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”.
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.
is a writer based in Bristol, UK. Recent publications include the poetry collection 'Recreation Ground' (Two Rivers Press) and recent plays include '100 Miles North of Timbuktu' and 'Coastal Defences' (both for Theatre West). He co-runs the Colourful Star project and is co-founder of the Culture Exchange Experiment network. His work often concerns SE Europe and his ongoing engagement with writers and artists in the region. He has a PhD in creative writing from the University of Reading and teaches at Bath Spa University.