Today I wantI admit that I was mostly unsuccessful the first time through. Vaptsarov's poems sometimes read a lot like the song lyrics my roommate Tom was writing in the 80s for his psychedelic agitprop band Shades of Persuasion, though of course without all of Tom's allusions to moping about girls.
verse for these new times
with the thrill
of that lofty
that had traveled the globe
from pole to pole.
("Romance" trans. Bilyana Kourtasheva)
I set off in the morning,Vaptsarov did, in fact, call many of his poems "songs." Most of his poems are political statements about the workers' struggle, anti-fascist or anti-capitalist rallying cries, but every poem has its moment, and it is for those moments, according to Gospodinov, that Vaptsarov is read today. The universal, less strictly left political moments. When I read the collection a second time, I found many attractive things among the rhetoric of revolution.
The road to the plant
We're one in heart,
we're one in mind,
I don't feel I belong here.
("Land" trans. Kalina Filipova)
Do you remember"Kino" is the best of the rallying cries, possibly because Vaptsarov steps away from his usual images of smoke, blood and sweat for a moment to take in a film.
the sea and the machines,
the hold, all filled
with sticky dusk?
High above us,
high up in the skies
the wings of gulls
miraculously fluttered still.
The sky still sparkled as if with mica
and it was still
as blue and vast as ever,
and slowly every evening
the sails of ships were lost
from our sight
and masts receded in the mist.
("Letter" trans. Kalina Filipova)
Outside, the noise,"Kino" is an indictment of Western cinema and advertising as empty diversion from the realities of cold hard life.
the glittering adverts,
and the poster declaring
A Human Drama.
Outside, the noise,
in my sweating palm.
Is this the wayMy favorite poem is the short item Vaptsarov wrote to his wife as he sat in a cell awaiting execution by firing squad at the hands of the pro-Nazi government. Vaptsarov had been involved in anti-government sabotage plots with the Bulgarian communists who wished to bring down the fascists and align Bulgaria with the Allies, especially the USSR. The poet was 32 years old.
we really meet--
Our love is born
between the smoke,
and the machines.
This is the real human drama.
(trans. Bilyana Kourtasheva)
Sometimes I'll come home in your dreams,I don't know a great deal about poetry, especially 20th-century poetry, but from what little I've read I am ready to claim that I can (maybe) see, from Vaptsarov's work, that he was caught up in the same wave of Modernism as other European poets during that time: see the fractured formal structures, the typographical play with line breaks, the shifting rhythms and general looseness of the poems. Tom over at Wuthering Expectations has been posting about Soviet poets and I tentatively claim to see similarities between Vaptsarov and Mayakovsky. Better and more experienced readers will likely know better. I can't see what I haven't seen, right?
And sit and watch you as you sleep.
Just leave the door upon the latch,
Then in the darkness I will keep
My soft and silent bedside watch,
An unexpected guest, and when
My eyes have drunk their fill of you,
I'll kiss you, then I'll go again.
("Valediction" trans. Kalina Filipova)
You come homeMy shallow reading of Kino: the poetry of Nikola Vaptsarov is part of Thomas Hübner's Bulgarian Literature Month extravaganza. I'm going to be reading Georgi Gospodinov's novel The Physics of Sorrow next. All three books I purchased for Bulgarian Lit Month have a Gospodinov connection; I was not aware of that when I bought them. Titles, covers, I thought. What did I know about authors?
to the bone.
The boat gapes empty.
Two silvery fish alone
glow on the stern in the dark.
Even if Christ himself
were to descend now
what could he do
with two little fishes?
("A Fisherman's Life" trans. Kalina Filipova)
I know where I belong in lifeYou can read Vaptsarov's poems here or here, though I prefer the translations in the edition I read, published by tiny Smokestack Books in the People's Republic of Britain.
won't easily surrender,
just like that.
I will die an honest worker's death
if I shall die
in our fight
for freedom and for bread.
("The Intellectual Stoker's Song" trans. Evgenia Pancheva)
No, it's not a good time for poetry,
For the ringing joy of a rhyme.
How can a poem ever reach the heart
Through such heavy armor?
("No, it's not a good time for poetry" trans. Kalina Filipova)