Here is my long promised interview with Montenegrin Independent Newspaper “Vijesti”
WORDS DO HAVE POWER
Collection of poetry by Lene Ruth Stefanovic “Devil, an unauthorized biography”, was launched last week at Winter Book Fair. Published by OKF, this project is multimedial -the book comes with Tarot cards created by Spanish artist Francisco J. Campos.
The mere appearance of the cards indicates that between the covers of this book are esoteric and mystical poems which can be read not only as poetical verses, but also as an experience of the reality and the everyday life.
Q: After having published two collections of short stories, you are publishing collection “Devil, an unauthorized biography.” Could you explain who is the Devil and is this unauthorized biography of his – in fact biography of a man?
A: ” The title itself is a play on words and an allusion at the book of Yehuda Berg, ‘Devil, an authorized biography.’ Rabbi Berg – regardless of controversies surrounding the work of his school of Kabbalah – last ten years or so is inevitably included in the The New York Times lists of most influential rabbis – and he is listed somewhere close to the top of the list.
He is continuing the lineage of his father, Rav Berg, who was the first in history to spread the wisdom of Torah, Talmud and Zohar out of the closed circle of adepts and very religious Jews – and i think he fairly succeeded in that.
Bergs start from the idea that Light, kabbalistic euphemism for the Creator, can take care of itself and that there is no need to hide such knowledge – there is some kind of natural selection, those who need it will approach it and will be given the desire to endure, while the rest will give up and get themselves busy with something else.
And so we come to the Devil, who does not exist. If he existed – the theological premise of the omnipotent Creator would be proved false. We like to blame others, like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden blamed each other and the snake at the end… that’s the fear of taking responsibility, the fear of the freedom of choice; that’s identification with one’s doubts and uncertainty, which, summa sumarum, kabbalists named ‘Devil’.
Q: This collection has religious, mystical and esoteric motives. Do you actually believe that the reality and life itself are based on those? And, given that along with poems you are gifting genuine Tarot cards, how does one read poetry via Tarot?
A: I think that with this very match we get the so-called ‘language of the birds’… Let’s go back to the sacral origins of the poetry. One of the most mystical philosophers, Rene Guenon, knowledgeable equally in Kabbalah and Sufism, had noted that Latin ‘carmina’ (verse) is identical to Sanskrit word ‘karma’, while the poet himself is divinely inspired interpreter of a sacral language. Later ‘vates’, prophet, becomes fortune-teller,‘adivino’ – the seer, while ‘carmen’ becomes ‘enchantment’ – the magical act itself and a very special state of being.
Under superstitions (superstitio) is easily filed that which is not understood; but etymologically,’quod superstat’ is that which outlives itself, in a word ‘the dead letter’.
Guenon emphasized that the Spirit, which can breathe wherever it wants and whenever it likes to do so, can resurrect dead symbols and rites, while empowering them in the process with the previously lost meaning.
The use, with such an intent, of the union of a verse and a ritual image, to me is unsurpassed; let’s say that in that way we are given back some power, which – in its turn – empowers the word itself to the extent that it’s capable of creating worlds.
Q: On Montenegrin contemporary literature scene there is a tendency to be particularly proud of women’s writing; what do you think of that? Does gender matter and did women really create that poetical boom?
A: I have to answer your question – with a question: tell me, who of the world’s most known and most awarded poets – ever since we are , luckily, over the rhyme – who of them would hesitate to authorize poems “The Skill” and “The Silence” by Dragana Tripkovic?
Who of the most famous Japanese masters of Haiku would hesitate to sign any of the verses by Tanja Bakic?
To me, those gender issues are a politically correct idiocies; there is good poetry and bad poetry (and prose too), not men’s and women’s.
Jelena Nelevic-Martinovic said it the best:
“ I am neither the size of my hips,
nor the measurements of my breast,
I am not the color of my eyes
neither am i the perfect ratio
between inches and pounds…
The difference is that I is the one who penetrates,
While off me all the things bounce of.”
In Mandarin, for example, there is no gender, so when you are reading poetry you can’t know whether it was written by a man to a woman, by a woman – to another woman, or by a man for another man; i think it’s the best way because the feelings, those worthy of poetry, are – universal and indivisible, as are, after all, the wisdom itself, the stupidity – as well as, at the end of things, the skill.
Our girls are awesome and they choose the way less traveled – the way of the verse. The latter is praiseworthy because it is way more easy and profitable to type some cheap prose imbued with stereotypical characters, unimaginative plot and predictable ending. Great personal courage is needed for any poetical expression, and particularly for the kind that’s close to hearts of our contemporary poetesses.
It was Sylvia Plath who, so to say, broke the ice when it comes to ‘confessional poetry’ – poetry that’s private, intimate, internal. Our poetesses write in first person singular. There are no wood-screens made of fictitious characters, words are scarce and polished like diamonds, alchemically processed in one’s own being and filtered through the prism of personal experience.
It’s this essence of the sentiment that recommended to the world the contemporary poetesses who write in Montenegrin – a language powerful and rich, yet of very limited diffusion.
In fact, it’s miraculous, having in mind how very few people happen to be native speakers of this language, how many great poems were written in it and what a big part of those poems were written during the times of darkness and chaos.
Poetry in it’s essence is the first effigy of magic, and skills and reputation of our sorceresses had surpassed not only geographical borders, but those trans-personal too.
Q: Where is writer’s place today? Which is their role?
A: We should start by defining who is a writer – and that’s the controversial topic of the day. I think that to most of us, to whom one of the ex-Yugoslav languages is a mother-tongue, “a writer” – regardless of their gender – sounds quite seriously.
But, not only worlds got created with words, as it’s written – words were also used for evil purposes and had fatal consequences for entire nations. Maybe you recall the infamous sentencing for “verbal delict” which Constitution of ex Yugoslavia used to limit the freedom of speech; most of the great Russian writers had to be published in samizdat*, fatwa calling was issued for Sir Salman Rushdie’s death.
* a key form of dissident activity in the Soviet bloc, individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed them from reader to reader- note by L.R.S.
That means the word still has its primordial strength and that by its use some powerful energies can be manipulated. And while those energies per se are beyond good and evil – which intent they will be used for and how skillfully – that depends on the individual labeling themselves as a writer, it depends on their consciousness, their craftsmanship and personal power.