Saturday, 29 March 2014

Some Poems from Delhi: Nikola Madzirov

Kunwar Narain, Nikola Madzirov, George Szirtes

The haze hangs over the city
like the Virgin Mary’s bowed head
from a fresco far away.

Satellite dishes talk to
trying to determine tomorrow’s weather:
clear, safe, significant
like a calendar with
red dates.

But as soon as the night joins
the shadows to the wall,
you will sneak out towards the branches
like a rare bird
from the other side of a bank-note.

I have asked a few of the poets I heard in Delhi if I might print one of their poems on the blog and they have been kind enough to say yes, so this is the first of the series.

Nikola Madzirov is Macedonian, born in 1973, in the old Yugoslavia that collapsed when he was just eighteen when he had already been conscripted into the army. His book, Remnants of Another Age (Bloodaxe 2013)  translated into English by Peggy and Graham W. Reid and by Magdalena Horvat and Adam Reed,
is full of poems that are  lyrical, surreal, inventive and full of love, magic, and loss.

The blurb speaks of some resemblance to Popa, Milosz, Herbert and, later, Zagajewski, as well as Tomas Tranströmer, which is a reasonable set of orientations, but there is something quite special about Madzirov, a very personal kind of invention and form of address, that is born not out of political stasis but out of change.

That may be too abstruse a speculation. I love this particular poem because, from the very first, it provides a transformation that opens a dialogue between the sacred and the ordinary, between the haze and the Virgin, the satellite dishes and the angels, and tomorrow's weather and those red dates in the calendar.

It is a classic three-part poem so, in the third verse, we move to a new state of affairs that throws a transforming light on what had preceded it. It is night, secretive, amorphous. It is ourselves that are the rare birds, but we also inhabit the far side of the banknote, a different kind of otherness, one that is both grossly material and yet mysterious and heraldic. The emergence of that last image is the natural climax of a poem coming into full generous dreamlike focus.

Gorgeous translation too.

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