A Balkan Exchange
Published by Arc Publications
They played games with each other –
he with her head,
she with his legs.
Then he gave back her head,
a little worn out,
and she – I’m not sure
what she did with his legs,
this is as much as I know.
Kristin Dimitrova (translated by Andy Croft)
This anthology is the result of an exciting cross-cultural ‘experiment’ in which four well-known British poets who live and work in the North-East of England – Andy Croft, Mark Robinson, Linda France and W. N. Herbert – worked collaboratively with four leading young Bulgarian poets – Kristin Dimitrova, Georgi Gospodinov, Nadya Radulova and the male poet who goes under the name of ‘VBV’.
On a number of visits to Bulgaria, and working in a totally unfamiliar cultural environment on the very edge of Europe (the ‘Near East’), the British poets got to know, and began to translate, the work of their Bulgarian counterparts. The Bulgarians visited Newcastle, embarking upon a relationship with the home-territories of the British poets (the ‘North East’).
The eight poets painstakingly refined their translations of the Bulgarian poems and the British poets contributed their own poems about visiting Bulgaria – not touristic notes but rather maps of the type of engagement found in the translations. “It seemed to me”, W. N. Herbert writes, “that this project was as much about an encounter between people and places as it was about an encounter with texts. It was about the collisions and interactions of cultures, not just the friendships formed but the shifts in our historical imaginations.”