A speech on the occasion of World Poetry Day 21 March, 2008
POETS OF A CRUSHED TRIBE
Dear all, it is good that in this antipoetic world there is a day dedicated to poetry. What can we say of this art today when, two centuries after Hölderlin posed the question, we can still hear the echo of the worrying question: ‘What are poets for in destitute times?’ In a time without God—not because He does not exist but because man has lost Him within himself and therefore ended up in the wilderness, stuck in the mud of history. In times ruled by the rich and powerful and suffered by the poor and the fragile, when the wealth of a powerful capitalist from Europe or America is equal or many times greater than the budget of a small African country. The system that has been imposed on the world by Western civilization, whose primary goal is that of material profit, notwithstanding the cruel Machiavellian methods employed to achieve this goal, is not in the least happy for man and humanity. It created colonialism, which in today’s system of globalization has been further developed in a different, more sophisticated manner, through economic slavery. Man is humiliated—but humiliated by man; not by animals or plants or elements, which are innocent and are also victims of the ecological catastrophe prepared by Man. Indeed we are in a position to see, as we observe the evils perpetrated on this beautiful planet, that through them the principle of the divine is manifested far more beautifully, more deeply and more primordially, than it is through Man who once was truly God’s creation but who, as he is now, should stand before the mirror and ask himself who he is in order to rediscover the face he has lost.
There are many sleepless questions to which Man knows no answers, questions which spread across the metaphysical horizon with a cursing, fateful echo. He crouches in the midst of the historical night lit only by the lamp of his own poem with which, to paraphrase Ivo Andric, like Scheherazade with her stories, he seeks to fool the executioner and postpone the execution. The poet asks: why for one lamb must there be a whole pack of wolves? Why did the most innocent of us all have to suffer at Golgotha? And why, ever since, has innocence been brought to the gallows? Why does Truth inconsolably sob in the darkness of life? And why, in the place of Truth, does Falsehood pass wreathed in laurels through the applauding masses? Why are the smallest and most tender given the heaviest burden of destiny to bear? Did the Heavenly Father know when He created Adam and Eve that this clay would sigh and suffer, that it would be inhabited by pain and that nothing sadder and more painful would ever exist? Why is Love brought to the gallows when it is, as we know, the greatest power of God? Why has man given up on it, and why are stones, instead of love, now its apostles? When will man apologize for insulting the animals that are primordially innocent and which cannot assume upon themselves his atrocities on Judgement Day? Why, instead of deeds of bravery, is the battlefield filled with cowardice and treachery? Why are girls lonely and sad, and left without their dances? Why is the laurel wreath, once full of glory, now cast into the mud, unable in this chaos to find the forehead of a hero?
Worrying questions—questions with the force of a blizzard, questions without answer. The only thing left is frost on the flowers, the only things wasted in this rough world are tenderness and beauty. The poet questions himself. Man questions himself. And once again the powerful echo, like the De profundis of destiny, Hölderlin’s question: ‘What are poets for in destitute times?’ When the times need poets, precisely because the times are destitute, impoverished, to impregnate the times from within with spiritual seeds and to enrich the times with divine fruit. We, on the other hand, in this small and suffering country, today on this Day of Poetry, face an inevitable, probably even a central question, a question which Koneski raised as a constatation in one of his poems: what does it mean to be a poet of a crushed tribe? The way ours is a crushed tribe. Indisputably, it is a holy task which imposes on the poet the ethical imperative of being light to his people in their historical wilderness and destiny. And for that very reason it is more probable that the poets of small and crushed nations are rather blessed then cursed. They are chosen to lead Love, Truth and Justice out into the light. To them poetry is not an aesthetic toy as it is to others, but a matter of fate, a poetry stemming directly from fate.
We in Macedonia today feel the destiny of a crushed tribe or people weighing on our back. We feel as it were our own wound the utter moral and ethical hypocrisy of Western civilization. We feel its guillotine, one of the inventions of its democracy, over the top of our heads, over which, since time immemorial, our name has been written, given by God. They want to change our name, to erase our identity, powerfully witnessed by the pages of both the New and Old Testament of the Bible, marked by the seal of the Creator.
We face a difficult temptation, with an unfavourable destiny. But, still, through the dark historic night, as through many centuries so far, we have to break through stoically and with a poem. As all crushed and humiliated tribes do. Therefore, this poetic epistle on the World Poetry Day is an epistle-cry, even if it echoes in the desert. Maybe it will be heard by somebody, crushed and humiliated as we are, and they will be encouraged that all is not yet lost, that the ray of justice will shine to empower Hope for our equal place under the sun, together with the strong ones and the tyrants. And Hope, together with Love, are sisters to Poetry. Therefore, let them live to the end of the world and beyond—Hope, Love and Poetry. Their source is holy and they are among the last sanctuaries of the lost man, of the unhallowed modern civilisation—Western civilisation above all.