Tsvetanka Elenkova

© Photo by Daniela Papantcheva

Tsvetanka Elenkova

Tsvetanka Elenkova was born in Sofia in 1968. She has published five poetry collections and two books of essays, Time and Relation and Bulgarian Frescos: Feast of the Root. Her poetry has been translated into thirteen languages. Two poetry collections have appeared in English, The Seventh Gesture and Crookedness, and one in Serbian – Rane od Slobode. Her work has appeared in the magazines Absinthe, ILQ, MPT, Orient Express, Poem, Poetry Review, The Massachusetts Review and Zoland Poetry. She has been a guest at numerous literary festivals, including Čortanovci (Serbia), Lodève (France), Poeteka (Albania), Struga (Macedonia), The Crowd Omnibus (Literary Tour), Tinos (Greece) and Vilenica (Slovenia), and taken part in translation workshops in Istanbul (Turkey). She has edited the anthology At the End of the World: Contemporary Poetry from Bulgaria together with the magazines Ah, Maria and Europe 2001 in Bulgaria and Helios in Greece. Crookedness has been nominated for the Ivan Nikolov National Prize for Poetry, her translation of Speaking of Siva for the Hristo G. Danov National Award. Other translations include poetry by Raymond Carver, Rosalía de Castro, Bogomil Gjuzel, Lois Pereiro, Manuel Rivas and Fiona Sampson. She is editorial director of the publishing house Small Stations Press (www.smallstations.com).


Tsvetanka Elenkova
From the book “The Seventh Gesture”
(Shearsman Books, UK, 2010)


Every fair has its hall of distorting mirrors. The extended projection of the Parthenon, asserts Seferis, is a pyramid. Reflected, the pyramid looks like an ellipse, and the lemon-tree in my yard with the five tips is probably a circle. Albeit not ideal. So many edges, shapes, images, points of glass, you’d say, so jagged, why reflect them? Why iron clothes that should be worn creased? Natural edges cannot be smoothed out, even with steam – from a combination of moisture and sun. From agitation. You wipe the mirror. For a rear view.


On the island of Symi this summer I watched the vendors of sponges. How they sold some with big holes, others with pores only or untreated. They stuck them in various solutions to show how they whiten, then in water to show how much they hold. They kept some moist but most were dry like the stones lying around. When you made as if to buy, they always soaked it first and squeezed it out. Mine trickled water and dried quickly. The end of every love affair is like this, I think – like the black reel before The End of old films.


The afternoon the light was a soft nappy or newspaper frayed between the palms, I saw them – in the base of the triangle, in the centre – two pigeons in love. First they rubbed cheeks, interlaced necks, then one landed higher. I observed how they didn’t even touch. Or how the one above watched over the other. The light broke up, not into colours, into sheaves just like the Erechtheion’s fluted columns. The light gathered. That’s why everything is made from marble. White. Not from precious stones.


Every evening he waited for her at the window. But he only ever saw himself and left. Till one day he decided to wait her out and stopped waiting. Leaning over the water, he flopped and started swimming. Not like people with their head above water but like fish. He came up for air once or twice, a dolphin or a whale, and then he sank for good. With eyes ever open inside the looking-glass. The rest carried on learning about evolution – how creatures emerged from the water on to dry land. The rest carried on interpreting the legend of Narcissus.
© Translation by Jonathan Dunne

Published with the permission of Tsvetanka Elenkova
© Photo by Daniela Papantcheva