Saturday, 7 April 2018

Revolution of the Mind

Here's my prefatory note to my latest published translation - Anatoli Gradinarov's 'Revolution of the Mind' - which is now available as an e-book from Amazon and elsewhere.


What is your true potential as a human being? That is the central question running through Revolution of the Mind. Clearly and succinctly challenging orthodox understandings of how the human mind works, the book presents us with the tools to examine our own mental behaviour and recognise the complex of interactions between the conscious, subconscious and unconscious which give rise to, distort and ultimately trap us inside our thoughts, our emotions and what Gradinarov calls ‘the nightmare of the self’. This, though, is not a self-help manual. It certainly doesn’t provide a readymade programme for transforming your life. On the contrary, Gradinarov challenges any kind of programme or dogma and instead encourages an inquisitive form of self-observation which can take us beyond the self-created roles, mental self-images and illusory virtual worlds generated by our territorially motivated egos. Those already familiar with Zen Buddhism, Jungian psychology, phenomenology and even existentialism will recognise some of the strands which feed into Revolution of the Mind, but Gradinarov brings a whole new perspective to questions of identity, perception, understanding and, above all, happiness. In many ways, the answers he indicates are simple – but they are answers which you have to find for yourself.
In translating Revolution of the Mind, what struck me is the precision of Gradinarov’s language. For a translator, of course, this is a challenge – but one which, I hope, with the generous input of the author himself, we have managed to overcome. The precision of language too reflects the precision of the ideas contained in this book which are illustrated with experiences from everyday life that all of us can recognise. This English translation from the original Bulgarian text is a collaborative work and, to me, that also serves as an example of what Gradinarov is talking about: translation is not something which happens according to a programme. You can’t simply feed the original text into one end of a matrix and expect a perfect translation to emerge at the other. It’s about collaboration and calibration, about being prepared to relinquish your own territory in the name of finding common ground. As Revolution of the Mind repeatedly reminds us, the borders which exist between us are entirely of our own construction. All we have to do is recognise them for what they are.

Tom Phillips

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Beginning with the city



Ah, Sofia,
I want to write you a poem
but where to begin?
With your pocked facades
and unruly pavements?
With your non-stop shops and trolley cars?
The sociology of balcony design
or the semiotics of disconnected electrical wiring?
With the slow progress of pensioners
burdened with bags crammed full
of secondhand clothes and bargains from Billa?
With the kids after school in a сладкарница
laughing with disbelief into their mobile phones
or the pyjama’d men chain-smoking
between satellite dishes and sheets out to dry?
With the chess-players waiting for opponents
among the students with Шуменско bottles
on the benches that line the theatre gardens?
With your pigeons, your magpies, your jays?
With your trees coming into blossom
and newly hung with мартеници?
With the light on the snow of your mountain
or the spit and crackle of a pantograph
as a tram pulls round the corner
outside the Palace of Justice?
With the coffee and cigarette sellers
in their subterranean kiosks
and the customers crouched down
with plastic cups of espresso?
With your dog-walkers walking pert dogs
that trot in circles by the Borisova lily pond
or the crowd of commuters dispersing
through subway labyrinths and emerging into squares
and ad-hoc bazaars with snow-drops in jam-jars
and embroidered tablecloths laid out by piebald furs?
With the bagpipes keening over traffic noise
by a zebra crossing on your Yellow Pavements
or a jaunty trilling accordion by the open door
of a souvenir shop on sun-splashed Vitoshka?
With waiters laying tables outside cafes
on the first good day of spring,
with the smell of rose oil in Serdika metro,
the taste of баница, the burn of ракия
with a lightning storm one humid August,
or with the disc of the moon poised, silver,
above the gold domes of Nevsky?

Ah, Sofia,
I wanted to write you a poem
but even in plain view you’re elusive
and I am only just starting to know you –
so for now there are only beginnings,
but those beginnings, it seems, will be endless.

3/4/2018
Tom Phillips

Friday, 2 March 2018

Balkan Poetry Today returns for 2018


Balkan Poetry Today 2018
Call for submissions

Following the success of Balkan Poetry Today 2017, Red Hand Books and editor Tom Phillips are delighted to announce that submissions are now open for the next edition, Balkan Poetry Today 2018 (due September 2018).

What we are interested in:

1.      Translations of contemporary poetry from SE Europe into English

2.      Reviews and essays in English relating to contemporary poetry from SE Europe, translation, SE European literature and culture generally

What do we mean by SE Europe? We have no fixed definition and welcome translations of work from the languages spoken across the SE European region and by poets who identify themselves with the SE European region and its diasporic populations.

Please send:

1.      A maximum of five poems along with biographical details of both the poet and translator. We are not able to publish bilingual parallel texts, but having the poems in the original language is also helpful during the editorial process. Poems can be of any length, but please be aware that space is limited and longer poems may have to be excerpted.

2.      For prose, it is best to first approach the editor with a short proposal outlining the essay/review you would like to submit together with a brief biographical note. Prose works longer than 2,500 words are unlikely to be accepted.


Please send all submissions to: balkanpoetrytodayeditor@gmail.com by Friday 20 April 2018 at the latest.

Before making a submission, please ensure that you have all the necessary rights/permissions from authors, publishers etc to publish the translations you are submitting. Unfortunately, at this stage, Balkan Poetry Today is not able to pay contributors or cover the cost of translation, translation rights, foreign publication rights etc.

Reviews of Balkan Poetry Today 2017

“This first issue of an exhilarating new journal is sheer delight” Ian Brinton, Tears in the Fence

“As a reader and critic, I warmly recommend Balkan Poetry Today, strongly believing that even the most fastidious readers will find poems that move them” Danijela Trajković, The High Window

Balkan Poetry Today is published by Red Hand Books. Ffi: http://www.redhandbooks.co.uk/