The most intimate side of exile is tied to the suitcase.
Sometime at the end of June this year, there was a book-launching of the latest collection of poems (seventh in a row) by Lidija Dimkovska entitled Borderline State. The poems read at the event by the author herself sounded powerful, moving, provocative, engaged… In fact, as is the meeting with every new achievement of Dimkovska – whether poetry or prose. In the moments when I began writing this text, the news arrived about the prestigious award “Miladinov Brothers” from the Struga Poetry Evenings being awarded to this book of verses. The undoubtedly high aesthetic qualities of Dimkovska’s latest poetry book, in addition to being praised by the award jury, have already been commented on in the reviews by Goce Smilevski, Iskra Geshovska, Aleksandra Jurukovska, Atanas Vangelov, Saso Ognenovski… They all agree in the assessment that these are poems of courage and irreconcilability, sincerity and uncompromisingness, poems that address some current, burning issues of today that warn of dehumanizing the world and man.
One of the poetic constants of Lidija Dimkovska, which finds its worthy place in her latest collection of poems, also being an exemplary “borderline state”, is the theme of exile, among other things, the main motif in the poem “Suitcases”. The poem is narrative (actually, like most poems in the collection), strophic and with an extremely harmonious structure. Compositionally, the poem consists of five octaves: in the first it talks about “the case under my mother’s bed / which she brought from the village to the city”, in the second, about “the suitcase under my uncle’s bed” with “notes from the history lectures”, in the third, about the “suitcase under the bed in the student’s dormitory”, in which “I kept the typewriter ‘Ljubinka’”, in the fourth, about the “suitcases in Auschwitz with glass separated / from the reach of visitors,” while, the fifth octave is a kind of summary, (self)poetic commentary and a final insight into the philosophy of life.
The unifying/pivotal thread of the poem is the suitcase, i.e. the suitcases. By choosing the plural form, the author alludes to the diverse content, as well as the multipurpose function of the suitcase. The first and most beautiful association for the suitcase is the journey (in the sense of Baudelaire’s “call to travel”) and the adventures of meeting the Unknown on any journey (in the nomadic style of Homer’s Odyssey). But transfer, dislocation, mobility, dynamism… as explicit characteristics of travel can also be traumatic when associated with exile, voluntary or imposed, forced. “The only way left for the exiled one to overcome the traumas of exile is not to overcome them at all, but to live them as a permanent state, to turn the waiting room into a cheerful life ideology, to live the schizophrenia of exile as a norm of normalcy and to worship only one god: the Suitcase” – writes Dubravka Ugresikj in her very lucid essay “Suitcase” (Ugresikj 2014:17).
The undoubtedly witty, ironic tone of this statement has a bitter taste, in fact, like the poem of our Lydia. The suitcase is a god only for the mother of the lyrical subject: only in the initial verses it’s not a proper suitcase, but a case that alludes to storage, keeping, memorization…, as a “space of intimacy” (Bachelard ); ultimately, as a hidden space that is not open to everyone or a space where man hides and keeps his secrets. But the outcome is negative again, because the wedding gift, the “fish-shaped plates” that lingered in the case for years, are completely destroyed by being kept and unused:
Their gills have faded, their sea has turned gray,
when we opened the case
they had already eaten each other.