The acceptance speech of Amir Or, the recipient of the Golden Wreath for 2020

Honored Members of the Council for the Golden Wreath Award,
esteemed Macedonian colleagues and readers, dear friends, Allow me at first to express my sincere gratitude for the honor of receiving this venerable poetry award, the Golden Wreath. I feel privileged and greatly honored to become a member of the select group of laureates that preceded me here. This tradition started here, in country that esteems and loves poetry, in a city that was the birth place of the nationally formative poets, the Miladinov brothers, and that in modern times initiated the Struga Poetry Evening’s renowned agora of poetry. And doubtlessly this tradition puts North Macedonia on a seat of honor in the hall of cultural significance of both Europe and human civilization at large. I can’t tell you what excitement and delight the news of my winning the prize stirred in me. Struga has been interwined with my writing journey for over 20 years, since my book Drowning, He Breathes Living Water was published in the 2000 Pleiades series, long before my selected poetry was published in Serbian or Bulgarian. I have witnessed with awe this annual gathering of prominent representatives of our international republic of poetry, when Bonnefoy, Transtromer and my friend W.S. Merwyn won the illustrious wreath of poetry, and nothing like returning here as the 2020 laureate could make me feel that my work was awarded here with the ears and hearts that poetry deserves. Coming back to Struga and Ohrid, I know I am among people that read poetry, have cultivated a taste for it, and have the need and respect for the art of poetry, people who understand its deeper meaning and unique significance of wisdom, beauty and dialogue, of imagination and creativity and of the freedom to think-and-feel for ourselves. Moreover, as an Israeli, I can’t forget that my people, the Jews, came to this country as early as 1800 years ago and contributed to it the best they could. Neither can I forget that their long history here ended up in WW 2, when in 1943 almost all the Jews of Skopje, Bitola and Štip, men, women and children, were deported to Treblinka and murdered in the gas chambers. The mere few dozens of young Jews that escaped this fate joined partisans, and many of them died fighting with their Macedonian compatriots against the Fascists. In their memorial, I wish to declare this very moment, dedicated to the enlightened side of human life, as another station in the rebuilding of our mutual bond.

Thank you.