(On the poetry book Human by Jovica Ivanovski, 2019)
One has to hide from humanity
to find the human in oveself.
When reading the poetry book Human (2019) by Jovica Ivanovski, the multi-layered creature called human unfolds before us. In the poetic portrait of the human, but also in the poetic self-portrait of the poet, in the many layers of the human, each poem of the 14 poetic cycles simultaneously implies and reveals a different aspect of the human being: all those faces, all those visions and variants, the habits and destinies of the human, all those stories and directions of drawing human outlines are united by this very human understood as homo poeticus, as a creative being.
Even in pre-Socratic philosophy it was said that man is the measure of all things. Probably in the worldview of this exciting poetry book it would mean that every human, every artist has the right to determine through what measure, through which “optics”, through which “scales” he/she would describe, observe, measure, sketched the human.
The poetic homo mensura of Jovica Ivanovski in this book guides us through a panoptic of 15 important aspects of the human: having in mind the introductory poem in which the human is emphasized as 1) a creature that inherits many things from ancestors and forerunners not only in the genetic package but in a much broader sense, in the same number of cycles (14), the human in this layered, palimpsest book is experienced and presented as: 2) a creature that is constantly and inevitably dependent on the air (the breathing human), 3) as a thoughtful being (the thinking human), 4) as a being that is unique, different and unrepeatable entity – individual (the particular human), 5) as a being living in constant relation to Others, 6) as a being that is largely composed of water (the aquatic human), 7) as an immanent social being, zoon politicon in the Aristotelian sense (the street human), 8) as an alternative to others, but also to oneself (as the Other), 9) as a creature living for a limited time and is therefore time-bound (the temporal human), 10) as a careful observer of life (the observing human), 11) as a passionate being, homo eroticus (the lecherous human), 12) as an agonistic and rebellious being (a fighting human), 13) as a being who loves and wants to be loved (a loving human), 14) as a creature that, although living in different communities (from marriage to state), is constantly confronted with loneliness (an alone human) and 15) as a creature connected to the earth (the earthly human) in both life and death.
That these aspects intertwine in an inseparable unity is evidenced by the metaphor of the carpet from the poem opening the poetry collection Human by Jovica Ivanovski, which won the most prestigious Macedonian poetry award, the “Miladinov Brothers” prize for 2019. Namely, in this poem-door, the human is compared to a rug of genes. Back in ancient India, every human was thought to be made up of three threads (sattva, raja and tama, symbolized by the three colours: white, red and black), which can make countless combinations, and in Jovica Ivanovski’s poetic vision each human is a kind of complex text, weaving, rug, carpet, drugget, as you like it:
Life is expensive like a Persian rug made of several million nodes stepped on by whoever passes by. Colourful, unique, designed By a pair of hardworking weavers.
The value of the book Human is hinted at in this magnificent, deeply symbolic poetic image, which reflects the poetic awareness of the preciousness, uniqueness and unrepeatability of every human life, as well as the awareness that rules exist affecting all humans, both contemporary, past ones, as well as future. Therefore, faced with the inevitability (and the burden) of inheritance, in this simultaneously simple and profound poem (such as the poetry throughout the book), the poet says that every human faces:
An inheritance you can't give up. Your children also inherit it, and it bothers you a lot when in them you notice your shortcomings.
Therefore, this poem offers one of the many poetic definitions of a human:
You’re a rug, weaved out of millions of genes,
whose knots will be unravelled
even by the grandchildren of your great-grandchildren.
From this vantage point, it could be pointed out that Jovica Ivanovski’s poetic adventure in the book Human is not an easy one: to rethink one’s own life and life in general through poems that flow and are easily read. These are not pretentious and learned philosophical or scientific treatises, but warm and humane, equally simple and complex, but always sincere attempts to share valuable artistic knowledge of the human. In the poems of the “Breathing Human” cycle, the poet rightly departs from the most basic, but most necessary for the human – the need for constant exchange of air with the surrounding world. Breathing, is there something more beautiful? ̶ few can and know how to ask such a (rhetorical) question so charmingly and precisely like a poet inspired by air to release his poem like a paper plane flying in our inner skies. Flee from the sky where no birds dwell! ̶ these poems show us how with just one verse one can be both natural and sufficiently poetic and environmentally engaged.
The title of the poem “It Can’t be Simpler” is a reminder of the poet’s undertaking in this book: he has decided (and has succeeded in the intention) to speak about the things that are in front of our eyes and we often don’t see, we breathe and live them without noticing. The poet succeeds with only two verses to illustrate the relationship between life and death: We learn as long we breathe. / And then we’ll learn not to breathe, together with the fact that life goes on for those who continue to breathe, exercise and learn: Everything is exercise. Being / with someone is simultaneously / practicing to be without them.