- North Macedonia -
Damjana Vidicheska is a fearless writer, teacher, translator, and advocate for gender equality, using her prose, poetry, and film projects to challenge societal norms and promote empowerment. She was born 1996 in Ohrid, North Macedonia, and has always shown a strong passion for literature and the arts. Damjana got her M.A. in English and Creative Writing as a Fulbright student at the University of Missouri, USA. She writes in three languages – Macedonian, English, and German, and explores and does research on second-language writing. She has published three books: "My Family" (2009), "Seven Wishes" (2011), and "Brooklyn" (2015). Her literary contributions extend to magazines like Are We Europe, Body Collective, e(Lit), and Stozher. She earned the Frances W. Kerr Award for her poetry and creative nonfiction, which explore themes of bodily autonomy, identity, sexual education, feminism and intersectionality, belonging, and LGBTQIA+ matters. Vidicheska interned at Persea Books and is affiliated with the Writers' Association of Macedonia, and the Macedonian American Alumni Association.
More on Damjana’s website: https://vidicheska.com/
On Damjana Vidicheska’s Macedonian Poetry
Damjana Vidicheska's poetry is food for thought; it seems as if it was intended for all those who are interested in what Macedonian women's poetry really looks like, and above all, what the Macedonian young woman in it looks like. In line with the appearance of Macedonian women's writing, there were notable signs of women's emancipation which was carried out through the obtaining of a strong female voice and opinion, which also appears as a contemplative indicator in Vidicheska's work as well. Through her verse, we take the lyrical subject most seriously because it expresses its own will, its determination, and even stubbornness very evidently and transparently. In that sense, the numerous statements in a commanding manner addressed mostly to the anonymous, and in many cases, male addressee are genuine proof of the intimate behaviour and the immediate connection between the lyrical subject itself and the poetess's voice.
The female lyrical subject is powerful and dominant; it also forbids certain actions, for example in the title of the song "Don't look for me", for which someone could condemn her as behaving not befittingly, but she still does that, entering into an argument or dialogue with it, as it is the case for instance in the poem: "You're not coming back to me, are you?", as if she even wants to clear up certain notions.
According to Violeta Hristovska (1999) it is the image of the new woman, which was already announced by Helene Cixous, (which would be the woman who destroyed the traditional representations of the female and the feminine, the values and the relationships) in the poem "Breakthrough for a pro-gender", when she says "I'm making my way, and I'm being slandered // because there was no colorfulness among them" in which the woman is presented as overconfident, proud, and self-sufficient. In fact, she strongly opposes the man, and at the same time, she cries loudly, ceremonially calling out as in a ritual rite for her female ascendents, her ancestresses, and celebrating them in the poem "My Grandma":
"When you left,
fish and potatoes on the table lost their taste.
And nothing is as it was
Nothing anymore smells like home."
In Vidicheska's poetry, the woman is not just a powerful, intimate voice, (although her poems are written in a deeply confessional cry); her strong outspokenness, her vocalness echoes from the past and blends into the present, and this past-present voice even resumes an image, gets a womanly face, and now we know, we understand who exerts power, who domineers. In essence, anyone who possesses any kind of power often experiences respect and recognition from those around them, but on the other hand, it arouses fear, perhaps even envy, since the power can be (even unintentionally, depending on the circumstances and the persons involved) abused.
But the woman in Damjana Vidicheska's poetry, although she acts confidently, sensibly, and openly, she never really manipulates this dominance, she never abuses her power; on the contrary, she channels it constructively, in the direction of understanding and interpreting of the self-memory. The lyrical subject is completely liberated from any obstacles - it talks about its body, its powerful sexuality, emphasizing its traits of feminine seductiveness, fluidity, and the polyphony of woman's language, not putting it on a pedestal as an imperative for self-realization, but respecting it as just one more of the range of women's rights of free choice. In Vidicheska's poetry, if a woman is the earth, she is also both the lake and the fish, she is the daughter-spring and a grandmother; her main specificity is not bearing offspring and giving birth to children - on the contrary; the conceptual metaphor of CHOICE that is predictive of female physiological and mental health and wellbeing, of healthy female sexuality unencumbered by biological predestination, is the leitmotif, the basic element of Vidicheska's verses.
Allusions to sexuality are not just obvious, they are omnipresent and occupy every pore of Damjana's verses; they can be felt in the presence of natural elements, in the sketching of the ancient Ohrid lake and its inviting, seductive age-old waters, at the same time imputing a fusion of female fluidity and her stoicism, a beautiful emersion in the female element that Gaston Bachelard discusses in "Water and Dreams." As the earth needs the rain to drink and nourish from its essence, the fish in the lake need water to live and breathe, the flower needs watering to grow, and so does the female body, which is liquid, fluid, but yet needs the fluctuation, needs to secrete fluids with menstruation, amniotic water, tears, moisture for an orgasmic explosion, for the pleasant, the strange, the witchy. When we look closely at the outline of meaning/significance relationships in the poems, we see that the most elementary body parts and all four basic natural elements are involved, like in the poem "When the night strips me off to the core of all my troubles." They are written as they are, as syntagmatic analysis of wild winds, days full of dreams, vast, untrodden places and unknown spaces, where rain represents water, and the sky is connected with fire - if we imagine a hot sun in the sky, we understand the woman's strong association and connotation of passion, making love that culminates in orgasm, in spring, summer, autumn, and winter. It seems that Damjana at times rejects the subtle and delicate introduction of the motifs of female sexuality in her poetry - which used to be an expected norm within the cultural milieu in which Macedonian female poetry thrived; her method is openly provocative and undoubtedly innovative.
By thematizing the body, her own corporeality, and sexuality, the poetess defies the long Christian tradition of a veiled body, and restrained, regulated sexuality. The embarrassment of the naked body developed almost since the beginning of humanity when, according to the Biblical idea of humility, the artistic presentation of the biblical Adam and Eve with fig-leaved covered genital areas which seemed canon, is now reexamined and subversively redefined in Vidicheska's poetry - the ''stripping off', Sylvia Plath's striptease-kind-of an analogy. We can perhaps understand and partially interpret this bold decision of the poetess through two inversely proportional concepts: the first one is a new social order operated by the subversive, liberated femininity that rejects religions and forbids submissiveness to religious practices, and the other one is an interest in ancient (Greek and Roman) cultures in which the female body, even the naked, is respected, eroticized, and accepted, where sexuality does not radiate and relate with reproduction, but also with the passion, discovery, and self-realization because, as Svetlana Makarovich elaborates it, the Hellenic people due to various hedonistic tendencies and limited reproductive possibilities, allegedly developed alternative sexual practices, like for instance, homosexual relations (2009: 100 - 110)
Vidicheska's verses seem earnest and simple, but in fact, they are utterly complex in their core - they gravitate between the contemporary and the traditional, between the reality and dreams, between the feminist and the feminine. Her neologisms offer a freshness to the language and to the reading of the poems, as she plays with the language and structure, meandering around number of complex images which are part of the Macedonian tradition and culture.
Vidicheska is a rare new voice who writes in an equally exquisite quality, elegance and passion in several languages. She is to become the freshest, the most distinguished young female representative of the Macedonian's Second Modernism.
Tatjana Srceva-Pavlovska, PhD
Associate Professor of English