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Sisyphus and I

Published Date:

Launching in January





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 . 


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.”

—Mark Wunderlich, American Poet, author of “The Anchorage”
Winner of the Lambda Literary Award


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.

—Jack Hirschman, American Poet, author of “All That’s Left”Emiratus Poet Laureate of San Francisco


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.

—Lidija Dimkovska, Macedonian Poet, author of “A Spare Life”
Winner of the 2013 European Union Prize for Literature


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?”

—E. Ethelbert Miller, American Poet, author of “Fathering Words”


Sisyphus and I reads at once like ancient songs and intimate conversations. This writing overflows with the passions of a poet who saw much and felt deeply…Kostovski cries to heaven and to you and me like a modern psalmist—singing songs of worry and joy about a baffling, disjointed world.

—Elijah Burrell, American Poet, author of The Skin of the River”


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.

— Katherine E. Young, American Poet, author of “Day of the Border Guards”
Inaugural Poet Laureate of Arlington Va


Ilja Kostovski was born in 1933.  He was a Macedonian refugee from the Greek Civil War. As an illiterate 14 year old child he fled northern Greece to Czechoslovakia where at the age of 27 he received a PhD in Russian literature at Charles University in Prague.  Throughout his tenure he taught at universities in Prague, Potsdam, Heidelberg. He received invitations to teach at the University of Maryland and the College of William and Mary. He was one of the visiting poets of the 1977 International Poetry Festival in San Francisco where he he formed a life long friendship with San Francisco’s Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman and City Lights publisher Lawrence Ferlingetti. He died in Washington DC in 2017.



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 ThresholdThe Xibalba Arcane, and Lyripol. 

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