Digging out What is Live in Poetry

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Digging out What is Live in Poetry

(Lidija Dimkovska: “pH Neutral for the Life and Death”, Blesok, 2009)

#1 “For those who are racked by melancholia, writing about it would have meaning only if writing sprang out of that very melancholia,”1F writes Julia Kristeva at the very beginning of Black Sun. I believe if she were enquired about the meaning of poetic creation, Lidija Dimkovska would respond as follows: writing about poetry has meaning only if verses spring out of life experience. Each of her poems demonstrates and proves this claim, whereas those who are ars poetical emphasise it – for them life itself is worthy of living solely if it is – poetry. “Our life is in medias res – poetry2F,” says one of the lines in the poem “Lettre”, in her Bitten Nails (1998) collection. Today, eleven years later, in her new collection “pH Neutral for the Life and Death”, in “Ars-Poetica Ballad”, Dimkovska writes:

To dig out what is live in my writing
do I have to bury those living in the world,
the worst of the dead are the best characters.
but when my Gran says, ‘Child, don’t put us in a book,
so folks won’t laugh at us,’
I’m troubled by that angst of talent that gives birth to uniqueness
and my fingers go numb before my eyes3F

The angst whether to write poetry stemming from life experience or not? is of Hamlet-like poignancy, for, within the framework of Dimkovska’s poetics, it means – whether to write at all. This is an issue which, on a poetic level, is identical to the choice between life and death at the level of existence – a choice between creating verses from life (that is, in the paraphrase of one of her lines: digging what is live in poetry), or a creative suicide. At the very beginning of The Myth of Sisyphus Albert Camus asserts that “[t]here is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide,” (Ками: 13)4F, and he reiterates this claim several times throughout this work. One who resorts to suicide, according to Camus, is the one who has dramatically confronted the absurdity of existence in the course of the quest for its meaning, the one who has felt “the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering.” (15)5F. This link between suicide and the quest for meaning finds its poetic expression in “National Soul” by Dimkovska:

I too, like my brother, have been splitting hairs since birth,
revelation at any price, unmask the meaning.
And the souls of those who split hairs
end up in three ways: hanged with a telephone wire,
in the body of a poet, or both.6F

Closeness, expressed through the relation between the speaker and her brother, abolishes the boundaries (and this abolition of boundaries, understood in their broadest sense, certainly is one of the characteristics of Dimkovska’s poetry), between the world of the living and the world of the dead, making open communication possible. We encounter a somewhat different type of closeness in a passage from Cioran’s A Short History of Decay, in a speech delivered by the rope to the one who is about to tighten it around their neck, “I have always been waiting for you, I have attended your dreads, your dejection, your anger, I have seen your crumpled blankets, the pillow you bit in anger, and I have heard your curses muttered to gods in signs of respect. I pity you compassionately and I surrender to your service. Why were you born to hang yourself, like all those who do not hope for an answer to their doubts or an escape from their despair?” (Сиоран: 201). The point of contact between the poetic statement of Dimkovska and the philosophical statement of Cioran is the absurd at their centre – the great temptation of existence, and yet, simultaneously, the existence of such statements is a temptation for the absurd. As Cioran, in his quest for meaning and his struggle against meaninglessness, reaches the limits of bitterness, Dimkovska, likewise, in this same quest and struggle, reaches the limits of irony.

1. Julia Kristeva. Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia‎. Transl. Leon S. Roudiez. Columbia University Press: New York, 1989 (3). (transl. note) The English translations henceforth will be mine unless stated otherwise.
2. Translated by Zoran Ančevski. http://www.e-books.com.mk/01poetry/dimkovska/izbor/tekst.asp?lang=eng&id=13 (transl. note)
3. Translated by Ljubica Arsovska and Margaret Reid. (transl. note)
4. Albert Camus. The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays. Transl. Justin O’Brien. Vintage International: New York, 1955. (3) (transl. note)
5. Ibid (6) (transl. note)
6. Translated by Ljubica Arsovska and Margaret Reid. (transl. note)

2018-08-21T17:22:57+00:00 October 12th, 2009|Categories: Reviews, Literature, Blesok no. 67-68|0 Comments