It is very difficult to talk about poetry in principle. Through so many centuries of human existence it has had thousands of incarnations. What I say here does not pretend to capture more than my personal view – and that within the framework of the present point in time. For me, poetry is the art of subjectivity, it is to the highest degree an art of the individual. If we wish to understand a person intimately, we must ask him what poetry he likes. This is why lovers share poetry. According to one Bulgarian poetess Kristin Dimitrova, no one is ashamed to be called a poet, but everyone is afraid of being seen writing poetry, since poetry is the mirror of human subjectivity.
In this sense, it is the essence, the spine, the emanation of every literature. Poetry is like the first-aid kit in the car that every literature has – if a crisis arises, if there’s an accident, it’s the first thing you reach towards for help. Sometimes this is quite risky for those who create it – the poets. In the past poetry was a means of communicating with God. There have been periods in human history during which poetry was the paramount genre. Today, poetry and poets have been shoved into the world’s dark corner. As the art of subjectivity, poetry teaches us individualism, yet contemporary humanity is not particularly fond of individualists. Nevertheless, humanity cannot exist without poetry. With its brevity, it forever reminds us of life’s fleetingness, which in some sense disturbs us, but at the same time keeps us vigilant. Poetry cannot enter the same market-driven relationships as prose – proof that it is much closer to human nature.
Poetry is a reservoir of humanness in today’s artificial world. This is why its functions are close to that of religion in the past; it begins where reason leaves off. It is possible to have professional writers, but it is not possible to have professional poets, since poetry is not a profession, it is an essence, a way of being. Reading poetry is an exchange of essences. Rhythmic speech was the first artistic phenomenon of human language and as such it preserves something unique about human culture. Poetry has helped convey human culture through time. Today, we humans remember poetry and poets only in times of crisis – but even that is enough. Poetry will save humanity.
Translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel
This paper examines how the concept of time and identity in Bulgarian literary modernism changed during the period between 1920 and 1930. The conditions for, as well as the results of this change are also analyzed. In 1920, the concept of time in Bulgarian literary modernism was still cyclical. In his article, “Native Art,” the Bulgarian expressionist Geo Milev proclaimed the postulates of the new art. According to Milev, this art would have to retrace its steps back to mythological man, towards “the primitive man of proto-being – to Adam.” Milev called for a representation of a mythical time and mythical space in art, favoring the past. According to Eleazar Meletinsky, “the urge to go beyond the limits of social-historical and temporal-spatial frameworks in order to manifest a pan-human content was one of the signs of the transition from the realism of the 19th c. to modernism, and mythology, by virtue of its iconic symbolicness, turned out to be a comfortable language to describe the eternal models of personal and public behavior, of the essential laws in the social and natural cosmos.” The paper will pay particular attention to the influence of Oswald Spengler’s book The Decline of the West (1923) upon the formation of Bulgarian modernists’ concepts of time and identity. According to Spengler, western culture would be replaced by an ascendant Slavic culture. Modernists from the Sagittarius Circle sought a place for Bulgarian culture within that new upsurge. They gave preference to the 19th century, the time of the Bulgarian Revival, exchanging cyclical time for historical time. They chose the past as their starting point, yet were oriented towards the future. They demanded that Bulgarian reality be expressed in art. During 1925-27 Bulgarian modernism transformed from contra-modern into a modern project. Concepts about time and space are examined in detail, while the concepts of continuity and tradition, as well as cyclicity and historicity are analyzed within the context of Bulgarian modernists’ writings.
(published also in Poesis International, year 1, No. 4, march 2011):
In this text I will focus on two books, which I feel are representative of the processes and tendencies at play in the most recent Bulgarian poetry. They are Who Is Dreaming My Life? (2007)*, an anthology of poems by Vladimir Levchev, a representative of the 1980s, and the debut chapbook Plot No. 17 (2007)** by the young poetess Kamelia Spassova.
Department of English and Creative Writing Research Seminar
Dr Ivan Hristov
Bulgarian Academy of Science
‘The Dragon’s Wedding:
A Mythological Motif in Bulgarian Literary Modernism’
*Wednesday 6th April, 5-6.30pm*
Hugh Owen Building Room D59
**ALL WELCOME * REFRESHMENTS PROVIDED**
For more information, contact
Professor Sarah Hutton firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Natasha Alden email@example.com
This study consists of five chapters: one introductory chapter, three main chapters and a concluding/summarizing chapter.
The first chapter, INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM OF THE NATIVE, lays out the literary-historical and theoretical context of the problem of the native in new Bulgarian literature by investigating the following contextualizing fields: 1. Mythology, Folklore and the Problem of the Native; 2. The Problem of the Native and National Identity (The Western Model – Lateral Ethnicities; The Eastern Model – Vertical Ethnicities); 3. Pencho Slavejkov – The Modernist Understanding of the Native; and 4. Geo Milev – The Avant-Garde Understanding of the Native.