Ivan Hristov in Translation: Bdin

Ivan en route, by Anahit


Dear mother,
I died
but I didn’t go to heaven,
instead I arrived in Bdin.
The postman
on his rusty Ukraine bicycle**
frequently passes by,
thus, contrary to all laws,
you will have news
from me.
To tell you the truth,
I haven’t gotten very far here either,
since I’ve never been much good with languages.
I have remained a poet.
But being a poet among the mute
is like being an undertaker
in the Beyond.
(By the way,
I saw the graves of Levski and Botev***.)
My contemporaries
have long since become classics,
while I’m left munching sunflower seeds
on the edge of the Canon.
Otherwise, I tend the Tsar’s sheep,
and thus earn my daily bread.
I have met two kinds of people.
Some say –
“We’ll divert the river here!”
Others say –
“We’ll divert the river there!”
My mind was torn,
I sat in the middle.
The water poured
over me.
As before,
I have no companions.

I walk alone on the banks of the river.
I look upstream,
waiting for it to bring
either a chest of drawers,
or a votive candle,
or a nest to build a home in,
or to meet the woman
I love.

*The medieval name of the town Vidin
**A brand of bicycles made in the USSR
***Vasil Levski, the leader of the national liberation movement in the 19th century,
was betrayed and hanged; the location of his grave is unknown. Hristo Botev,
a poet and revolutionary, was killed in battle during the national liberation
uprising in 1876; the location of his grave is unknown, as well.

Bdin – The Dump 1

The dump in Bdin
has a peculiar characteristic,
namely that it never ends.
How long have I been walking and walking and walking…
It is the beginning and the end,
the endless horizon of waiting.
Here you can find anything:
from scraps of plastic
to clippings from old newspapers,
unused train tickets,
pictures of unknown girls,
crippled hobbyhorses,
bottles of Coca-cola,
busts of Lenin and Stalin,
used condoms,
swastikas and broken crosses,
books from Mark through Marx to Marques,
from the crescent to the hammer and sickle…
Sometimes I meet
other poets, too,
but they speak foreign languages
and belong to
foreign literatures,
thus we cannot
establish contact.
Sometimes I lie
in a cardboard box
and feel
like a child
in the womb,
I dream that I am flying…
Sometimes the dump
is warm and breathes.
Sometimes I think
that the people here
live like migratory
birds –

 from North to South
from warm to cold
and back.
Thus every
forty years.
I smoke a cigarette butt
and have
nowhere to toss it.

Bdin XIV

                        to John Lennon

                                “Which way are we going, boys?”
                                “To the top, Johnny!”
                                “And just where is that, boys?”
                                “From the highest point – a little bit further up.”                                               

                                                                           (Bdinian folk song)

Every day,
when I get off the streetcar
in the quarter of the hopeless,
not coincidentally named “Hope,”
I meet John Lennon:
Hello, Johnny!
Hello, sir!
How are you, Johnny?
Very well, thank you, sir!
Always with that pale English face,
always with those glasses and that hair –
John Lennon lives in “Hope”
and sells bicycles.
Every day:
Hello, Johnny!
Hello, sir!
How are you, Johnny?
Very well, thank you, sir!
Yes, John,
here there is no danger
of some lunatic flying over
and opening fire.


'I like to use the languages of the various arts – literature, music, theatre...I think that is the spirit of the modern global era.'- poet Ivan Hristov spoke to SJ Fowler of 3AM magazine about the evolution of the contemporary Bulgarian poetry scene.


Cosmin Borza discusses the work of Romania's 'Generation 2000' poets, including Radu Vancu and Claudiu Komartin in an essay at Asymptote.


At the Sofia Poetics festival, which was organised by Word Express participant Ivan Hristov, Scottish based poet Ryan Van Winkle caught up with fellow festival guests SJ Fowler and Tomasz Rózycki. To hear Fowler and Rózycki discussing their work and reading some of their poetry, listen to the Scottish Poetry Library podcast here.