Macedonia & The Politics of Language Ownership:
Many of their websites begin "Macedonia for the Macedonians!"
There are longstanding struggles for Macedonians, especially in terms of the political autonomy of their language and land. If you read into the politics of Wikipedia labeling alone, you find that Macedonia is listed first as a region ("a wide historic region spanning through several states in southeast Europe"), then as just a region of Greece, then as a Republic ("formerly part of Yugoslavia"). Being historically, geographically, and culturally unlearned, I find it difficult to piece out exactly what the distinctions are here.
I do know that everyone, but everyone, has tried to claim the Macedonian language for their own. According to Wikipedia, "Macedonian ( македонски јазик) is the official language of the Republic of Macedonia and is a part of the Eastern group of South Slavic languages. Macedonian is closely related to and shares a high degree of mutual intelligibility with the Bulgarian and Serbian languages. The Macedonian language is the object of some controversy with its neighbours: Greeks challenge the legitimacy of its name, while Bulgarians deny its separateness from Bulgarian." Talk about being "reversed to a stammer."
Modern Macedonians poets have done their best to leap into this fray and create their own culturalinguistic (I'm aware that's most likely not a word) identity by returning to the past. According to Georgi Stardelov:
"Since 1945, Macedonian literature...has plunged into the deep well of our ancient language preserved in the hagiographies and apocrypha books, also in the poems, stories, legends from the rich folklore creation, discovering its poetic force and raising it to a fundamental principle in the creation of the new Macedonian literature."
In turning to the folklore and mythology of the area, poets have also narrowed in on particular types of symbolism, including and especially Biblical motifs and the predominant cultural symbology of the colors red and black (we see red twice in Zoran Ancevski's "What's Slouching" and black in Kulavkova's "Bronchitis (a psychopoem)" Coincidence?)
Stardelov, discussing the language politics further, says that in turning to the past to create the poetry of the present, "The authentic Macedonian words instantly settled the poems, stories, novels and plays of the Macedonian authors, turning the Macedonian language not only into a poetic organon of our literature, but also into one of the most powerful means of our people in its spiritual self-realization. It is the Macedonian literature that takes the greatest credit for the fact that in these five decades the Macedonian language has gained all the dignity of a literary emancipated European language with great poetic expressiveness which reflects the creative treasure of our literature and conveys almost the whole most famous world literary classics; and that language, forbidden and denied for centuries, has reached in that short time the treasure of the developed European languages."
Blaze Koneski, one of Macedonia's most distinguished poets, continued this line of argument: "Macedonians, listen to this - he wrote - for us much more than for many other people in the world the language, with everything created in it as oral or written text, represents the closest approach to the ideal fatherland. In fact, it is our only fatherland".
The Poets for This Week:
As you can see from Kata Kulavkova's impressive online credentials, many of Macedonia's poets are not just casual verse-slingers but are actively engaged in raising awareness of Macedonian literature. Kulakova herself was the Secretary (1990-1996), president (1996-2000) and actually honorary vice-president of the Macedonian P.E.N. Centre; a Member of the Macedonian Writer's Association; a Member of the Macedonian Comparative Association; a Member of the National Committee for UNESCO (Macedonia); and a Member of the Publishing Board for Open Institute of Macedonia, amongst various other memberships and titles she holds.
Ancevski's professional credentials were harder to find online, but I think his article "The Birth of the Terrible Beauty" may be way more fascinating, and telling of who he is as a poet. He recounts a traumatic event from a high school literature class: His teacher attempted to define what "beauty" was for the class by first describing in horrific and excruciating detail a scene of the birthing process, and then describing with acute precision the beauty of a room covered in flowers...in the center of which lay a corpse. Since that moment, Ancevski says, birth and death have existed as the extreme poles of how he defines "beauty" in art and poetry. It's definitely an article worth reading. As an incentive, he drops the word "wankers."
Dimkovska herself is haunted, both by her own presence and by the word/idea of "meta" (evidenced in part by her writing a collection of poems entitled Meta Hanging on a Meta Lime Tree). She, too, frequently pulls from folklore in her writing and is described as composing in a style which is "post-modern, or even...post-poetry." These comments are made in respect to her frequently deviating from the line into prosier style poetry. She is a fairly wild poet, often tackling issues of feminism/womanhood, and writing poems in which Joseph Brodsky is forced to wander around Michigan (in response to Marina Tsvetayeva saying that all poets are either Jews or displaced persons).
I'm interested in the economic politics in "Decent Girl" for this week, especially in light of the fact that, as of 2005, Macedonia's unemployment rate was 37.2%, and as of 2006, its poverty rate was 22%. What do you make of lines "I took my perspective of the future to a thrift store / but nobody would buy it..." or "Alas, what a multitude of words! Dictionaries are a lucrative job."? Is economy being critiqued or is language? Or is poetry as a saleable commodity?
Illness also pervades the poems for this week, with bronchitis and ambulances and the eye clinic. According to Macedonia.org, "Only fifty years ago, Macedonia was a region with widespread epidemics of many contagious diseases. Each year, more than 300,000 people suffered from malaria alone. Today this disease has been completely eradicated. In 1939, Macedonia had only 9 hospitals with a total of 868 beds. As many as 154 of 1,000 newly-born died. At the end of the Second World War, Macedonia had only 123 medical doctors and dentists." This is no longer the case. It is interesting to note that now Macedonia is described as a land of too many hospitals, being that when it became its own republic, many of the old medical facilities of Yugoslavia remained and are now under-used and under-cared-for. There's a question in here somewhere, but I'm not sure how to ask it.
What is a psychopoem? Kulakova gives this description to her poem "Bronchitis." Is this merely indicating her interest in therapy (an interest mirrored in the Freudian complexes of Ancevski's "What's Slouching")? What do we make of this particular interest?
Lastly, there is a political preoccupation with the female body, from Kulakova's "psychoclitoris" to Dimkovska's "bodiless woman" or "non-woman." What do we make of this?