Katerina Stoykova-Klemer interviewed poet Ekaterina Yosifova for The Season of Delicate Hunger: Anthology of Contemporary Bulgarian Poetry. Here is a translation of that conversation.
What would you like for the American readers to know about Bulgarian poetry?
It doesn’t matter which readers, it doesn’t matter whose poetry – as long as it’s Poetry. It exists. Everywhere and at all times, since man (pre-literacy) felt excited by owning this peculiar sense of understanding, entering…. We need it. The encounters are joyful.
What would you like for the American readers to know about you personally?
With great pleasure, I’ll quote Mark Strand:
If a man craves attention because of his poems,
he shall be like a jackass in moonlight.
The formative years – the years of great reading – for me as well as for my contemporaries – were under a lid of mandatory uninformedness. Not that we didn’t find ways around the system, but still…. Here is a specific example: American literature was starting to get published; there were lines in front of the bookstores, more and more fiction was being translated, with “clarifying” forewords. But not poetry. Was it because poetry did not yield to “clarifications”? In 1970, an anthology, American Poets, was translated and published. I was 29, my first book had come out and had made some noise – the official critique, which fixated especially on debut authors, was not able to deem it a “correct” book. So, the anthology arrived at the perfect time: poetry is freedom! Missing were (I didn’t realize at the time) W.C. Williams, Ezra Pound, Cummings… But – Emily Dickinson! Eight poems, and a few years later – a separate volume in the wonderful series “World Poets,” and even follow-up editions.
Is there an American poet who has influenced you or has made a an impression on you? How do you interact with American poetry?
A new anthology was published in 1989. In 1992, Nikolay Kantchev translated William Carlos Williams. I still read him, I still laugh with joy. From the female authors, I choose Adrienne Rich.
You have an ax and an island.
The island has a tree.
Just enough to carve out a canoe.
You enter the canoe.
You push away from the shore with the strongest branch
of the former tree.
A suitable current picks up the canoe and stops it
on the shore of the continent. You start living there,
no, not on the shore—in the city.
The boat has rotted long ago.
You don’t know the name—you don’t ask—of that island.
Nor of that tree.
translated from Bulgarian by
The Season of Delicate Hunger (2013)
What forms of cultural exchange between Bulgaria and the U.S. would you find interesting, practical and helpful?
Old fashion ones: I want well-translated books.
What do you wish for the anthology and its readers?
Happy reading! I enclose a short poem, mine, from a while back:
The one reading a poem
in the morning, in bed
for about eight minutes,
gets up, does what he needs to do, goes out,
and endures well the remaining hours.
More from our “Meet a Bulgarian Poet” series:
- Meet a Bulgarian Poet: Vladislav Hristov
- Meet a Bulgarian Poet: Valentin Dishev
- Meet a Bulgarian Poet: Emanuil Vidinski
- Meet a Bulgarian Poet: Petja Heinrich
- Meet a Bulgarian Poet: Yordan Efftimov
Ekaterina Yosifova was born on June 4th, 1941 in Kyustendil. She holds a degree in Russian philology from St. Kliment Ohridski University in Sofia, and she has worked as a teacher, journalist, and dramaturg, and has served as Editor-in-Chief of the literary almanac Struma. Ekaterina is the author of 12 books of poetry, most recently This Snake, published in 2012, for which she received the national Ivan Nikolov Award in Bulgaria. Additionally, books of her poetry have been published in translation in Macedonia, Hungary and Slovenia. She has received numerous national and international literary awards, and her poetry has been translated into more than a dozen languages. She lives and works in Sofia.