Ivana Jovanovska

- North Macedonia -

Ivana Jovanovska (1998) was born and lives in Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia. She is currently studying at the Department of General and Comparative Literature at the Faculty of Philology “Blazhe Koneski”. She has participated in numerous poetry readings such as “Nights without punctuation” at the 60th Struga Poetry Evenings, “33rd Velestovo Poetry Night”, “Astalni Proekcii”, the feminist festival “Prvo pa Zhensko 6”, poetry readings at the “Dunja” social center. Her poems have been published in: the Greek literary magazine “Teflon”, the literary magazine “Sovremenost”, the magazine for contemporary world literature “Literary Elements”, the international review “Poetry Night in Velestovo”, the portal for literature and culture “Okno”, the electronic magazine “Reper”, the poetry and literature platform “Fusnota”, the internet platform “100 000 Poets for Change” the feminist culture portal “Medusa” and the e-magazine “In Medias Res” of the students from the Faculty of Philology. Part of her poems have been translated into Greek. “On the Sleeve of the City” is her first book of poetry.

A lyrical play in three acts


(In regards to the book of poetry “On the Sleeve of the City” by Ivana Jovanovska)


With poems published in several magazines, portals and almanacs (“Sovremenost”, “Medusa”, “In medias res”, “Okno”, “100 000 Poets for Change”), the young poetess Ivana Jovanovska unobtrusively, yet quite deservedly so, has distinguished herself as one of the most remarkable new poetic forces at the Macedonian literary stage. Consequently, it is hardly a surprise that for a debut book of poetry, her poetry collection “On the Sleeve of the City” is an extraordinarily thought-out, carefully structured and conceptually completely mature poetic project. Comprised of around thirty poems with high aesthetic range, arranged into three coherent cycles (“Restlessness”, “A New Beginning” and “Transformation”), this book impresses us with the flawless tripartite structure and thematic completeness. We immediately gain the impression that the sequence of the cycles and the arrangement of the poems (in the cycles themselves, but also as a whole in this first poetic work of hers) create a compelling “story”, a sort of lyrical play in three acts:


1) The poems from the “Restlessness” cycle, which serve as a sort of poetic prologue, create an impressive string of subtly articulated poetic images dedicated to internal strife, caused by an avalanche of anomalies that beset the contemporary (young) person. Ivana Jovanovska is a daring poetess, who manages to suggestively, allusively but also quite directly point a finger at the threats that trouble the younger generations.


In fact, the poems by Ivana Jovanovska raise an alarm about the great number of forms of (visible and invisible) violence which torment the contemporary person, as if living in the great calm before the storm. In her poem “Valley of Pain”, the topic of infectious hopelessness has been shrewdly mentioned: “We occasionally hear about / the lifegiving hope / on TV screens”.


In her poem “Last Night I Dreamt of War”, she captures the condemnation of the lyrical subject to live in justified fear, in a world where threats of new wars constantly loom large: “When I dream of war / I rearrange my basement into a shelter/ … I dream of war almost always / and on a calendar, I cross off / one day after the other. / In the meantime, / I drink more, / I eat zestfully, / I breathe more than what is recommended. / I also keep quiet, / as much as I am permitted.”. In the phantasmagorical poem “Maggots”, the thematical allegory of the loss of humanity and the loss of values has been presented: “We flee this place because of the maggots / who are braver than we are, / who are as insolent as dragons,”.  Some poetic images from these poems touch upon social topics, and in some remarkable poems, the bitter topic of leaving the home has been lyrically developed.


In fact, the topos of homelessness is present in several poems: “We compose anthems from the resounding steps / as we abandon our places.” (“Anthems”) or “We carry four bags filled with sorrow” (“Unnamed”). In the poem “Never Again”, the relationship between space, leaving and memory is untangled: “I am leaving this place. / I go now to hug all the neighborhoods / where I could walk freely. (…) One day I will leave too, / and there won’t be a corner whispering to me / about my winged people”.


2) Reading Ivana Jovanovska’s poetry, we intuit the feeling of unity between the man and the world. In her verses, the normal oppositions “I – others, outside - inside, subject – object”, seem to be overcome. Let us point to some examples: “The storms subside so you may calm yourself. / The spring flowers open so you may rouse yourself. / The lindens down the street bloom so you may free yourself.” (“On the Sleeve of the City”), or “Again, the day was born and died / to mark this home / where you are never alone, (…) Here, herbs bloom / that stir the scents in your head” (“The Name of the Day”). In the poem “Stars”, the sky and the stars articulate the feeling of connection to the world: “At every corner of the city / we draw breath under a shared sky. / The stars watching over us are alike everywhere.”


It is by no mere chance that this middle cycle is finished with exceptionally warm, honest and impressive lyrical poems, where the vital power of love is being quite charmingly and warmly celebrated.  In the poem “The First Home”, it is precisely in that intimate space of the shared home that the images of the microcosms and macrocosms are intertwined. The home-world of Jovanovska’s verses is inhabited by the whole World: “This home is full of shadows unwilling to leave. (…) all the colors of the world selfishly belong to this home, / the first home”. The unpredictable, eruptive and transformative power of love comes to full shine in the verses of the poem “On the other Side of Town”: “In honor of our first apartment (…) So that I may transform from a sparrow / into a mighty bird of love.” The topos of metamorphosis, begot in this poem, announces the concluding block of poems which finalizes the book of poetry.


3) The poems of the concluding cycle are marked with a freethinking, rebellious youth drive. In the poem “Human”, the lyrical “I” self-assuredly says: “I am not a servant, / I won’t fall under this blue sky”.


The poetry of Ivana Jovanovska – with its freshness, simplicity and directness – through each new verse, through each new poetic image, and through each new singing, reminds us of the need to preserve, renew and reestablish the tremulous dignity of contemporary Man.


As such, the book “On the Sleeve of the City” begins with a justified and honest concern about the world, gradually submerging us into an avalanche of dramatic trials and tribulations, but also effectively concluding itself with love and hope: “Deliberately, I lay on thorns / from whose sting I chose to grow up.” Among the lines of poetry by Ivana Jovanovska, it seems as if one of the secrets of good poetry is discreetly revealed to us – not only to spur the healthy hope within us, but also to remind us “to love / variously / vastly”.


Vladimir Martinovski