- 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”.
LAST NIGHT I DREAMT OF WAR / СНОШТИ СОНИВ ВОЈНА
Last night I dreamt of war
giving birth to an apocalypse in pieces.
When I dream of war
I rearrange my basement into a shelter.
Today I left three embroidered peppers down there 
and to the wooden chest,
in a new letter which I slipped inside it,
told it that it is safe and sound.
I checked whether the old mattress
had been eaten by rats,
and to the existing supplies
I added a new supply of fear.
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.
 Embroidered pepper is a unique type of Macedonian pepper with very specific fruit appearance, taste and use. The name is derived from their intricately scarred skin that appears to be threaded. (TN)
WELTSCHMERZ / СВЕТСКАТА БОЛКА
We sit upon pillars in godless solitude.
We watch as false crises and promises
rob the deserts of their peace
Far from our sight
lie threequarters of the new moment.
We will not experience them because of Weltschmerz.
ON THE SLEEVE OF THE CITY / НА РАКАВОТ НА ГРАДОТ
Peer into yourself.
The gaps in your body await your return.
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.
In a symphony, the new raindrops await your fatigue.
Peer into yourself.
The pangs of the body dream of you being born
as the first free person of the city.
As the first one who became aware of personal places.
THE NAME OF THE DAY / ИМЕТО НА ДЕНОТ
Again, the day has been christened with the same name.
Again, the day was born and died
to mark this home
where you are never alone.
Among ancient ruins,
a safe haven from troubles.
Here, herbs bloom
that stir the scents in your head.
Here you become human and reconcile yourself to wrinkles.
Your steps are shorter and you breathe calmly.
Here the stars come to you for a summer fling.
We will always call the day by the same name,
so that what home means to us may never die.
THE FIRST HOME / ПРВИОТ ДОМ
This home is full of shadows unwilling to leave.
It has red windows
broken by the last cheap hearts,
white walls with remnants of vulnerable dreams,
gray thresholds bearing weight upon invisible shoulders,
yellowed newspapers with adverts for flats at exorbitant prices.
It has brown rakija glasses with chipped ends, 
green vases for hope filled with fatigued flowers,
blue broken faucets where the truth flows,
and black seeds in flowerpots
that have given up before even taking root.
It has rose-tinted mirrors ashamed of themselves
and orange carpets to welcome you,
shy since birth.
Today, all the colors of the world selfishly belong to this home,
the first home.
 The collective term for fruit spirits (or fruit brandy) popular in the Balkans. (TN)
HUMAN / ЧОВЕК
I’ll leave all the doors wide open.
I’ll remain calm, curious, small and silly.
I won’t kneel before the king in my head.
I am not a servant,
I won’t fall under this blue sky.
I’ll read, I’ll learn, I’ll sail,
but I won’t crumble under this heavy armor.
Deliberately, I lay on thorns
from whose sting I chose to grow up.
SPRING / ПРОЛЕТ
Spring shall come
when we forgive the aches
of the Mother we tread upon,
when we bow down
to the children of concrete.
When we draw breath
the angered directions of the world.
Spring shall only come when we borrow
the Sun from the Middle East.
SOUTH / ЈУГ
There is something wrong in waiting for the migratory birds
draped in last year’s restlessness.
Beyond the unknown world,
memories surface with a handful of deceits pasted to their bodies.
The more self-sufficient we are,
the less we understand the South.
WHEN MY GRANDMOTHER MOURNS MY GRANDFATHER / КОГА БАБА МИ ГО ОПЛАКУВА ДЕДО МИ
When my grandmother mourns my grandfather,
a severe storm comes from the north
and a heavy hail hits the tiny roof tiles.
It pounds and pummels with fury until its back begins to ache.
It retreats, defeated.
Life in the streets remains mute.
Only then do we understand how much the end hurts.
Voicelessly, we continue to love,
STARS / ЅВЕЗДИ
Up until the final step, we are together.
Our bills due, drowsy and delirious
we pick pajamas for our next nap.
At every corner of the city
we draw breath under а shared sky.
The stars watching over us are alike everywhere.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN / НА ДРУГАТА СТРАНА НА ГРАДОТ
On the other side of town
I talk to you quietly so as not to wake you.
On this side of town, I fall asleep restlessly,
for I am clumsy and wild when things change.
In honor of our first apartment,
I bought you a poetry booklet,
so you may read aloud to me about gardens
filled with giddy feelings.
So that I may transform from a sparrow
into a mighty bird of love.
On the new side of town,
I speak softly to you at night,
so you may never learn how far my longing may be heard
while you sleep.
PERSONAL ABYSS / СОПСТВЕНА БЕЗДНА
I melted, and was born anew.
Frightened of missing something
I put on two different shoes,
and all around me seemed in order.
for a few days now,
I wish for open galleries
between your world and mine;
I wish to tell you stories
although I don’t know any;
I wish to know how to quickly escape
from my personal abyss.
For a few days now,
I hear ever louder that personal renewal is in crisis.
It has become an expendable reserve.
PAIR OF COMPASSES / ШЕСТАРИ
A pair of compasses above our heads
draws circular destinies,
while the final pleas
echo in the streets, again and again.
The city of garbage and gloom adopts its last children.
Homeless we are, trapped in dead spaces.
Homeless, more than dead witnesses.
At an auction, the final supplies of peace are spent.
Before the arrival of the ultimate storm
of masses fed on hurt and hatred,
we read about the great calm before the storm.
VALLEY OF PAIN / КОТЛИНА НА БОЛКИТЕ
In this valley of ours
only withered pain thrives.
There is no lifegiving water.
We occasionally hear about
the lifegiving hope
on TV screens.
The sleeves of this city lie hidden under fatigued hills.
There, only the dreams of children
dare disturb the clouds.
ANTHEMS / ХИМНИ
Packing our suitcases,
we are writing our last letters to you.
Grasping stones in our hands,
with faded smiles we stay silent to the bitter riddles
of the coming day and quietly
we collect all your last embraces.
We are emptying our rooms to the sound of “Delfina”. 
We compose anthems from the resounding steps
as we abandon our places.
 A famous song by Slave Dimitrov, a Macedonian singer, composer and record producer. The song was used as part of the soundtrack for the movie “Stand up straight, Delfina”. (TN)
FEELING / ЧУВСТВО
Here is where my words depart.
Here is where I am a temple, a woman.
Labyrinth in which I lose and find myself.
Here is where I depart alone.
I walk fearlessly and curiously,
I sway in the wind like a cradle,
so the burden may caress me gently
and make the apples inside me ripen.
Thoughts bow to me
and my trusty breath does its thing.
Here is where I expend and bestow myself
and press my lips together for new kisses.
Here, where a peaceful dream comes.
Here, where the day sets
and the lights within me adorn the usurped night.
Here is where everything begins.
Everything that I’ll ever write, so that I may carry it with me.