My Brother Was Writing Poetry

While I was writing my verses, my brother was working on his boat. He carefully dismantled the seats. He upturned the boat, sanded it down to white (making the cherry-tree turn white). Then he took it to a master to be given a number, to pass the test more easily. He applied putty for hours, then an undercoat, the way people polish teeth against tartar or put plasters on grazed knees. He circled it and wondered what to christen it. He named it after the hero of his favourite film. While I was working, my brother was writing poetry.

by Tsvetanka Elenkova

Copyright © Tsvetanka Elenkova, 2005. Translation copyright © Jonathan Dunne, 2010.

‘My Brother Was Writing Poetry’ is taken from the volume The Seventh Gesture by Tsvetanka Elenkova, translated by Jonathan Dunne, and reprinted by permission of Shearsman Books.

Notes courtesy of Jonathan Dunne and Shearsman Books:

Tsvetanka Elenkova was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1968. She is the author of three poetry collections – The Stakes of the LegionAmphipolis of the Nine Roads and The Seventh Gesture – together with a book of essays, Time and Relation. Her work has been translated into twelve languages and, in English, has appeared in magazines such as Poetry ReviewModern Poetry in Translation and Absinthe. An English edition of The Seventh Gesture, which Sarah Crown called ‘an unusual, uplifting collection’, was published by Shearsman Books in 2010. She translates poetry from English, Greek and Macedonian, including collections by Raymond Carver, Bogomil Gjuzel and Fiona Sampson, and has been a guest at several literary festivals (Vilenica, Poeteka, Tinos). Her translation of the anthology of Indian mystic poetry Speaking of Siva was nominated for the Hristo G. Danov National Literary Award in 2000. She is the Bulgarian Writers Association’s representative at the International Writers and Translators Centre of Rhodes, and also co-directs the publishing house Small Stations Press. You can find out more about Elenkova here, and read more of her work here.

Shearsman Books is a very active publisher of new poetry, mostly from Britain and the USA, but also with an active translation list. You can learn more about the publisher here.

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