Nikola Madzirov, the Macedonian poet behind Remnants of Another Age, was recently interviewed by L.A. Grove of the California Journal of Poetics. Discussing the history of the Balkans and Europe which is so felt in his poetry, Madzirov answers in his characteristically cryptic, lyrical way, touching on the themes of borders and the ways in which everything in the world has more than one story.
Born into a family of refugees from the Balkan Wars, Madzirov draws from the political history of the region in some of his poems, particularly "A Way of Existing." When asked about the role of a poet in the historical record, he references how both poetry and history have personal and "official" sides, and that it is the role of the poet to answer these histories, on many levels. He says,
"When my ancestors, who were refugees from the Balkan wars from the beginning of the previous century, started digging the new land in order to build their new home, they came across ancient swords from the time of the Ottoman Empire which ruled over these territories for 500 years, but they also found worms which my grandfather used for fishing... I was born at the crossroads between the historical battles that were fought in the yard where I live now and the mysteriousness of the land that covers all lost objects that belonged to the people who used to live here before me."
Poetry's responsibility is to tell other stories, and not just to agree with the ones left by historians, Madzirov says. "If poetry existed solely for the purpose of affirming historical “truths,” it would have become history long ago."
The interviewer also talks about Madzirov's close work with the translators of his newest collection, Magdalena Horvat, Adam Reed, and Peggy and Graham W. Reid. A translator himself, who references translating as "one of the ways to break the chains of the painful ideological reality," Madzirov speaks of the intertwining of sound, image and word, referencing the other artists with who he has collaborated as well as other notable writer/musician/artist combinations.
Translating for Madzirov is not necessarily a question of transference of authorship, but a question of how the new work is read by the audience. If the work and the authors are houses and rooms, then "[t]ranslators are certainly the architects of the streets and entrances to that home." He sees translating, particularly the translation of his own work into languages he doesn't know, as a kind of elevation of the language beyond what the dictionary can give you into a kind of "civilizational palimpsest that does not belong to any state or national literature." Translation does not merely stop at words on a page; it is enacted in the writing down of the words, the reading of the words, the eventual speaking of the words aloud, and last but not least the hearing of the spoken word by the audience.
You can read the entire interview here.
Remnants of Another Age was published in March 2011. It is available for purchase here.