Poetry at the Post: The Travels of an Accordion

Урок по акордеон * by Alice-Catherine Jennings, as translated from the English by Dimana Ivanova

Те се вмъкнаха в ретро колата и седнаха на предните й места.

Това беше времето, което прекарваха заедно всяка

Oaxaca skyline photo credit: John Jennings
Oaxaca skyline
photo credit: John Jennings

To see your work in print in your own language is pretty great but to see it transformed into another language is totally awesome.

“Accordion Lesson” began as a response to a  prompt: ‘Write something from your childhood.” Uh oh! I really did not want to walk down the stairs to that dark basement of memories yet I felt committed to the exercise.

In Oaxaca, Mexico to study Spanish, I was feeling removed from my life in the States, and even more so from my life as a child growing up in Ohio. I was stumped. One morning on my way to the university, I found a connection—the acordeonistas of Oaxaca.

Yes, I admit it. I played an accordion as a child—for about 5 years. My accordion was big, emerald green with a tiny diamond in the center to  mark the middle C. I was a tall, skinny kid and the accordion overwhelmed my body.

My green accordion has traveled far via this poem—from Oaxaca to publication in Ireland and south to Bratislava, where my translator, Dimana Ivanova, currently lives.  Dimana, is not only a scholar and translator but also a poet. Here are the opening lines of her lovely poem “Come.” You can find the full poem is on her website. 

Come by Dimana Ivanova

Translated from Bulgarian by Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

Come and enter my soft sorrow,

with a velvet tail of silver!

Enter me like a gray fox,

enter and run tenderly on my flesh,

*”Accordion Lesson” was first published in Boyne Berries,  March 2014

Accordion Lesson by Alice-Catherine Jennings

They slip into the front seat of the station

wagon. This is their time together

Poetry at the Post, Day 14: Bulgaria Anyone? да, Bulgaria!

Poetry at the Post, Day 14: Bulgaria Anyone? да, Bulgaria!

“Noah, The Carrier” by Kristin Dimitrova, as translated by Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

The Season of Delicate Hunger Anthology of Contemporary Bulgarian Poetry, Accents Publishing
The Season of Delicate Hunger
Anthology of Contemporary Bulgarian Poetry, Accents Publishing

To Gilgamesh*, however, he’d spoken like this:

I freed a pigeon, but it returned.
I freed a swallow—same thing.

I was going to head next to Greece at The Post but decided to stop in Bulgaria along the way. Today’s poem is by Kristin Dimitrova, a Bulgarian poet whose work appears in the 2014 Anthology of Contemporary Bulgarian Poetry The Season of Delicate Hunger, edited by Katerina Stoykova-Klemer .

Lake Pancharevo in southern Sofia

I like this poem because thematically it explores myth & legend and truth. We all have those friends who only tell you what you want to hear and then again, many times folks only hear what they want to hear. How much of religion or history is truth? As, we know, history is always written from the viewpoint of the victor, or dominant culture.

There is no way
Truth does not make a good legend
Yet legend is truth’s only carrier.

In an interview Dimitrova says, “I’d like American readers to know that Bulgarian poetry exists.” I must admit I know little about Bulgaria, well, okay, almost nothing.

You can read more about Dimitrova as well as the entire poem “Noah, the Carrier” here. There’s a fun twist at the end.



*The Gilgamesh is one of my favorite epics and we’ll be reading it in the Global Reading Group, a virtual literary salon.