Posted by: Adam Roper | April 28, 2009

Blaga Dimitrova : A Case Study

Blaga Dimitrova was a poet from Bulgaria who was most active from the 70’s to the early 90’s. Her work represents the truth that an artist’s life is made more intriguing and fascinating by the work they create.

I first came across Blaga Dimitrova when a friend of mine sent me a copy of Cassandra With A Tail in a letter, saying that she had found this poem in an English Final Exam:

Cassandra With A Tail

A cat stretches from one end
of my childhood to the other.
Those winters, by the hearth,
it spun a yarn of smoke into a ball.
At night, it flickered half-moon eyes
into the dark corners of the house.
By day, its tail twirled a signature
on the sky and pawed the air with grace,
gathering in its coat
the electricity of the storm
and smoothing it into gloss fur.
Wise With cottony steps.

Self possessed.
Just once she jumped out of her skin,
One peaceful evening
her tail shot up like a bottle brush
and she lept onto the chandelier
wailing like an ambulance
as if all the voltage in her fur
exploded out in flashing rage.
None of us understood the cat’s prophesy.
We hissed at her to calm down…And
the earthquake nearly flattened the house.
The oracular cat disappeared
with my childhood, forever.

But her miracle stayed with me.
Tonight, to my surprise,
she crept inside me.
Bristling with shock, I shook
and bounding back from wall to wall
yammering up a piercing cry
to call you wherever you are:
Listen. You have so little time.
Grab what you can,
whatever is dear, whatever you love.

Deep in the belly of the earth
an atomic blast is swelling up,
nurtured by electronic brains,
and produced by pulsating robots.
The green careening planet
spins blindly in the dark
so close to annihilation.
Listen. No one listens. Meow.

I tried to find more works by Dimitrova online, but I could only find 3 poems by her. If my friend hadn’t sent me this poem I would have never heard of any of Dimitrova’s work. I became more acquainted with Dimitrova’s poems sometime last year. I was having a bad couple of weeks so, to cheer myself up, I spent an entire day online trying to find all of her English translated books. I managed to find these 5 books:

1) Scars
2) The Last Rock Eagle
3) Forbidden Sea
4) Because the Sea is Black
5) Journey to Oneself (a first edition novel signed by the author that cost me the fair sum of $43).

I found that Because the Sea is Black was a less in-depth collection of poetry, whereas Scars and Forbidden Sea seemed to reach the closest to the poet’s life and experience. If you ever do want to buy copies of her poetry books, the ones worth owning are The Last Rock Eagle, Scars and Forbidden Sea.

Journey to Oneself is a semi-autobiographical novel that, at times, reads like a long poem in prose form. The central character of the novel is a richly complex and emotionally detailed character. The main character, Raina, is a young women who works a construction job in Bulgaria, rebuilding damage from WWII. The character feels regret because she lived a fairly comfortable life, while workers building a new Bulgaria had “fought the fascists with guns and bombs, undergone torture and imprisonment, seen their families shot and houses burned”. For this reason the character feels as though she needs to experience hardship, to “pay her dues”. This is an excerpt from the first chapter, with the main character describing one of her first experience with dormitory life:

The loneliness hit me at the door. The most terrible loneliness of all, the utter desolation of the hostel, the dormitory, the barrack-room, the prison. In your own home, surrounded by your own four walls, you have yourself for company, and are not alone. But when two narrow gangways beside your bed all all that come between you and two other beds, two other bodies, you are stripped of all your individuality: thoughts, habits, memories. And, thus, isolated from yourself, you become isolated from others too; you lose the ability to participate. The art of community living lies in finding solitude in the midst of a crowd, and that I cannot do. Can anyone?

Dimitrova’s work has an immediate nature, speaking words that must be said, living experiences that must be lived. Her poetry has an honest, authentic quality, speaking from the heart.

As well her poetry expresses her political convictions. In the communist-era that controlled several European countries free speech, and the use of the word, was highly restricted. Forbidden Sea, a long narrative poem that Dimitrova wrote while experiencing a bout of cancer, reflects Dimitrova’s need to express words, and to find words that express emotion. As well this long poem reflects her flowing conversational writing style- which comes through really well for being translated from Bulgarian. Here is an excerpt from Forbidden Sea:

36

Forgetfulness if the essence of things
that repeat themselves rhythmically
like the regular breathing of sea waves.
I am forgetting the march
of the ordinary days and nights we shared.
I am forgetting the taste
of fruit in season,
the “good evening” greeting me on the stairs,
the crunch of bread I ate yesterday.

And only
the
sudden
breaking
of this cradle rhythm
rouses memory from its lethargy.

Death- the largest syncope,
the sword-stroke through the steady rhythm
when the blood of our roused memories spurts
as from a slashed jugular.

How young were the nights,
the days vivid with the first ripe cherries,
the “good evening” full of shadows,
fragrant as bread fresh from the oven
broken in halves, the dark crust tanned
matching the breaking hands,

Blessed and cursed the rhythm-
the primeval cradle of forgetfulness.

There is something I love especially about women authors- a sensitivity to beauty and love. I notice this especially with Dimitrova’s descriptions of love. From her descriptions it is clear that she was a poet who wanted to love and feel loved. The next two poems reflect the insistence of this desire. The first is from Scars:

Until Tomorrow

“Until tomorrow” you say and go away.
I see you off with fear in my eyes.
Until tomorrow?… but it is so endlessly far.
Will hours keep us apart?

Until tomorrow I won’t know
the changing shadows on your face,
the hot pulsing speech of your hand,
the secret flow of your thoughts.

Until tomorrow, if you’re thirsty-
I cannot be your spring,
if chilly- your fire,
if darkness falls- your light.

“Until tomorrow!” you say and go away,
not hearing that I do not answer.
“Until death do us part” I expected you to say,
and to stay with me until the very last day.

This second one I found online randomly:

Cry

When will you come to me?
When I have gone
and my departing steps
echo distantly?
When will you be with me?
When you’ve been immured
within the four walls
of your lonely evening?

When will you discover me?
When I pass by pressed close against another,
my eyes cast down?
When will you call my name?
Only when you see you are losing me – a stranger,
remote, unknown?

Love me fully now when I love you!
While I am yours crave me, long for me,
reach out your open hands while I will run to you.
For tomorrow will be late and beyond repair.

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