The World as a Metaphor / Svet kao metafora.
The present selection of George Vid Tomashevich's poetry, was published in honor of his seventieth birthday. The World as a Metaphor is in every, respect an attractive book, containing highly sophisticated poems written by an erudite Serbian-American intellectual for whom the writing of poetry is an existential daily need and an activity filled with deep meaning in his life. The volume contains ninety-one poems, preceded by an expertly written introduction by Vasa Mihailovich. Seventy-three of the poems are in Serbian and eighteen in English. Only the poem which lends its tide to the collection as a whole appears in both languages. All but four poems are composed in regular meters, both binary and ternary', with lines ending in rhymes. All but several of the metrically regulated poems employ quatrains, while the number of stanzas per poem varies from three to thirty. In my personal opinion, Tomashevich's poetry in both meters is among the best written in Serbian today, an amazing feat considering the fact that he left his native country as a young man of twenty, half a century ago.
From a thematic standpoint, the Serbian portion is divided into five sections. The thematic range of the fourteen poems in the first section, "What We Love Is Born of Our Dreams," extends from descriptive-contemplative verses about nature and her elements - which are often brought into a mutual metaphorical relationship with the author's feelings and emotions - to remembrances of friends and friendship and the problems of aging. Here are located two among the most beautiful poems in the book, "Seashells" and "Canadian Birches." The first beautifully exemplifies the tide of the collection, whereas the second exhibits an intricate lace of poetic sound orchestration.
The poet's sense for intertwining the sound with meaning is also masterfully expressed in "Wonder Next to Wonder," the first of the fifteen poems in the second section, "We Are Strange Beings in a Curious World." The entire poem is embroidered by the repetition of the morpheme cud- (wonder, marvel, miracle) thirty-two times in its four derivations (adjective, verb, noun, and adverb). The rich meaning of this word has found its match in this enchantingly thoughtful poem. Most of the other poems deal with the state of the poet in his social environment; one is dedicated to Serbian literature and another to a great Serbian poet, Jovan Ducic, whom Tomashevich holds in high esteem: the poem "The World as a Metaphor" ends this section.
Several of the nineteen poems of the third section, "Through Cosmos Thunders the Word of Creation," are among the longest in the book. The poet, or more precisely, the poems' speaker, the poetic "I," is amazed and awestruck by the divine cosmos, by the creation of life and everything else through the Word. He contemplates the ideas of evolution, constant change, nothingness, and our limited possibilities and capacities to understand them all and to find answers to the perennial questions which thinkers of all times have been asking without ever arriving at any satisfactory or final solution. Additional topics include the Eastern idea of this world and our life as a dream, the meaning of life and our possibly skeptical and pessimistic attitude toward everything in existence, the process of life as a spiral, and the metaphorical claim that he is "overtaken by existential panic because of the tragic structure of things." This section ends with the poem "Alpha and Omega," which has as its motto the first sentence of the Gospel According to John, implying that we may know the beginnings but that the end of everything "Knows only the awesome Alpha and Omega."
The fourth and fifth sections, "Our Native Land, Mother to Us All" and "Homeland Above All the Parties," containing seven and eighteen poems respectively, are concerned with concepts and problems related to one's nation and with the right of nations to exist and survive, with Serbian history and the cultural and religious heritage, with democracy and dictatorship, with freedom and justice, and with relations of Serbs among themselves and with other people. Included here is a short poem with a different tenor which satirizes the Yugoslav Communist Party and Tito because of the tragic consequences of their policies for the Serbian people.
The section in English contains eighteen poems, only one of them in free verse, "A Word's Complaint to an Uncaring World." Besides the English version of "The World as a Metaphor," it includes the remarkable poem "A Word to My Words," which approaches words as lovers do their beloved. "Verbicide and Menticide," "Variations on a Faustian Theme," "Symbol, Image and Perception," "Inspiration," "When the Game Is Over," "Danse Macabre," "To Whom It May Concern," "An Ode to Oblivion," and several others end this extraordinary collection of thoughtful and thought- and emotion-provoking poetry. Anyone interested in the creations of a cultivated poet who beautifully executes the "quiet music" of regulated meters should read George Vid Tomashevich's poems.
Vladimir Milicic Western Washington University
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|Publication:||World Literature Today|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1998|
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