- North Macedonia -
Pavlina Atanasova (1993, Štip) writes poetry and short stories. She graduated at the Faculty of Economy, “Goce Delchev” University in Shtip. She is the author of the poetry collections: The Great Embrace (PNV Publications, 2020), shortlisted for the “Brothers Miladinov” Award of the Struga Poetry Evenings, and A Rock in the Sea, “Engravings” edition (PNV Publications, 2023).
She has participated at the 32nd edition of the “Poetry Night Velestovo” in 2020, the 61st edition of the “Struga Poetry Evenings” in 2022 and the first edition of the “Skopje Poetry Festival” in 2021. She has read her poetry in several places around Macedonia, including “Poetic Episode” in Skopje and “Good Guests” in Štip.
Her poetry has been included in several selections and anthologies, and she is regularly featured in periodicals. Her poems have been translated into Serbian, Croatian, Albanian and Turkish language.
She lives and works in Skopje.
ON THE POETRY BOOK THE GREAT EMBRACE BY PAVLINA ATANASOVA
The Great Embrace by Pavlina Atanasova, published by the Publishing House “PNV Publications”, is a type of poetry book that all of us poetry lovers crave. From the first poem I read, from the very first verse, I felt butterflies in my stomach and a desire to explore more about this young author who made her poetry debut with this book. I approached this book with excitement, but also with uncertainty about whether the author has managed to sustain the level of quality throughout the whole book as opposed to the poems presented on a website online. What I encountered as a poetry experience throughout this book is pure poetic joy and connection. Such identification, overlap and instant connection is a rarity, and as such, it is therefore priceless. With her poetry, Atanasova has embraced me in an enormous hug. It is a genuine, iconic, intensive embrace which will remain etched in my poetic being forever. This is why I feel the need to provide a personal review of this book, as a sort of recompense for the embrace which I received with such joy.
When first reading the poems, one may notice the dual nature of Atanasova’s poetry. On one hand, it is easily recognizable, accessible and simple, but if one peers a bit deeper and contemplates a little, one would realise just how deep, multi-layered and multidimensional it actually is. The poetic language is soft, lyrical and bright, yet she writes with the depth of somebody who has looked darkness in the eyes. The terms light and darkness are mentioned in the book often, same as the word snow – symbolising purity and light; the word soul, as a symbol of the connection to other worlds, and the word tree as the symbol of life. In the “Poem”, dedicated and inspired by the poet Pessoa, she writes: “All colours are in the eyes, and yet, eyes are just eyes. / The darkness – dark, the lightness – light. And yet / behind the light – darkness, behind the darkness – light. / To open the window / or to dream of opening the window. / To dream of the opening of the window / or to dream what exists behind it? / To dream, that is important. / Everything is here and somewhere. Here and somewhere is everything.” If I were to describe it with colours, then for me the poetry of Atanasova is white. An interesting fact – the poetess Julijana Velichkovska, who is also the publisher of this book, compares the poetry of Atanasova with the colour blue, recognizing the blueness and the principle of water throughout the poetry. Hence, an opinion is formed: much like any poetry of note, this poetry is a reflection in which we see ourselves. I recognise the whiteness, Velichkovska the blueness, somebody else perhaps would see a different colour or a rainbow even, because All colours are in the eyes. Nonetheless, not every poetry is our mirror, in which we see our reflection or not see ourselves at all.
The form is precise and concise, there are no excess words, nor any unnecessary verbiage. Not once does the author lose her poetic concentration. The level of quality set at the beginning of the book has been constant all the way to the end of the book. The book hasn’t been separated into cycles, which is unnecessary as the book represents a finished whole.
What attracts me most is the philosophical and spiritual dimension, but also the humanism and family principles present in this book. Spirituality is omnipresent, but not in the monastic-ascetic principle of Christianity, but rather in the spirit of Zen Buddhism and Eastern religions. This may be noted not only from the content of the poems but also from the poems’ form and structure. This may be illustrated well with the untitled poem about a nursing mother: “A mother is nursing a child. / The child extends its hands, filled with breadcrumbs, towards the birds. / The birds fly away.” In fact, her short poems are most fascinating to me. They contain refined and condensed poetic thoughts. In a few words, Atanasova is able to say a lot, paint a poetic image, and even present a whole film scene in just several verses, as she has done in the poem “Still Nature”: “When everything had been packed up and the suitcases were left near the entrance, / I looked at it, for the final time, the home which we were leaving. / What we couldn’t take with us, we left - / a round, massive table with flowers from the yard, / an apple cut in two, a glass of water, and the memory of mortality.” The imagery or the visualisation of the poetry is what holds us captive and through which poetry is engraved in the reader’s poetic consciousness. A poem once-seen is never forgotten. The poetry of Atanasova is like a bonsai tree – it isn’t planted in the centre of the plant, but a bit to the side, it grows crooked but the crown manages to grow into the centre and thus becomes the point in which the sky and the earth meet, making it such a holy place.
One of the most important characteristics of this poetry is its intertextuality, not only from a literary perspective but from an artistic one in general. Hence, one may say that throughout the poems of The Great Embrace, Atanasova presents us with a secret treasure map, one we must solve and explore so we may understand the multi-layered dimension of this poetry. We are required to have a certain prior knowledge, but also to explore: the story of Lot’s Daughters in the Bible, the Greek myth of Niobe, the films of Tarkovsky, the songs of John Lennon, the poetry of John Keats, Pessoa, Celan, etc.
All of the three characteristics I have mentioned - Zen Buddhism in form and style of expression, the imagery and the intertextuality – intertwine and come forth in “The Song of the Sea” dedicated to the pianist Glenn Gould: “To hear the song of the sea, find the sound of the subterranean rivers.”
To me, The Great Embrace is like a little chest filled with hidden treasures. With every new opening, you are bound to discover a new precious verse which has remained hidden during previous readings. Something unseen at first will reveal itself and will open new experiences for you. That is why one may say that this is a book which can be read infinite times. These poetic experiences make life worth living, as they make the pain of our surrounding reality a little bit more bearable, by providing meaning to meaninglessness.
Translated from Macedonian by: