raphael, also found in the Vatican. They allow him to mark the vertical axis of the European spirit, so as to depict the energy behind ‘the transfer of knowledge and beauty’ through time and space, but also to reflect on the commercialization and infinite reproduction of art works as dominant cultural points in our present. In the eclogues, however, which now become ‘urban’ and are given a kind of a sub-heading, the poetic nerve is trickled by the controversies surrounding three urban settings, namely three European metropolises: Rome, Paris and Amsterdam, which beg for a re-examination of the problem of globalization and one’s own (in)authentic presence in their urban landscapes. The next five poetic triangles (“The Train and Me”, “Kant Revisited”, “The Trains of the World”, “The Trains of the Western Balkans” and “On the Road”) are travelogue-styled impressions on the exceptional journey taken by “the poetic” train through “the northern edges/of olden Europe” and fascinations of Einstein’s phenomenon on trains and tracks, for as the poet tells us: “Countless difficult questions rhythmically/ Are created by the sound of the trains/ Seeded through space and time”. Through these lines we come in contact with the author’s reserved views on the unification of Europe, on the imagology of the Balkans, on the Bosnian scars and wounds; however, they are dominated by a thrilling excitement from being present in Immanuel Kant’s town, today’s Kaliningrad, caused by the dissonance of the reality of this town today vis-à-vis the openness of the spirit and energy beaming through from the work of this philosophic icon, who, paradoxically, during his earthly life had never left his native Konigsberg. The verses from the triptychs “Animalia” and “Nourishment and Recovery” are characterized by a particular lucid-humorous charge; for example, the poem “The Metaphysics of Onions” stands out as a manifestation of specific poetic luddite-centered sentiments. In the poetic triangles “Past and History” and “Structures and Gardens” the understanding of history and memory, the circularity and spreading of ‘specters’ over the Balkans varies, through associations made in connection to current Macedonian state of affairs. The triad of poems called “Traumas” brings forth the already mentioned poem, called after Freud’s famous concept “Unheimlich”, whence the question about European belonging is removed from the realm of the social onto the privately intimate.
The last triangle in this collection deals with “Old Age and Death”, and in it, the arbitrary division into men and women is being relativized, almost grotesquely, by taking a look at Eastern Europeans and Western Europeans, Europeans and Balkan folk as equal in the face of death: “Thus all in the Balkans, / Alive and Dead, / Become Europeans”. In the end, as the last piece of the poetic triangle, the lapidarian quatrain shines through, titled “Fatal Phobia”, which reads: “I am afraid/ Of stopping/ To be afraid/Of death” – verses that focus the otherwise dispersed plethora of poetic interests and impetuses on an intimate, confessional, existentially-philosophical tone, and which as such confirm the poet’s refined lyric sensibility, that oftentimes hided skillfully behind his cerebral poetic feats.
It is a fact that the poetry found inside Ivan Djeparoski’s new collection is primarily intellectual, reflexive and problematic. This slim volume, however, supposes a dozen of book shells (or at least hundreds of Wikipedia visits, something referenced in one of the poems), allowing it to develop the width of all the possible interpretative approaches. It references a slew of famous artistic names, many famous titles, whole philosophical paradigms, many geographic locations, various artistic works, heaps of allusions to our present-day circumstances; needless to say, it does also bring forth an uncompromisingly intimate, confessional poetic act.  Ostensibly, this collection is a rather unusual hybrid consisting of autobiographical elements, conjoined by travelogue and essay formats, which in turn are, at least in their nature, closer to the narrative literary model, thus creating a piece with a thrilling epic depth, often colored by an ironically-humorous and cynical tone. It is the poetry of here and now, but dislocated through space and time…It is personal yet entirely heterotopic…It is serious like death and truth, but also lucid and quiet in its authentic relationship with them. Poetry – play, poetry – destiny … And for the readers: an intellectual stimulus par excellence!

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