On Vladimir Martinovski’s Before and After the Dance (Skopje, Kliker: 2012)
“Dance is celebration, dance is language, a language beyond words.”
Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant’s The Dictionary of Symbols (1997: 272, my emphasis)
#1 Vladimir Martinovski’s newest poetic manuscript – Before and After the Dance – represents, without a doubt, a continuation of the same sensibility, the same worldview, and the same structural, thematic and stylistic concept offered by the collection Quartets: To Read, Observe, Sing and Listen to, which brought the author the prestigious Brothers Miladinov Award at the Struga Poetry Evenings in 2010. On the other hand, this collection’s unpretentious, spontaneous and simple lyricism points towards the legacy of the Japanese haiku form, and the authors multiple experiences in this field.
The continuity of the poetic vocation speaks of a well-structured and artistic practice already confirmed as such by Martinovski’s poetics; but it also speaks to his conscious consistence in terms of the poem’s architecture as a world in and of itself. To the recipient, however, these verses, woven into an old-new garment, signify an invitation to dance in the process of tracing and recognizing the leads, on the one hand, but also the sense of closeness and homeliness, on the other, standing in harmony with the reader’s “horizon of anticipation”. The provocation of new experiences and the yearning for the unknown, the paradoxical, result in a nomadic understanding of making a home in the good old world whence Her Majesty – Love reigns supreme. Through love as the dominant principle, seemingly so, this collection of verses establishes a continuing with Martinovski’s previous collection – the poetry in prose entitled Make Haste and Do Wait. Since the celebration of love in Before and After the Dance is a celebration of life’s energy; since the magic of love set on a pedestal can, through the provenance of its power, break through all of the temporal and spatial boundaries, even through the neighboring galaxies, as well as all of the personal limitations, offering a whirlwind drunkenness of forest and sea fruits, of nocturnal and wine apocrypha (according to the titles of several cycles of poems).
The idea concept of the Before and After the Dance collection corresponds with its form; the compositional and poetic universe of this collection is based on the polyvalent numerological symbolism and represents thus a series of eleven cycles with four poems each (or to be exact, forty four poems in total). Four, by the way, alludes to the poet’s yearning for wholeness, perfection, unity…, which stands analogous to the complexity of meanings contained in the term ‘love’. The system of the author’s ars combinatoria is most successfully encircled in a homogenous whole (from an ‘alpha’ to an ‘omega’), through the entering and exiting frame of the collection: the starting cycle “The Moring Before the Dance” and the ending cycle “The Night After the Dance”, as paradigms standing for the adventure of the body and the soul in the rhythm of a single 24-hour/life span. A kind of an initiation, since the state of ‘before’ and the state of ‘after’ do imply a change, a cross-over, from one into another, higher state of being or a symbolic death and a symbolic birth, ultimately speaking. In fact, much like the act of creating/singing: writing is a yearning for a system, an attempt to find and establish a kind of an order in the whirlwind/turmoil/chaos of the external forces that determine man’s fate. However, “the potential of fantasy is in the altered shapes” – warns us, quite rightfully so, the Croatian theorist Viktor Žmegač in this book SMS Essays (Žmegač, 2010: 165), referring to the power of poetry to create “alternating worlds” (mundus inversus). Hence, the specificity of a poet like Martinovski. In his poetry, the city follows us, the woods move, the sea takes walks, laughs (its laughter resonates towards the edges of heavens/while returning back to the starfish), the lake swell, the shadows dance… and the reality is still unchanged, all has remained in its place. “Poetry is the kingdom of exceptions” – we are told by the German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Poetry alters things, flips what has been up, and has it come down, and vice versa. Or in the words of Žmegač: “The world stage consists of stories and basements … horizontally speaking (…unlike the mythic vertical) (…) this stage is based on the width or the limited scope of the spirit, its dynamics or adventurous nature…the affected relationship, irrational in its nature, rejects the paradigmatic nature of the world as it yearns to conquer space in the name of dance. This is how the homo ludens builds his worlds. His energy is contained in his spontaneity. Hence, the category of freedom. The archaic understanding of the physical contents and some types of dance are the closest to this category” (Žmegač, 2010: 100-101). It may read incredulous, but such statements, on the whole, correspond to Martinovski’s poetics.
Choosing dance as the principal spiritus movens, as the central, emblematic starting point for his collection of poetry, Martinovski chooses, full-heartedly, to sing of immortality, since dance is the embodiment of dynamics, energy, ecstasy (esthetic, emotional, erotic, mystic), freedom, spontaneity; dance rejects all forms of determinism and pragmatism as it looks to conquering the timeless space in the name of dance (play). Henceforth, those clever graffiti which inform the verses of the poem “Dance When Not Dancing”, such as:
When dancing get to learn, when learning get to dance (…)
Sick is only he who has forgotten how to dance (…)
Dance even when you do not feel like it (…)
When you are born, dance again, dance again, dance again.
Playing (like love-ing) accompanies dancing, that high arbiter of the poetic search for meaning in this collection of poems. It is known that dance is an expressive (Dionysian) artform, since the very beginnings of art, as it represents an amalgam of poetry, music and play. Such is the poetry of Martinovski: a kind of mélange of the visual and the abstract, of the image and the word, of the music and the movement… The binary oppositions have been dispelled, while the micro- and the macrocosm enter a wondrous bond, a harmonious melody, since the stars, the snowflakes and the atoms/dance day and night (in the poem “Before the Dance”), while the poet knows well that all music is off-key/when the soul is off-key (according to the words of Cervantes as quoted in the motto of the poem “Lining Things Up”).
Through dance, the individual takes part in the drama of creation/existence: the body movements reflect in the sky as airplane tracks, while the energy of the dance slowly oozes through the neighboring galaxies – observes the lyrical subject in the ending poem “After the Dance”. On the other hand, Bakhtin saw in dance the moment when “the being was being conquered”. He tells us that “In dancing, my exterior, visible only to others and existing only for others, coalesces with my inner, self-feeling, organic activity. In dancing, everything inward in me strives to come to the outside, strives to coincide with my exterior. In dancing, I become “bodied” in being to the highest degree; I come to participate in the being of others. What dances in me is my present-on-hand being (that has been affirmed from outside) – my sophianic being dances in me, the other dances in me…” (Bakhtin, 2001: 58)
Through dance, thus, identity has been problematized, i.e., the dual nature of individuality, the question of otherness…On that note, on the margins of the lyrical accords, the echo of a philosophical labyrinth voices itself. In fact, poetry is both a sensitive and thoughtful discourse, a universal search for the unfelt possibilities of sound/word/thought.
With his collection of poems, Before and After the Dance, Vladimir Martinovski brings freshness and creativity to the Macedonian poetic Pantheon, whereas its inter-medial character, as well as the author’s own dialogue with his favorite authors and artists, both home and abroad, initiates, among other things, a sling of interdisciplinary readings, quite pertinent to our contemporary cultural interests. This exceptionally talented poet, rhythmically pleasant and subtly funny, while educated and well-versed, continues to fascinate us with the exceptional lightness – in his own original ways – to aesthetize even the most ordinary, seemingly insignificant life moments stemming from our everydayness, and thus offer the readers an unforgettable aesthetic pleasure and enjoyment.
• Graham Pechey’s “Philosophy and Theology in “Aesthetic Activity” in Susan M. Flech and Paul J. Contino, Eds., Bakhtin and Religion: A Feeling for Faith (Evanston, Northwestern UP: 2001).
• Žmegač, V. (2010). SMS eseji. Zagreb, Profil.
• Jean Chevalier, J., A. Gheerbrant (1997). The Dictionary of Symbols
Translated by Bela Gligorova