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Sisyphus and I

by Ilja Kostovski

This collection of rebellious poems are a reflection of Macedonian poet Ilja Kostovski’s travels across the United States, as well as his interpretations of God’s purpose for man. Written over the course of a decade from the late 1970s, this work arose out of Kostovski’s immersion in the 1978 San Francisco poetry scene and his experience of living in the Shaw district of Washington, DC during the 1980s. 

Others have Written about Sisyphus and I

Mark Wunderlich - American Poet
"The poems of Ilja Kostovski bring to bear —on a particular American moment—a voice that is both eternal and mythic in its scope. This body of work is at once caustic and holy, presenting readers with the incongruity and discomfort of a prophet who speaks to our own noisy, vulgar, and confusing political time. Alongside Ginsberg and Whitman, Kostovski joins a group of poets who have addressed America with tenderness, but also with the tense attention of a warning for what it is we might become.”
Jack Hirschman- Poet Laureate of San Francisco
"What a marvelous soul was Ilja Kostovski, a poet possessed by all the gods and nature, he had a poetic enthusiasm that was irresistible and I am pleased to be part of his translation team. He was at home with the gods like a narodnik, and yet he lived his life as a true contemporary of the Soviet years."
Lidija Dimkovska - Macedonian Poet
"The poems of Ilja Kostovski, so Macedonian, and so American at the same time, are the meta-physical mirror of our own lives. His words reflect true post-religious, political poetry for a post-God, political time, showing us in an honest and powerful way that only love can save the world and all of us losers in it."
Katherine Young - Poet Laureate of Alexandria VA
"Ilja Kostovski is an angry man. He rages at God and religion, at poverty and injustice, at the sort of poets whose faces “resemble lobsters and steaks.” He venerates Abraham Lincoln, the toothless and the drunk, those who break windows and throw stones. Like Jack Gilbert, he’s conversant in mythic landscapes and Greek gods. Befriended by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jack Hirschman (who’s also one of his translators), Kostovski creates the world in his own image, singing of himself like Whitman and Mayakovsky. Multilingual bard, teacher, philosopher, wanderer, medieval rat catcher, stuntman: Ilja Kostovski is a force of nature. This collection is stunning in every sense of the word."
E. Ethelbert Miller - American Poet
"Why was man created? One ponders this question while reading the poetry of Ilja Kostovski. His voice echoes those of prophets crying in the wilderness. Faith is often tested by the weight of the cross. How do we live without pain? The words of Kostovski breathe magic back into our air. His voice at times sounds like Whitman. In Sisyphus and I – I hear a poet’s soul singing. Is it possible for Sisyphus to survive the heavy blues?"
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Macedonian Poet Ilja Kostovski was born to a family of Macedonian Slavs living in Northern Greece, he became, at the age of 14, a refugee from the Greek Civil War. Still illiterate at that age, he moved to Prague and, by the age of 32, had mastered nine languages and received a Ph.D. from Charles University in Prague. He moved to East and then West Germany, and eventually to the United States where he remained for the rest of his life.

Jack Hirschman is a San Francisco poet, translator, and editor. His powerfully eloquent voice set the tone for political poetry in this country many years ago. Since leaving a teaching career in the ’60s, Hirschman has taken the free exchange of poetry and politics into the streets where he is, in the words of poet Luke Breit, “America’s most important living poet.” He is the author of numerous books of poetry, plus some 45 translations from a half a dozen languages, as well as the editor of anthologies and journals. Among his many volumes of poetry are Endless Threshold, The Xibalba Arcane, and Lyripol.

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