Macedonian Week of the Festival

At the Night

/ by Magdalena Grcheska

In the evening, the wind was roaring and the river was wonderful. The swept blueness followed the people made from paper verses everywhere. The echo of the frogs croaking in the canal and the cricket’s chirping in the grass could be heard throughout the place. The smells were strong, the colours were vibrant, even the rain was wetter. The earth was a burning pan, the sun was blinding. In a moment, her blouse was wet. Everything was more intensive. He was in love with her. It was August. The Struga Poetry Evenings were happening…

- I will visit my mother, thought the girl with the simple bike.

- My mother is dead, she remembered.

- Sooner or later, a person must choose a side to remain human. The clouds have cleared, enjoy the sunny weather – boomed the radio in the little shop across Hotel Drim.

- If I must define whole of art in a single verse, it would be Blaže Koneski’s verse: “…it is an urge and it requires no meaning”, she thought as she rode the simple bike to her part-time job at the SPE.

August was in its sunset, but the SPE were in their sunrise. The childish laughter from the poets was ringing in the hotel halls. In the press-hall, collapses happened, the tears of the dream-team were falling upward like a shaken Coca-Cola can. The poet’s verses no longer flowed over the computers. They were like stuck dog words. The first verse by the laureate Zagajewski spilled forth from the microphone, and it was heard deep within the full moon’s reflection in the swept blueness.

- Listen to the Ohrid trout gathering among the algae to hear the poets, whispered the girl with the simple bike to her enamoured boyfriend. Nothing was like before. Poetry covered them. The magic spell was successful.

- This year Struga was the host to 30 foreign poets from as many countries and around 50 Macedonian poets, thus reaffirming the prestige of the SPE (…) the team heard on the local radio.

- Hey, they are talking about us, listen carefully, Boshko softly reproached them.

- Eh, they won’t say anything about “Poetry on the road”, you’ll see, just like every year, said the girl with the tattoo.

- The Director of the “Struga Poetry Evenings” Mite Stefoski, presented the award to this year’s laureate Adam Zagajewski, which is made from a filigree laurel, the radio continued.

- Guys, turn off the radio, I can’t focus on the verses, they are escaping me… cried the beautiful girl named Mitra.

The radio kept going… - E. Sheleva, President of the MB of the SPE presented the “Bridges of Struga” award, which the SPE together with UNESCO, awards to the best debutant book from a young world poet. The recipient is the Finnish poet Pauli Tapio, whose book “Sparrows and time” was awarded with this prestigious recognition. The President of the jury for the “Brothers Miladinov” Award D. Kocevski presented the prestigious award for the best poetry book written in Macedonian language between two festival editions to Zoran Ančevski for his book “Celestial Pantomime”.

- Macedonia, thought Mitra. Name with so many letters, but with so little space. A single clear droplet in the blueness of the world. Macedonia, like Kavafis’s “Ithaca”

“… gave you the marvellous journey.

Without her you would not have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.”

Struga. A town on two waters. A town with so few letters, but so many verses. Kalishta. What a strange name for anything. A place where the monastery “Holy Mother of God” bathes in the lake and the cacti bathe in flowerpots and the rocks bathe in the skies and the poets bathe in verses. Bitola. The city of consuls, the city every Jew wishes to see in person. A city where the SPE live for a day. Prilep. The city with one (and the same) starting and ending letter. The city of King Marko. The city enchanted by the poetry of the SPE… And lastly, Ohrid, Ohrid Town, the jewel of Macedonia. The town with the houses of Ristevci, the town of cobblestone roads and pearls. The town where the melodious laureate’s voice echoed in “St. Sophia”. The town where Urania welcomed the Macedonian poets in her house to hear their proud verses.

- Macedonia lives in the verse! The verse is salvation! – shouted Mitra without realizing that she could scare the angels out of the translators.

- Mitra, stop idling and start copying verses! – shouted Boshko, yellow in the face from work.

- Boshko, can I ask you something?

- Sure, Mitra, but be quick.

- Where is Macedonia in this story? Did the author ever think about the country with many letters? Do freedom and art exist here? Did this twenty-year old struggle for bare existence, through the ordeals of our newly founded democracy, produced hero-poets? If art is the urge which asks for no meaning, then how many of our poets have expressed that urge from within themselves, eh Boshko? Do we as a nation or as individuals recognize ourselves in those urges and do we discover anything new about ourselves and our existence? What is our level on which we experience art? What moves us? What makes us cry? What delights us? Did politics wipe art from our lives? What kind of lives do we lead – simply a bare form devoid of spirituality? Let me tell you something else, Boshko, if Plato would have been alive today, maybe he would call the art of today a bad imitation of form, or maybe he wouldn’t name it at all, and let modern-day philosophers nibble at it and name it as an exception from all existences!? Will the answer to these questions help us better understand ourselves? And – the harshest question asked today: should art and politics mix together, should or should not artists get involved in politics? Mitra’s eyes went wide.

- You’re asking too many questions, Mitra, find the girl with the simple bike and ask her, said the translator with the wavy hair.

- Guys, listen quick: The Struga “Bridge of Poetry” connects cultures, nations, civilizations. On it, more than 5100 poets have written the story of our festival. Tonight, on paper boats, the participants of the SPE 2018, through the waters of the eternal river Drim, will send messages that will circle the world, cried Aleksandra’s journalist voice from the telephone speaker throughout the press-room.

- I am so glad about that statement. Trajce the printer was excitedly talking to the team.

The poets started swimming along the eel’s road. Lazily they went, yawning on the boat’s deck beneath the sun. The fish hurried to keep up and hear some stray verse. The eels waited 364 days for the poets from around the world to unite and spread their verses all the way to the greatest depths of the lake.

- We’ve arrived, we’ve arrived, Mitra was joyously shouting.

Heaven awaited the poets. The bells of the “St. Naum” church tolled. The fish jumped with joy. The poets have arrived. The old witch hurried to wipe the rain from the chairs.

-After today’s boat ride to “St. Naum” and announcing Ida Börjel from Sweden as the winner for the best wine poem, during tonight’s informal poetic reading “Nights without Punctuation” at midnight, the best-read poem “Only a little prayer” by the Macedonian author Mitko Gogov will be declared, Aleksandra said.

- On Monday, 27th of August, at 13:00h the poets will read at the “Matka Matinee” and at 21:00h in front of the “Stone Bridge” in Skopje…

- Skopje, thought Boshko to himself. The city will rise anew when the poets sing in verse, he smiled shily and continued working.

- If reality is a model of art, then fiction is among other things, a journey, but is the journey a liberation of reality? Are we on a journey now? – asked Mitra.

- Stop pestering me, ah! Copy those verses and grab a lemon! – answered Boshko, yellow in the face from work.


Translated by Gorjan Kostovski

Magdalena Grcheska

(1992) is a graduated philologist at the Department of General and comparative literature at the Faculty of Philology “Blaže Koneski”, “Ss. Cyril and Methodius” University in Skopje. Several of her texts (interpretative essays, criticism, reports, reviews…) have been published in the literary magazines MIRAGE, DIVERSITY and REPER. Her activity in the culture sector has been published at the GROWR page – the global community for education and career development with peer to peer mentorship for real-world skills. From 2015 she is the assistant at the organization of writers and intellectuals the MACEDONIAN PEN CENTER, and also an assistant to the vice-president of the International PEN academician Katica Kjulavkova. She has been the project manager of the multimedia art festival BOSH FESTIVAL, member of INKA and actively works with the DrimON festival. She is also part of the Struga Poetry Evenings team and a coordinator of many other projects in the culture sector. She is the main editor of the international electronic magazine for art and literature РАЗНОЛИКОСТ/DIVERSITY.