Skip to content
Give readers a window on the world. Click to donate.

A Tribute to Igor Isakovski (1970–2014)

By Nathalie Handal

Image: Igor Isakovski.

Paired Post: In Skopje with Igor Isakovski

A moment with the poems of the energetic, soulful, and eminent Macedonian poet and writer Igor Isakovski on his birthday—September 19. This December 15 will mark two years since Igor’s death at forty-four years old. As the Croatian poet Damir Sodan, a mutual friend said: “Igor was a tireless ‘worker in song,’ publisher, passionate translator and a loyal literary friend.” He is greatly missed.

His voice echoes:

natalija, natalia . . .

i think i am ok. my mind plays moody tricks with me, from time to time,
but am good in general . . . .

there is something in your death poem i found so close, so familiar . . .

warmth for the loved ones, sparkles for some weird mutual ideas, connections via verses and breaths . . . what can i say, my dear?

. . . as for the poems: would you please work on them and send them back to me?
or we can polish together (via skype, for example).


Sadly, Igor and I never had the chance to finish translating together the poems he sent to me, but we were close enough. In rereading them after his death, I was struck by how many spoke of death. Below are some of his most striking verses from the series we were working on.

See you one of these days, friend. 

Four Poems by Igor Isakovski

Waiting for the Flood

Seemingly, we are silent
yet you touch me with drops
like a rain that greets me
upon returning to the city,
seemingly, we are silent
hiding from ourselves
in the words that
only we understand,
seemingly, we are silent
yet we know everything
and say everything
to each other, we know
the tacit, too, and expect the
amassed, there will be flood,
you say, and we don’t even
have an umbrella, we’ll swim,
I say, with chests
full of words and music, 
I’ll take you by the hand,
before the dam collapses,
loosen up,
I whisper.

You and the River

By the river, two bodies stand. The river
can only be heard: it’s too dark. Two
thirsty bodies drink from it, from
afar. Through my body, your breaths
echo, entangled with the streams. I
hear you breathing by the river,
beside me. A bit later: water.
Over our faces, miraculous water.
Here it is again, its sounds, the river.
and I hear your breath again. That’s how
you breathe through me: sonorously and powerfully.
Behind the dam, heavy flood bursting,
I kiss your hands: we linger
hidden in the depths of the rocks
like crystals which soon will melt
and peacefully will depart from all that is known.

Death has Hair of Seaweed

I often think I’ll die
soon. Quietly. Hence I tell everybody
that I’ll live for at least fifty more years.
Sweet deceptions that will harm no one.

I often think I should cut
my hair. All at once. I often see myself in a coffin
with soft lining colored in liquid old gold.
So I think whether I’d be a pretty corpse to my dear ones.

Hence, I keep the scissors
as far as possible, even further
from thoughts. Since I’ll be dying, let me be as I am:
with hair, with beard, as if hung down from a fresco. Or as if
just removed from a bar. Really, there is no big difference.

I don’t think of anything in particular. It’s enough
that sometimes I oversleep. I don’t dream. Birds wake me.
There are no people in my dreams, only surfaces and spaces.
They await me eagerly, to have a joint and joyful dance with death.

I really think this is the last
time. Death is a beautiful woman with piercing eyes and
hands too thin for my taste. She has hair of seaweed,
with hints of algae. It smells of a woman I’ve always known.

08.11.2010 02:10

Light Awaits You at the Reception
                                    Nick Cave, There is a Light

Here is the light over the city—
again, my love, shines for us only.
It will be warm, it will be alright—
We’ll exit from the shelters
We’ll exit under the shadows
so to laugh at the sun’s face
with eyes wide open
we’ll move toward bars and parks
we’ll inhale fogs of wet asphalt—
under us fast wheels will be turning
under us octanes and malligands will evaporate—
touch the light, feel how it blazes
and flames and burns, like two pairs of clear eyes
gazing into the unknown—fast
we adjust to the light, exited
from the holes in which we thought
we’ll spread roots to the core of the earth.
Here is the light, here is the sun for us,
here is warmth, here I am around you
with arms wide open—for a total
commitment or for a death sentence.

Read an interview with Igor Isakovsk by Nathalie Handal.

Igor Isakovski received a BA in world and comparative literature from Sts. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, and an MA in gender and culture from CEU, Budapest. He was the founder and director of the Cultural Institution Blesok, where he worked as editor-in-chief. Isakovski published numerous books of poetry and prose: Letters (1991); Black Sun (1992); Explosions, Pregnant Moon, and Eruptions (1993); Vulcan—Earth— (1995); —Sky (1996, 2000); Engravings, Blues Phone Booth (2001); Sandglass (2002); Way Down in the (poetry, 2004); Swimming in the Dust (2005, awarded Prose Masters prize 2005); Blues Phone Booth II (2006, awarded 2007 annual prize for best visual-graphic design of a printed book); Interning for a Saint (2008); and The Night Is Darkest Before the Dawn (2009). He translated over fifty-one books—poetry, prose, and essays—from and into Macedonian, English, Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, and Slovenian. His work was translated and published in English, Dutch, Romanian, Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Montenegrin, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Slovakian, Korean Turkish, and more


Published Sep 19, 2016   Copyright 2016 Nathalie Handal

Leave Your Comment

comments powered by Disqus
Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.