(Nataša Bunteska: “Gorniot grad” (The upper city), published by “Stremež”, 2002)
#1 When in the Foreword to the anthology “Twenty young Macedonian poets” (Prokultura, 2000), Lidija Dimkovska wrote that “Natasha Bunteska textualizes the reality which passes into surreality, but also autotextulizes herself, realizes herself and realizes the reality of the poetic text”, she couldn’t suppose where will Bunteska poetics directs itself (Bunteska had only one book of poetry behind herself – “Mali vechnosti” [Little eternities], Studentski zbor, 1998). Now having the second book by Bunteska, “The Upper city”, (divided into three chapters: “The upper city”, “Miniatures, short touring, forgotten turmoil, moments and little eternities” and “Golden book”) we could say that Dimkovska quotation can also refer to this book. In the book, the poet, actually confirms what was announced in her debut book on a very vivid way.
A characteristic that appear in almost all the poems from “The upper city” is the associative connection of distant things. Vjaceslav Kuprijanov in his essay “Poetry and eternity” specially stresses one aspect of such connection, the meeting (or getting close) of (seemingly) distant things, namely the closeness and interference between the eternity and the everyday, and since this aspect seems to me quite characteristic for Bunteska poetics, I will shortly stick to Kuprianov thesis. The Russian author says that “the search for the wild eternity forces the poet (and artist, in general) to observe events, almost from the everyday life, to try to catch the slippery moment, to catch ‘a strange jiffy’, and if it is magnificently caught up in poetry, than it meets us with eternity”. He than refers to William Blake demand: “to show eternity in every moment”.
The closeness and interference between the eternity and the everyday, can be seen since the first poem in the book, “Untying” (the first part from the first verse of this poem “The breathe ties me up” is taken as a title of the short art film written by her and directed by Stojan Vujicic). Here the breath serves as a connection between the two worlds, thus becoming confused before existence, with the simultaneous belonging both to earth and to heaven. Exactly the connection between the two worlds appear as the meaning of life – without the same connection even the lyrical subject would turn into “frozen, stupid figure”, and God would become only object “in the hands. Crumbling as a biscuit”. This connection of the distant things leads to the astonishment “could we sail to God without safety belts?” in the poem “Becoming beautiful”, and the Big Mother in the matriarchal mythology, after twenty lines where she “meditates over the point/where the dark and the light/push each other on” and thinks about her nature “half space – half time”, and goes to warm up the lunch for the kids who are to come back from school (in “the Big Mother”). So comes an ordinary morning in an ordinary building in our town, where the sounds from the spoons in the coffee cups, the sounds from the neighbor’s heels and the squeezing of the beds mixes with the sound from cleaning the dust from the angel wings on the third floor in “Good mourning in the building number 12 on Metodija Mitevski street”, and the poems, which are only attempt to touch the eternity, are being sold “on the woman’s fair/among the buttons and zips/on the corner near the spices” in the song “untied songs”.
This connection of the earth and heaven, the temporary and the eternal, reaches it’s culmination in the last poem from the cycle, “I’m taking breakfast on the street”. The value of this poem comes, besides all, from a specifically developed rhythm – it starts with two lines where the focus of the narration lies in the everyday (I’m taking breakfast on the street/baked roll and yoghurt), after what, in the third line a change happens that changes not only the atmosphere of the whole poem but also the above mentioned which gains quite different meaning (“food that enlighten”). Than she continues with coming again on the everyday (“I go/first shift at work”) and in the last verses she announces her astonishment by that and sees it as unusual (“and happy/because it rains/a drop falls on my nose/glitters glitters glitters”), after what comes a feeling that this different experience of the reality is a sign for the miraculous that lies behind and in everyday life (“I know that this is/some special day”), and again coming back on the concrete moment and existence (“scumbled by the untied strepts”). Here lies the moment of culmination in the moment, where the real and the surreal finally match – and the strep become a sign which refers to the unusual (“it takes my breath it tells me that”), after what follows the focusing on the reality ( I’m happy I miss/so many things/and I don’t need them/and imagining them/I’m happy I don’t feel/insolent hunger for life/such days/makes my life longer”), and it ends up with hope that, maybe such a reality will lead to a more spiritual experience, to what is called satori in Zen Buddhism, and in the Vedas Samadhi – towards the ideal of Buddha (The Awaken) – true, spiritual wakens (“maybe today/ I’ll come to the big awakening”).
The songs from the second cycle, as it can be seen from its title (“Miniatures, short touring, forgotten turmoil, moments and little eternities”) are characteristic by their short length – most of them having two or three verses. The first fourteen of them have no titles only numbers. Some of them are like aphorisms, as it is the fourth miniature:
“The most precise catch
In my life
Some, the most, are close to haiku, carrying all the main characteristics of this model of Japanese short poetry form (except for the number of syllables 5-7-5). As for example the fifth miniature:
After eating the nails.
Some of them are mini-wisdoms that reveal the specifity of the own existence, as in the seventh miniature:
Hide the Whole from me.”
Or the wisdom of the existence in general, as in the tenth one:
“The well for one is
Mountain for another.”
The last poem from the book, “Golden book” (as being the entire part of the third cycle), reflects astonishment and in the same time fear over some hopes and expectations from the previous poems. So, the lines “Because, what with the liberty/if I have all the symptoms/ of a man asleep” could be read as a reflection of the verses “maybe today/ I’ll come to the big awakening”, from the poem “I’m taking breakfast on the street” – i.e.: what with the experiences from “the other side”, if they remain, besides the transcendental “effect”, things from this life., if “the same as now/the nose in the eternity/the heels in the local swamp”? The longing for the little and simple things remain (“Is there a hope to save/ the joy in the most useless things/ absolutely romantic/ as in back’n’white movie?”), and also the awareness that reaching the highest celestial ideal is nothing without the small human happiness. Instead of the escape in self-deceit in the superiority of the “awakening” (and contra the self-deceit that the “awakening” is the final and only worthy experience), in the Bunteska lyrics the fear and the doubt remain. They are the main partners in the growing up, and their strongest spiritus movens.
Referring to Bunteska poetry, in the Forward to the anthology of the young Macedonian poetry “Unidentified celestial breast” (edited by Youth Literary Association”, the title of this anthology is taken from the poem “Collection” by Bunteska), Jovica Tasevski – Eternijan has lucidly remarked that her poetry “is a subtle lyricism where the feminity and deity is lemmatized”, stressing that this “lemmatization goes through self-reflection, built in the search for transcendence”. We could add that in her new poetry book Natasha Bunteska makes a certain shift of her poetic interest from lyrical to the narrative, by which she carefully and gradually develops her poetics, following the contemporary trends.
Translated by Robert Alagjozovski
the book “The Upper City” is available in e-format, published by “Blesok”.