Monday, 30 December 2019

The End of 2019

Where else to begin
but with the burning bush
in a street-side bin?
Its warmth is welcome
on this winter’s coldest day
and no one pays any attention.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Fugue Nation

Three years on from that pretence at democracy,
it’s as if centuries, centuries have passed
and the headlines confirming amnesia
will be subject to diagnosis, repeated –
not by us, but by those who’ve yet to live
into the boundaries now being constructed.

The old, mad, blind myth does the rounds.
The opportunist passes for the passionate
and dutiful observers make their notes,
repeating critiques they’ve read elsewhere.

Such days are reliably tempestuous.
You could be walking along a seafront
and there’ll be that view across the water
and the newspapers held open like cures.

December 2019

Image from The Daily Mirror - coverage of an EDL march in the UK.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Alexander Shurbanov's Dendrarium

Poets tend to return to certain things without realising that they’re doing it. In my case, it’s currently dogs (we have a lot of dogs in the street we live on in Sofia), birds (we have a fruit tree just outside our back window) and aeroplanes (we’re under the flight path into Sofia International Airport). The Bulgarian poet and translator Alexander Shurbanov has a similar place in his heart for trees – of which, of course, there are many in Sofia. Not so long ago, his Bulgarian publisher Scalino published a collection of these poems in Bulgarian – Дендрариум – and has now followed this with an English version in a limited edition of 100 copies. As well as being a beautifully produced book, Dendrarium is a truly rewarding collection of work translated by the author himself. From the simplest of everyday observations, Shurbanov creates poems of great beauty, both celebrating the magnificence of these extraordinary plants and acknowledging the implicit warning that what we value in life may not actually be what’s important for the survival of all our species and of the planet itself. The trees in these poems, in other words, simultaneously act as reminders of the beauty of the natural world and our threat to it as humans and inadequate carers for our environment. At the same time, they also help us to understand what is, in fact, truly valuable and why we should value it. The poems themselves are sparse, often focussing on details which might otherwise be overlooked, but the images that they create are reliably beautiful and astounding – they will make you look again at these extraordinary things which we too often take for granted in a new light. They will also hopefully make you want to read more of Shurbanov’s poetry which, as I said in my review of his previous English-language book from Scalino, Foresun, “continually repays close attention”.

Pic: Scalino 

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Poems: Foreign in Europe

One year on from the DIY pamphlet from Sofia that I put up on here called 'Present Continuous', here is another. 'Foreign in Europe' consists of 14 14-line poems, also written in Sofia, but this time under  Brexit's ever-thickening cloud cover. As the epigraph to the pamphlet makes clear, the title originates in a comment my father made after that other, earlier referendum about the United Kingdom's membership of the then EC in 1975. As with 'Present Continuous', the pamphlet has benefitted from editorial input from Peter Robinson and is entirely free to download here.