Translated from Macedonian by Elizabeta Bakovska
Igor Isakovski (1970-2014) is a poet, prose writer, editor and publisher who belongs to the generation of not only locally and regionally, but also internationally well-known and acclaimed Macedonian authors, born in the 1970es (where there are also Lidija Dimkovska, Dejan Dukovski, Goce Smilevski, Zhanina Mirchevska, Nikola Madzirov). In his early 20es, he was a member of “The Little Prince” literary club, together with Lidija Dimkovska, Janko Ninov (now Father David), Boris Chavkovski, Ana Pejchinova, Goran Bozhović (today Bishop Kliment), etc.
His writing and his poetics are consistent in their expression and recognizable in their fierce urban sensibility. He is identified by his individual radicalism, rebellious Eros, counter-cultural drive, his need of escapism in the blues, sex, alcohol. The city is the ultimate lyrical space in Isakovski’s poems, a privileged “setting” of the irrevocable loneliness of the lyrical subject. The city is a décor, but also a crutch. A moving testimony of the uncompromising quest and thirst for the essential Love(ability), but also a meditative nocturnal setting to the unavoidable loneliness.
It is in the last 4 of the total 9 of Isakovski’s poetry books: “Interning for a Saint”, “The Love Poem”, “Death Has Seaweed Hair”, concluding with the last one, “Poems from the Big Room”, as well as the poems (so far) published only on Facebook where the “erotological” twist happens, and the lyrical subject transforms from his initial, known from earlier, bitter-nihilistic mood, into lovability as an ontological equation to existence and the only desirable home.
This is dedicated, self-aware and auto-poetically blooming lyrics, which exists in the first grip between the seemingly hardly connective components: the element of confessionality, the new (“man’s” and “manly”) intimism of the lyrical subject, in the predominant “first person” singular – on one hand, and the element of auto-reflexiveness (“come out, take a breath, connect with the world. I’m telling you with good intentions, Isakovski”) and the cruel “laboratory” self-examination of one’s own, radical poetics – on the other hand. “Fuck You Isakovski” in that sense in an especially indicative example of the explicit (metalinguistic and auto-referential) address to, and naming, oneself (him being the first to introduce this in the Macedonian poetry, as it stretches from being strict to oneself in a humorous self-irony, which the lyrical subject expresses for himself… These impressionable meta-linguistic, meta-poetic, auto-poetic elements speak not only of the intimate process of poem creation, its controversial and painful birth, but also about (most often) tireless and self-ironic relation of the lyrical subject/author to oneself. As if he had grown bored with himself being unruly, restless, a misfit.
Since his initial, youthful writings, now the already experienced author Isakovski has remained consistent in his rebellious approach, in his outbursts of not subjugating to the world – as it is – prone to lies, pretense, hypocrisy, superficiality. In such a conformist surrounding the lyrical subject always chooses the side of the independence, the bitter revolt, the solo position of an independent player… who does not cry, does not wine, does not slime, but loudly yells and calls! Until his (unfortunately) last book, Isakovski fiercely hits the provincial norms and stereotypes, the expected life scripts and the deadened conventional, man-woman union.
As he testifies himself in his verses: “Being ruthless to oneself is the best way to being empathic to the world”.
His eighth book, “Death Has Seaweed Hair, as actually all of Igor Isakovski’s lyrics is an especially shocking testimony of the (still too expensive, but very impressive) equation between poetry and existence, both “tattooed” with his – undoubtedly authentic, always recognizable, unforgettable Signature.
This is a fierce poetic writing, where the forces of Eros and Tanathos obsessively intertwine, in a mixed abundance of love, life giving passion and suicidal motifs and radical announcements of his own death. Because only the one who never burned with the ashes of the bitter cigarettes of yearning, which is born from the terminal experience of solitude does not know how painful and killing the vulpine paws of love sorrow can be.
In its conceptual consistency, as well as in its open lyrical duel with death – this poetry is maybe comparable only to the macabre lyrics of Slavko Janevski from “Astropeus” and “Gospel by Itar Pejo” (when the lyrical subject addresses his beloved, “come to play poker, the death, you and I”) – but also with the moving, testament-like book of Blazhe Koneski, “The Black Ram” (in whose prologue, the author openly bids farewell to his readers, via the metaphor of the “black ram”). Koneski’s book was published in the year of his death – 1994, and it is chronologically exactly 20 years before the early and sudden death of our contemporary Igor Isakovski. Seemingly a coincidence, and maybe some supreme law, who knows… Just as now, after all, some of the poems in which the figure of the father as poetic character, i.e. the memories of his explosive end and sorrow of the delayed reaction of his son, the poet, sound. These verses, from the current perspective undoubtedly sound like a perfectly lucid (and morbid) premonition of his own end and the fatal closing of his restless life – as the poet and author had already felt from time and written it down in a lyrical form. The huge advantage and importance of this cruelly open and confessional lyrics is precisely in its lack of conformism and preparedness even for most radical solutions and outcomes, such as death itself. Not that is simply mentioned as such, but it is embraced as the ultimate ally and a woman with “piercing eyes” by the lyrical subject, who himself is an emanation of passion, energy, noble manhood, with (un)settled or better said (un)settling nature …
It is (un)settledness that is one of the leading motifs or principles of this lyrics, which is also grounded and guaranteed by the high octane thrill of reading, as well as the dramatic facing of all of us with the fundamental question in the verse which breathes with precise, and no less painful punctuality:
“Where is my home? Where is my soul, where am I, where are you?”
The existential poetics of alienation and uneasiness painfully echoes in the verse “buried by a life which is not mine” – as if ruthless existential scream, which “yells” with the voices of Kafka, Sartre, Handke, the thee apostles of the fatal loneliness, but also with a dozen of others, chronically misfit or socially unacceptable poets and writers.
It might at first look paradoxically that this poetry of revolt and tanathism, in its basic nature is actually an opponent to passivity, apathy, sterility, necrophiliac constant, so typical of the mentality of our environment, suffocated by numerous conformisms. It is singing about the dead, the mute, instead of accepting the sparkling and vocal, as Isakovski suggests that is yet another bitter indicator of the necrophiliac character of our age.
Post Scriptum or Post Mortem
We never know which poem will be our last, testimonial – and which poem (or book) will print in the unavoidable eschatological point of someone’s creation and even more important, Life.
When it comes to a close and precious person, an excellent and dedicated poet, an uncompromising and passionate man – grammar suddenly becomes a very cruel discipline. How (all of a sudden) can one speak about somebody in past tense, as if he was once and he will never be again? This (cold grammar tense) is usually hard when he has left suddenly, in his full life, and even more, creative force, when he did not have a single gray hair in his long thick hair, not a single trace of this close finality…
Because too much energy, too much substance, too much life, too much “music”, too many questions that mean life, “I am full with juices and verses” have remained unshared, unsaid, unavoidable – to share them with his readers-allies, on the other side of the banal, on the other side of indifference, on the other side of the darkness and Non-being…
Although it might be the least important now, as a reader and critic, and no less as his friend, I still remain with the bitter feeling, caused by the lack of attention for the work and exceptionality of Igor Isakovski with the Macedonian literary community.
Everything that Igor managed to create in the course of his intense, prolific and diversely engaged life was done by himself, without the help of any political party, powerful sponsor, an influential or rich family. His feeling of personal integrity and the responsibility that he felt to literature (not only his own, but also the literature of other authors, with whom he cooperated and abundantly translated) was noticed and respected by everybody else, even the older colleagues and authors, who gladly accepted him as equal to them: George Konrád, Mile Stojić, Izet Sarajlić, Ronny Sommeck, Amir Or, Aleš Debeljak, Sibilia Petlevski, Benjamin Stein, Zvonko Karanović, Mladen Lompar, Ingo Schultze, Branko Čegec, Predrag Lucić, are only some of the names that first come to mind, whose books he translated and published in his electronic magazine (and first of that kind in Macedonia, started in 1998), and his publishing house under the same name – Blesok!
Maybe it was the main reason why his full blooded, selfless creation was “successfully” avoided by the local literary medals, official awards and public recognition. The wise Boris Buden seems to be fully right when he ironically concludes: “Whoever buries you – the state will preserve you“ (Вовед во минатото, 2013) – taking into consideration precisely the literary phenomenon of posthumous canonization, typical not only of our environment.
In Igor Isakovski’s case, only the Internet portal on culture “Okno” posthumously published a series of contributions, selected poems and prose by the author, as well as articles, poems and views about his death. The editor in chief of Okno, Nikola Gelevski, also organized a debate on Isakovski’s work on 24 Decemver 2014, which can be seen live on You Tube, with addresses of Elizabeta Sheleva, Ana Martinoska, Gjoko Zdraveski.
Therefore, it is a sad undisputed fact that for their own cultural and literary environment, the writers and artists in general, especially those who spiritually, creatively, according to their lifestyle and resistance are qualitatively above it, often in return
remain in it and leave it – unread and not read completely!
Here, after the sudden death of a significant author and cultural animator, such as Igor Isakovski, whose various work and significance (not only as a writer, but also as an editor, translator, publisher) will not be possible to be compensated for a long time to come – these events mean more than an individual loss! They are actually a collective loss of the whole literary and cultural community or “stage” (as it is recently said).
With respect to all of this, at the end of this small homage about the uncompromising poet and man, in himself, who said that he was oscillating and considering the two extremes – the monk and the bohemian, I would like on my own behalf most honestly, an on the behalf of all of (his) current and future readers to tell him:
“You’re awesome, Isakovski” – whoever you are, wherever you are in this!
– The monk or the bohemian, the poet or urban wonderer, the man awfully in love
– Or the deadly cursed (b)lu(e)ser only few steps – poems away from his own ritualistic (self)destruction!