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Kristin Dimitrova. A Visit to the Clockmaker.

Kristin Dimitrova. A Visit to the Clockmaker. Gregory O'Donoghue, tr. Cork, Ireland. Southword. 2005. 64 pages. 12 [euro]. ISBN 1-905002-03-3

KRISTIN DIMITROVA is one of the leading Bulgarian poets of the new generation. Born in Sofia in 1963, she has published six volumes of poetical works between 1992 and today. Dimitrova has received many awards for her poetry, and in 2002 a trilingual Bulgarian-Greek-English selection of her poems appeared. She lives in her native city.

An accomplished poet, she has developed a unique style and literary persona. For her, the familiar surroundings of everyday life are the starting point for exploring new and often unexpected viewpoints, for a fresh take on reality, coming back full circle after often surprising turns. Dimitrova's early poetry derives strength and inspiration from the street, a major stage for hope, enthusiasm, and protest in the political transformation from communism to democratic society. The changing reality stimulates the new wave in Bulgarian poetry to abandon the literary cliches, rhetoric, and pathos of the past and return to the basic measures and forms of things around us as a starting point in the never-ending quest for true values. By no means a return to traditional realism, this is a source of both poetical inspiration and deromanticization of the traditional forms and language at the same time.

Progressively, Dimitrova substantially widens the spectrum of themes, always approached with characteristic wit and irony. In "Searching for an Answer," the hero asks the ancient elements (air, earth, fire, and water), "Why am I here?" and, getting no answer except from the water in the well to fall into it, elegantly retreats with a joke about just asking.

In "Mirrors," the mirror is both a window to look outside and inside one's sell to a maze of shadows and self-reflections, which often do not recognize each other. The outstretched hand tries to establish contact with someone, maybe just out of boredom, in the refined "Poem V," itself constructed as an almost perfect reflection.

"Mythologies" (Theseus, Persephone, Perseus) demythologize the legendary and the heroic by exposing ancient heroes to contemporary ironical glances and confronting mythical predetermination with basic human values. "Noah, the Carrier" adds an unexpected modern twist to the biblical story.

The aesthetic mix of layers, the combination of light songlike rhythms and childish repetitions, the clash of different viewpoints--of the ordinary and extraordinary, of dreams and reality--blend to build the rich amalgam of Dimitrova's poetic style.

The translation of A Visit to the Clockmaker constitutes a story in itself. It is part of the Cork 2005 European Capital of Culture project by the Munster Literature Centre to pair poets from the "accession" states to the European Union with Cork poets who, in most cases, do not speak the source language. The poet Gregory O'Donoghue started from initial translations provided by Kristin Dimitrova herself. The end result is a fine collection of poems that pays full justice to the spirit of the originals.

Michaela Burilkovova

Gainesville, Florida
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Author:Burilkovova, Michaela
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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