Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Burns Night in Bulgaria!

After long negotiation we have new news (discard that crappy old news) of the next stage in the collaboration. Instead of sunning ourselves in Sozopol (and the near-homonym with 'sozzled Pole' implies where all the work that week would go), we are now meeting in Velingrad in stringent January 09, skis at the ready, schedule as follows:

Week of 19th - 25th January: Meeting in Velingrad and work on translations.
Feb-May - work on and complete manuscript.
Book published in June/July
Events to promote book at Apollonia in September 2009

So we do get to have a sozzled loll in Sozopol, but only when the Work is Done.

This opens up the possibility that we will celebrate the birth of Scotland's greatest poet, Robert Burns, on January 25th (most likely we'll be heading back home, but surely something disreputable can be arranged). The Burns Supper (or brunch or even breakfast) consists of course of a course of haggis washed down with whisky, complete with the address to the haggis, toasts to the bard bored barred and assorted lads and lasses.

Raki may be substituted for whisky, but I'm not sure about Kristin's suggestion, below:

'I'd rather have an "OLD MAN FROM BANSKO IN VEIL", at least this was the translation in a restaurant menu. ("Staretz = old man" is a kind of sausage from Bansko; "in veil" is a way of cooking, it means that the meat is wrapped in something else in order to get more tender.)'

Sounds (once the aura of vulgarity is overlooked)a little like a clootie dumpling? But I'm still having difficulty with that aura.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Let our watchword be: 'no indulgence only hard work, pleasure, and the unexpected'

I forgot I hadn't posted this extract from a review by David Hart on the Stride Website:

'When poets from Bulgaria (Sofia) and the N.E.of England visited each other as a group, opening themselves to the Balkan Exchange, there was more likely to be found an alertness, a discovering and not merely a knowingness. The eight poets spent in forays four years at it. The Bulgarian poems are here unreadable without knowledge of that script, but happily readable here in translation; and original poems by the English poets are here, and passport-type photos and biographical notes and an introduction, no indulgence only hard work, pleasure, and the unexpected.'

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Review from Envoi

Balkan Exchange: Eight Poets From Bulgaria & Britain
(Arc Publications)

This anthology of four poets from the North East of England and four poets from Bulgaria emerged from a four year collaboration and translation project in which the poets visited each other’s country, sampled each other’s traditions and evolving cultures, shared ideas, worked on one another’s new writing and performed together. As such it is more exploratory than an arbitrary collection of individual voices that we find in too many anthologies. It marks a cross cultural working relationship. The poems criss cross with intertextual references and tentative attempts to comprehend each other’s perceptions and motivations, as well as engaging with the shifts in historical imagination and investigating the role of aesthetic documentation of our changing social realities.

Each of the British poets, Andy Croft, Linda France, Mark Robinson and W.N. Herbert, introduces the work of one of the Bulgarians: Kristina Dimitrova, Georgi Gospodinov, Nadya Radulova and VBV. As an introduction to a new generation of Bulgarian poets exploring and articulating post communist identity and the cultural ensions between Eastern and Western literary traditions it is an important and fascinating collection. As Andy Croft observes of this new generation of Bulgarian poets, as opposed to the immediate Post-Communist generation, ‘Their approach (to politics) is more oblique, less urgent, qualified by the disappointments of the last fifteen years. And the poetry seems all the more sophisticated and intriguing for this considered distance.’

We were told
there were two worlds at war
when there was really only one.
We were
the other.

Kristen Dimitrova (Cold War Memories) ‘Confused’ our physical Geography seems
when you look South from Moldova: our country has no shape (we are slightly to the West).

VBV (Strange Vista)

...I felt like a kind of linguistic Columbus ‐ ‘our tongue’ meant this peculiar mishmash of Greek, Serbian, Bulgarian, Turkish and Macedonian...I wondered, Gaustin, if this was the language from before Babel or some new hybrid coming out of the Balkan hullabaloo.

Georgi Gospodinov (Photograph IV)

That’s what we are doing, the women and I ‐
scraping at the burnt potato flour,
but it won’t come off, it won’t come off.

Nadya Radulova (Poste Restante)

Yet, as well as the Bulgarian poets’ efforts to rechart the shifting literary and cultural map of their world, the British poets write from within a redrawn map of Britain in which the North East is not a distant province far from the cultural centre, but a new and alternative locus of literary activity that is reaching out to international audiences and in doing so bypassing the traditional centre of London.

This anthology is one good example from a range of exciting, cross-cultural literary exchanges recently developed across the North, including Interland (Smith Doorstop Books), a collaborative writing and performance project between Yorkshire writers and writers from Ostrobothnia; and The Flesh of The Bar (Ek Zuban) a writing, translation and performance exchange between poets from The North East of England & South West Finland. Such exchanges seem to provide a viable
route of moving beyond the nation’s stereotypes of the region and engaging in a process of self discovery using T.S Eliot’s instructions as a rough guide, just as Linda France employs them as an epigram to her sequence of poems ‘East’:

In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not,
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

(East Coker)

The experimental travelogue-style poems by the British contributors, as well as providing the reader with insights into contemporary Bulgarian culture -- a rich glimpse behind the glossy sheen of holiday brochures -- equally represent efforts to find and test workable models to move beyond ones’ prescribed identity and creatively engage with the process of change.

So that it can rain Sofia turns inside out...
All that musty patience flips the city right.

Mark Robinson (1300 Monument Sofia)

...writing, in any language, is only a sign. I can choose to follow it but must remember it isn’t where I’m going... I found myself longing for mountains and a new language.. fresh as aubergines, yoghurt, garlic and dill....We will eat our fill and everything will be uncertain, everything will change.

Linda France (Stamps of Bulgaria)

Review by Bob Beagrie


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Apollonia beckons

The next stage of this project, a Bulgarian edition, is tentatively underway with Altera, possibly even leading to a launch at the Apollonia Festival in Sozopol this September, formerly home to a giant statue of Apollo by Calamis, 30 cubits high, transported to Rome by Lucullus and placed in the Capitol. (I checked, and this is no longer there.)

The book gets a mention on the Stride website, where it is described by David Hart as not only providing 'an alertness, a discovering and not merely a knowingness', but also as offering 'no indulgence only hard work, pleasure, and the unexpected'
-- words to live by, though an element of the Dionysian would not go amiss this September.