The first known verses in Macedonian were written by Kiril Pejinovif́-Tetoec (c. 1770-1845). The beginning of known Macedonian poetry coincided with the revival of national awareness and the struggle against the Turks and the Greek clergy, who had tried strenuously to suppress the Macedonian language and the development of Macedonian literature. The next generation of writers included several poets: Jordan Hadi Konstantinov-Dinot (1820-1882), Dimitrije Miladinov (1810-1862), Konstantin Miladinov (1830-1862), Rajko inzifov (1839-1877), and Grigor Prliev (1830-1893). The Miladinov brothers were especially active in their efforts to introduce Macedonian in schools and in collecting and publishing folk poetry. For their nationalistic activity, they both died in a prison in Constantinople. inzifov, a talented poet and an erudite scholar (he was graduated from Moscow University), was also instrumental in collecting and translating folk poetry, and his own poetry is not without merit. The most talented of these writers was Prliev. As a student of Greek, he wrote in Greek the epic poems Serdar (1860; The Sirdar, 1973) and Skender beg (1861; Skender Bey), which he later translated into Macedonian. He also translated Homer’s Iliad (c. 750 b.c.e.; English translation, 1611) and Odyssey (c. 725 b.c.e.; English translation, 1614) into his native language. The poetry of all of these poets, being so closely connected with the struggle of their people for independence, has more historical than artistic value. By writing in their own language, they helped to preserve it in literature after centuries of suppression. They also drew heavily from folk poetry, bringing that cultural treasure into focus and perhaps saving it from oblivion.
In the creation of Yugoslavia at the end of World War I (the new nation of the Southern Slavs was not known by that name until 1929), the Macedonians were denied their nationality once again. Their writers were again forced to live and write outside their native land, for writing and publishing in Macedonian were not allowed. Among these émigré writers, three stand out: Kosta Racin (1908-1943), Venko Markovski (1915-1988), and Kole Nedelkovski (1912-1943). By far the most important of the three, Racin was the first to publish a collection of poems in Macedonian, Beli mugri (1939; white dawns). Here, Racin depicts the plight of his countrymen, who were often forced to go for long periods to other countries, especially the United States, to look for work.
The recognition of Macedonian nationality within Yugoslavia at the end of World War II triggered a burst of cultural and literary activity. A single dialect was chosen to serve as the basis for Macedonia’s literary language, and books began to be published in great numbers. More important, several writers and poets of unmistakable talent emerged, laying the foundation of contemporary literature and poetry. Among these, three stand out: Slavko Janevski (1920-2000), Blae Koneski (1921-1993), and Aco opov (1923-1983).
Janevski’s poetry, whether about his war experiences or about his intimate concerns, is characterized by a picturesque quality, originality, boldness, and even a touch of black humor. In form, he is just as bold, imaginative, and innovative. The author of the first Macedonian novel, he is active in other genres, although poetry still seems to be his main interest.
Koneski, an academician who has done pioneering work in the field of the Macedonian language, writes direct, intimate, and meditative poetry. Macedonian motifs—mythical, folkloric, and contemporary—are frequently found in his somewhat traditional and...
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Barac, Antun. A History of Yugoslav Literature. Ann Arbor. Mich.: Joint Committee on Eastern Europe Publication Series, 1973. A standard history of all Yugoslav literatures and poetry, including a brief discussion of Macedonian poetry, by a leading literary scholar. Although somewhat outdated, it still provides reliable information, especially of the older periods.
Dimkovska, Lidija. Do Not Awaken Them with Hammers. Translated by Ljubica Arsovska and Peggy Reid. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Ugly Duckling Press, 2006. The first of this highly acclaimed writer’s four poetry collections to be translated into English. Complicated poems, often humorous, but all infused with the poet’s identity as a woman living in Eastern Europe at a time of change.
George, Emery, ed. Contemporary East European Poetry: An Anthology. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. Thirty-two newer poets have been added to this edition of the massive 1983 volume. Macedonian poets are discussed in the introduction to the Yugoslavian section, which includes translated poems by Slavko Janevski, Blae Koneski, Aco opov, Mateja Matevski, and Gané Todorovski.
Janevski, Slavko. The Bandit Wind: Poems. Translated by Charles Simic. Takoma Park, Md.: Dryad Press, 1991. A bilingual collection of works by one of Macedonia’s most highly regarded...
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