Blesok no. 54, May-June, 2007
In Honor of Daisies
On the book of poetry The Housemaster and Margaret by Nina Bulgakova – Skopje: Dialog, 2006
In honor of daisies
At the beginning, as first possibility to absorb this poetry book by Nina Bulgakova, I must start with her own warning for the eventual readers – that this is one very much intimate poetry. As she claims in her own (auto)Prologue of her book, she fully understands the common uneasiness of the intimists, that means she accepts and justifies it. So it sounds quite logical when she admits that I was refusing to undress my innerself in poetry, and immediately after that she accents the real reasons why she finally and actually did that after all, because, as she says – while I was refusing, Daisy/Margaret was insisting on it. Daisy/Margaret wanted that, and Daisy/Margaret was capable of doing it! In the name of the self-acceptance (accepting of oneself and of others) these verses happened.
Her expressive attitude requires maximum freedom of the formal aspect. That's why the inner-rhythm governs in her poetry exclusively dictated by the emotions. All of her emotions and inner-senses, Bulgakova manages to sublime into one word, as for instance, the word bastion in her same-named opening song of this book, or as the words balm, circle, dinner, needle, etc. Much likely a men or a child overwhelmed by the power of one's emotions. Anyway, the human personality is so strong that however the intention to express a pure thought is great, at the end, the human being is expressing mostly emotions. But, in that way, those chosen words have the greatest intensity of their own, and that's why – when those words are articulated that way – they can spear and nests in the very core of human soul. Those words – in the most of the cases – are equal to the ‘arch-sound'. And the syntactic construction in her verses is actually a sum of that kind of ‘arch-sounds', rhythmically linked:
An almond in the throat.
A bastion in the Heart.
A biedermeier of doubts
under the veil of kisses.
Brocade under the loins
and the Bulgakov's Master
carefully hidden in the bosoms.
Bulgakova always knows to show moderation in her expression and rhyming, but at the same time to manifest her untamable nature in playing with that same expression manner, as in the song Mantra:
I do Mantras,
Magic spells I throw at you.
Medallion on your neck.
Marble under your feet.
Meteor in your desire.
Magnet in your thoughts.
Magnolia under your fingers.
Mandala for your consciousness
Mag you are,
Magma I am!
I do Mantras,
and in the very moment –
I'm your Muse again.
A little reminder: Arthur Rimbaud followed the line made by Baudelaire in the linguistic adventure – I found the colors of the sonants: – A black, E white, I red, O blue, U green – says Rimbaud when he speaks about the alchemy of the word2F. In that synestetic spirit Bulgakova also builds a colored world of her own. She places the contrapuncts: cold with orange, ice with yellow, rough with pastel rose, steel grey with green, grim with turquoise. The Rimbaud's sonants here are transformed in the emotional states of the other, and his colors seem banal in comparison with the spectrum of shades in her song Stained glass window. What matters, is the fact that she understands and follows the adventure that Rimbaud anticipates in his poetics: to set free the words from their cognitive meaning and to let them into their instinctive life. That's way she is so untamed (wild) in making some junctures of meanings, as: basilicas of silence (Bastion), a gulp of a song, marinated verse, aromatic cake of glassed words, sugar-layered smiles (Dinner), exhausted raspberries (Daisy/Margaret (or new Eloise)).
The subliming of the verse onto a single word, as well as the division of the text in none-classical couplets, or the division of the song into parts and sub-songs, means only pauses, or blanks in the discourse of the song, or of the silence as Bulgakova's favorite theme. And of the pain above and under all, which, sooner or later should be released, or must be shared (Swan's Song). It's the same, says Bulgakova, as “bleeding”, purification, a kind of soul's detoxification, a self-forgiveness, and a self-acceptance:
During the years
a pain was missing,
for the song to burst from me.
Because the only calmness she can find in the song. The active duality speech-silence is immanent of the structure of any song, which, we can say, pulsates between the language and the silence. Or, the silence is the pre-condition and the post-condition, and meanwhile is the creation, says Katica Kjulavkova about the poetry as the creation between two states of silence. According to her, the silence is an act of ritual in which the poetry is conceived and which precedes the poetry; and the poetry is an act of language that follows the silence and incorporates and expresses – within itself – the inspiration. And most of all, the silence is needed by this kind of confessional poetry. This book of poetry is fulfilled by the emotions of a couple who doesn't even know how to speak any more, for a couple who are more easy in silence, for a couple in which He isn't The Master for Her and She isn't Daisy/Margaret for Him, and finally, for those two who dance the dance for two between the four walls, as in the song
Samba (in few steps):
When we are between four walls
and two in two:
two separate souls,
two separate bodies,
and only one room,
the walls multiply in vertigo
and the windows divide as mine and yours
And – when we have the pain – we have the song, too. The opinion that the poets are the most competent thinkers of poetry is confirmed in those verses of Bulgakova. The maintained relation: poet – song, at the level of the song itself, always does the suplemental ‘poetisation of the poetic act'. Poets become the conspirators of the artism the understands emancipation of the art, the trademark of its independence. It is the source of the idea about the pure poetry (poesie pure). Namely, the song doesn't mean, nor signify, but only is: it exists.
If we agree that the words are linguistic symbols with which precise thought operations can be implemented, as in the mathematics, then it's not surprising that some of the songs in this book, fulfilled with the words from the fields of geography, mathematics/geometry, grammar/literature, astronomy, philosophy, physics, etc… doesn't sound banal. It seems that every woman accepts that corpus of words – more or less – while in the afternoon hour's works with her children on their homework, on learning of theirs school-day's lessons and on their absorbing of the new terms and expressions. But, the question is open what that woman does with all that when afterwards she remains alone with her solitude and pain, in her silence – when she can't just erase them out of her head. She suppresses them, she imprisons them in her heart, she shares them with her friends, she inscribes them onto some new recipes, she paints them, she translates them in some other languages…? Bulgakova places them in a hat, she mixes them and then she randomly draws word after word, she classifies them, places them and she writes them drawing them in some new geometry (Circle). In that way, among us as readers, the next question imposes it self: does she, while helping her child in learning mathematics, tries to contemplate and prove her own and personal life theorem? as in the song Uncurling (sad geometry). It seems that Bulgakova constantly watches as a sentinel upon her words. As a result of some mystical consciousness, her poetry becomes clairvoyant. It's a concept of the new poetics conceived in the European lyrics by Rimbaud. The goal of poetry is to see the unseen and to hear the unheard, which is possible only through the certain state of constant awareness of the poet. So Bulgakova is aware upon her words, as Šopov with his verses from his song Nonbeing (Nebidnina): who sentenced us to the same vigilance. The Sentence of Vigilance sounds so fatal-like, as A Sentence of Eternal Creation. In that way, the geographic terms as: deserts, jungles, taigas, glaciers, monsoons, rain forests, north iceberg regions, sub-polar winter, cruel climate, sub-tropic moisture… oceans, oceanographers… typhoons, cyclones, tornados, hurricane (Hemispheres, Ocean (Pacific), Equilibrium), the grammatical terms: plural, verb, delighted nouns, adverb (Love Syntax (morphology of love)), literature science terms: verses, haiku, ballades, sonnets, madrigals, elegies, hymns, madrigals (Prosaic), astronomy terms: galaxies, star constellations, orbits, asteroid, Halley comet, Milky Way, stars (Orbit), as well as the philosophy and theosophy thoughts about yin & yang, Zen & zenith, arouse some very different and diverse dimensions.
This book also has that common female sensibility, especially when the lyric subject prepares the dinner for two (Dinner), when she prepares the magic sweet rice (Sweet Rice), when she mixes the love/life cocktail (Cocktail (a summer one)), as well as when someone else is trying to patch her intimacy (A Knot, Knots). Also, many elements from the flora and fauna become subjects when emphasizing the female sensibility, as in the songs Iris, Cocoon, Cities, or when accenting the duality of the male-female world, as when she opposites the salmon to the water-lily (Floating), or when she opposites the sand to the water world (Wavy), and when she opposites the oak to the white mistletoe (White Mistletoe).
The book is divided into two parts. The first part is named same as the book itself – The Housemaster and Margaret, and the second part is named as –Margaret and the Master. Since the earliest phase of the Macedonian poetry discourse, there is a dichotomy: lyric expression – lyric-epic expression. In the theory of expression by Roman Jacobson, these both are defined as metaphorical and metonymical pole of the discourse. Venko Andonovski showed this true in the Macedonian poetry97">, and this book by Nina Bulgakova shows the same as functional when the poems from both ‘poles' are “placed under one roof”. The metaphorical ones are placed in the first part of this book, and the metonymical ones are placed in the second part of the book, etc.
This is a reading possibility of this book if you haven't re-read the Mikhail Bulgakov's book, to address you to connect this poetry with some other poet or writer, maybe more immanent to you… Because, in spite of the fact that these verses are extremely confessional and personal, they don't represent purely the monologue concept of the lyric subject, but in contrary, they affirm the dialogical philosophy, the logic of the openness, non-completeness of the discourse, and especially the Aspect of the Other. Bulgakova, out from the need for a continuous and inspiring dialogue, promotes the famous Buber's thought: I become in touch with You, and while becoming Me, I speak You. The whole real life is a meeting. The Word is a drama in which participate three Personalities – says Bakhtin. Any conversation is full with translating and interpreting the words of Other. In it, at every step a quote stands or evoking what is already said. That kind of evocation we have in this book by Nina Bulgakova, so in that way she is ‘in touch' with O. Wilde (Circle), P.M. Andreevski and T. Ujević (De(fi)nitia), W. Shakespeare (Watch), F. Nietzsche (Crucifixion), A. de Musset (Untied), J. Cocteau (Song of the Swan), M. Cvetaeva and R. Rilke (Luna(tics), Letter), B. Shclink (The Reader), Stendhal (Imprinting), S. Pushkin (Karma), L. Tolstoy (Railway), A. Baricco. This is a possibility, my dear readers, to make the touch with these verses through some other ways.
The dialogism, quoting, intertextuality, are – in front of all – immanent forms of speech, and secondary are forms of artistic expressions. In that context, the category “the word of Other” gains the fundamental meaning, including all of the forms of artistic and literary forms of dialogism. The Speech of Other is a speech within/above the speech, expression within/above the expression. The speech of the Other in these verses is the speech of Mikhail Bulgakov, or the speech of Daisy/Margaret from the Bulgakov's book. In every woman lays daisy. And every man caries The Master within. – is emphasized in the auto-prologue in this book of poetry. They will awaken only if their paths interlace. Only in that kind of moment, the parts become a whole. In contrary, Daisy/Margaret will wonder with flowers in her hands, and The Master will stay in solitude in his basement, without knowing he is a Master at all (as Bulgakov spoke). Nina Bulgakova, although openly accents the relation that her poetry builds with the famous book by Bulgakov, still shows that one doesn't necessary need to re-read this novel to be able to absorb and accept her poetry. But it wouldn't really hurt, she sweetly accents! So, in this statement of hers, we can recognize the Bakhtin's thought: The text lives only in touch with other texts. But, this touching of the texts allows Bulgakova to take a journey down to the core of her inner-self, that introvert quest for her real self-essence. In other words, it allows her the great journey down to the very and most spiritual center of her inner-being. And the initiation-like structure of this quest encloses her to the mythic ritual of Illumination which happens through the symbolic death and the symbolic resurrection. She feels that only through Bulgakov's Daisy/Margaret she can achieve that. Actually, that Bulgakov's Daisy/Margaret and the poet are the same, as she claims many times in her book of poetry:
Daisy/Margaret I am
and i wander through the city.
I – Daisy/Margaret,
with my fingers will read
(The Saddest Hat in the World)
Daisy/Margaret I am
and I ride on words.
Daisy/Margaret I am
and I have the power.
You, The Master
of the word
the dead tree
and the fruitless tree
with a glance to engreen
In this poetry book by Nina Bulgakova, we have the story that – simply told – would sound like this: Every woman needs more then someone who would be her Housemaster (a repairman)… There are professionals for that purpose. Every woman needs the Real Master of hers, because the Housemaster becomes only a hound dog (Hound Party), and when Daisy/Margaret finally finds her own and personal Master (Imprinting), then the Housemaster should free his place to the Real Master, to the Daisy/Margaret's Master:
I called you Master
– Me, your secret wife!
(The Sadest Hat in the World)
This is also a story for the yellow color, the color of the daisies, but also the color of jealousy. Bulgakova follows the “yellow path” from the Bulgakov's novel: the story of the woman that seduces not by her beauty, but more with her unusual solitude in her eyes; a story of love that kills as a lightning, as a dagger; a story of a couple which seems to start their first conversation at the point they only yesterday stopped, about a couple which seem to know each other with years, although they met only yesterday; a story of a woman that so swiftly becomes a secret wife of the one in who she recognizes her real Master. And above all, a story about the female duality within, about the woman that is the lover/witch and the wife/woman at the same time:
how is it possible
with the same heart
to love so much
and to hate so much
all at once.
Bulgakova places her accent on Daisy/Margaret. Bulgakov places the accent on the Master. Although, one can say that in the title of the book Bulgakova actually gives priority to the Housemaster. Well, that would also be true, in some way. But, that Housemaster provokes Daisy/Margaret to start her quest for the Real Master. That's the reason why the second part of this book has the title Daisy/Margaret and The Master, that's why Bulgakova allows to Daisy/Margaret to speak, or actually to sing in the name of Novalis' motto: Love is mute. Only poetry can speak in her name.
But in this second reading possibility, something else is even more provocative: above al, the dialog that these verses have with that famous, unusually intimidating threesome (the Black Magic professor Volland, Korovjov and the black, enormously big cat named Behemoth), and especially with the Volland's question: What would be your Goodness be, without the existence of the Evilness, and what would be Earth be like if the shadows would disappear out of her surface?
Nina Bulgakova, in the name of poetry declines her real name; the name that in her real life declares her as somebody's wife, woman, mother, friend – in the same manner that the already freaky Master will confess to his room-mate from the psychiatric clinic, to the poet Ivan Nikolayevich Bezdomni, admitting to him that he denounced his real name, as well of everything else in his life in the name of the master hood and in the name of Daisy/Margaret – who makes him unique and only Master. But, Nina Bulgakova accepts the role of Volland also, and in that context, her Korovjov is that message, that emotion which her verses appeal to the reader – that love and that dream of that love as a state of the human spirit – states that allow entering into the realms of the surreal… The free, spontaneous flow of words, as the free enclosing of the distant realities at the linguistic-structuring level, effects with a surprising intensity upon the common rational consciousness and human mental habitus. In this final aspect, Bulgakova gives us the black cat Behemoth. The functional duality and interlacing among the common, grounded thinking and the extraordinary and irrational perception, defines her style. The surreal never means (as it never meant among the greatest artists-surrealists) building the dream-world above the real-world, but an attempt to link these two, and interlacing them in the manner of “linked vessels”:
I was whole of poetry once.
While I walked,
my heels bell-ringed in verses.
In my neckline,
drops of perfume crumbled into haiku.
My sighs were rousing ballades.
My yearns were births of sonnets.
When I called your name
– madrigals flowed
within my voice.
Like that I was coming to you every night.
Me, in a dress of poetry.
Translated by: Petar Volnarovski
1. Behind the Daisies, I recognize an awakening, freshness, a new wind blowing in the contemporary Macedonian poetry. So, this title isn't just randomly choosen to be in a dialog only with the title of the Nina Bulgakova's poetry book, but also to accent that those verses give a new breath to the Macedonian word of poetry. The expression “In Honor of Daisies” is a synonym for “In Honor of the New Spring in Macedonian Poetry”. Namely, the confessional poetry becomes recognizable in the so called 'intimate phase' (1950-1955) which happened as euphoric awareness of the poets' right to speak for himself as himself. At the beginning, there were much naïve romanticism and sentimentality, so many poets recognized the limitations of this very personal way of expression; actually, they were placed in front of their own incapability to structure there intimate confessions to sound and seem as real poetry. But, this phase in Macedonian poetry meant the only way to the real lyricism, with the further refining of that kind of expression. And this poetry book of Bulgakova is the real example of such newly-refined poetic expression.
2. Margarit(k)a = Daisy
3. See Артур Рембо. Поезија (selection, translation and prologue: Vlada Urošević). – Скопје: Македонска книга, 1976._____________________________________
4. See Катица Ќулавкова. „Демонот тишина“ in Тетратки. – Скопје: Менора, 1997.
5. See Венко Андоновски. „Песна зад песните“ in Дешифрирања. – Скопје: Штрк, 2000.
6. See Martin Buber: Ja i ti. – Beograd: 1977.
7. See Михаил Бахтин: „Проблем текста“ in Књижевност. – Београд: 1978, br.1.
8. See Mihail Bahtin: „Iz predistorije romaneskne reči“ in O romanu. – Beograd: 1989.
9. See Mihail Bahtin: „Ekspozicija problema tuđeg govora“ in Marksizam i filozofija jezika. – Beograd: 1980.