Aneta Panteleeva translating Aksinia Mihaylova

Switching mirrors, Смяна на огледалата
Translator Statement

Aksinia Mihaylova—all of a sudden you learn her name, because you keep hearing it from here and there, and you get curious. How come you have not yet read her work? After all, she must be brilliant: to win a prestigious award for French poetry that has almost never been won by a non-French poet? I was very eager to read something of hers—I bet you know that feeling—so I bought her newest book, Switching Mirrors (2015).

And I immediately felt the need to translate the whole of it. Because her poetry is something that manages to touch the most private part of the soul—please don’t judge my cliché! Her words go deep; they are somehow sensual and pure, meaning: no preservatives added. That is what captured me and never let me go—the beauty and the richness of her descriptions, the way she casts light over our most sacred, shameful, and fearful thoughts. Like a mirror that reflects us, blinds us, and may also cut us due to its fragility. It is what I love about literature—to be just about to picture it all in your head, then to lose it, then to get close to it again, like the gentle touch of a butterfly’s wing.

Bulgarian contemporary poetry has awakened and is now yawning, stretching, reaching for new heights. Mihaylova’s poems are amongst the finest of examples, yet there is so much more to explore. Pulsing, vibrating, patiently waiting its acknowledgement. As a dear friend of mine once said, “A day without a single verse is like a day without breathing.” 

To Pass through a Closed Door

He claimed that he had several wings more
than other people and that they kept him
above visible things,
and I would get lost in his words,
in the disemboweled armchairs
drenched with tobacco smoke and did not notice
the mold thriving in our bed,
the incisors growing on the words
and silence becomes
my only freedom.
Very seldom,
when the angel comes to dinner
the third wing lounges
between the knife and the glass of wine
and changes the meaning
of visible things. 

Да преминеш през затворена врата

Твърдеше, че има няколко крила повече
от другите хора и те го държат
над видимите неща,
а аз се изгубвах в думите му,
в пропитите с тютюнев дим
изтърбушени кресла и не забелязвах
как в леглото ни избуява мухъл,
как порастват резци на думите
и мълчанието се превръща
и единствената ми свобода.
Много рядко,
когато ангелът идва на вечеря,
третото крило поляга
между ножа и чашата с вино
и променя смисъла
на видимите неща.



We take out landscapes,
hidden in the darkest of our veins,
and we pile them on the table.
This is how people uncover themselves
meeting for the first and last time
because they are free of the future.
We smoke half a pouch of tobacco,
while digging in piles and counting
the bones that have sprouted in our souls,
but we cannot find the word,
that makes it come true.
The gorges in us echo
with different depths
and in a language unintelligible to the skin.


Then we buy grapefruits,
long we wander in the Jewish quarter,
he leads me by the hand, he forgets me in a bookshop,
see how much sky is in the window,
he says, and he presses me to him,
so that I cannot read in his eyes the word,
that makes it come true.
The grapefruits roll down the pavement,
such feverishness in his hands,
as if he is afraid to lose me,
as if he’s afraid that I might stay.



Изваждаме пейзажи,
скрити в най-тъмното на вените ни,
и ги трупаме на масата.
Така се разголват хора,
които се срещат за пръв и последен път,
защото са свободни от бъдеще.
Изпушваме половин пакет тютюн,
ровим в купчинки и броим
прорасналите в душите ни кости,
но не намираме думата,
която сбъдва.
Проломите в нас кънтят
с различна дълбочина
и на непонятен за кожата език.


После купуваме грейпфрути,
дълго се лутаме из еврейския квартал,
води ме за ръка, забравя ме в някоя книжарница,
виж колко небе във витрината,
казва, и ме притиска силно към себе си,
за да не прочета в очите му думата,
която сбъдва.
Грейпфрутите се търкулват по паважа,
такава трескавост в ръцете му,
сякаш се страхува да не ме изгуби,
сякаш се страхува, че мога да остана.

A City to Share

let’s go to Venice,
before it sinks
—L. Balabanova

Then we went upstairs
to the spacious attic of the night,
we made love among the old furniture
covered in the dust of last year’s stars,
and we didn’t notice the thousands beaks of the rain
that long pecked grains of wheat
from the roof.

In the morning
the two cane chairs forgotten
on the hotel terrace
were spinning in the water,
like two boats
that have touched sails for a brief moment
and then lost their course.

This is our Venice, I say,
before it has sunk. 

Град за споделяне

да видим Венеция,
преди да потъне
Л. Балабанова

После се качихме
в просторния таван на нощта,
правихме любов сред старите мебели,
покрити с прашеца на ланшни звезди,
и не усетихме хилядите човчици на дъжда,
които дълго кълваха житни зърна
върху покрива.

На сутринта
двата камъшитени стола, забравени
върху хотелската тераса,
се въртяха във водата
като две лодки,
докоснали за миг платната си
и изгубили посоката.

Това е нашата Венеция, казвам,
преди да е потънала. 

* * *

A bird of passage with a compass gone mad
in your little heart,
you never understand where home is,
whether you are leaving, or returning,
while standing on the platform overgrown with chamomile.

And you stagger
between the mill and the dykes,
between the hill and the poplars along the river,
in the sand quarries and the deserted houses.

between the mountain and the dumpsters
between the books and the mailbox,
in the throat of the city
and the few addictions

Anywhere at home,
nowhere yourself. 

* * *

Прелетна птица с полудял компас
в сърчицето,
все не разбираш къде е у дома,
дали заминаваш, или се връщаш,
докато стоиш на обраслия с лайкучки перон.

И се луташ
между воденицата и дигите,
между баира и тополите край реката,
в кариерите за пясък и опустелите къщи.

между планината и контейнерите за боклук,
между книгите и пощенската кутия,
в гърлото на града
и няколкото пристрастявания

навсякъде у дома,
никъде себе си. 


It feels like I have never lived in this home, 
which is now trying to keep its balance
released from the gravity of the furniture.
Like a she-wolf that has unawares found herself
in a glade, I circle around
the leaning Christmas tree
in the middle of the empty living room.
Two wolf-cubs
silently lay their muzzles on the snow
staring at the dried apples and garlands
upon its branches. 
The light
radiating from their eyes
washes away all the muddy islands
along the Milky Way 
and we enter yet another year
with clean shoes.


Сякаш никога не съм живяла в този дом, 
който сега се опитва да запази равновесие, 
освободен от тежестта на мебелите. 
Като вълчица, озовала се ненадейно 
на горска поляна, обикалям в кръг
наклонената Коледна елха
в средата на празния хол.
Две вълчета
полагат мълчаливо муцуни в снега, 
загледани в сушените ябълки и гирлянди
по клоните ѝ.
струяща от очите им, 
отмива всички кални островчета
по течението на Млечния път
и влизаме с чисти обувки 
в друга година.

Aksinia Mihaylova

Aksinia Mihaylova, born in 1963, is a poet, translator, editor and teacher. Mihaylova lives and works in Sofia and is the author of six books written in Bulgarian and one in French. Her poetry has been translated and published in many different languages all over the world. Mihaylova has translated more than thirty books and is the co-founder of the independent literary journal Ah, Maria. She has also published two anthologies of Lithuanian and Latvian poetry. In November 2014, her poetry collection, Ciel à Perdre (Gallimard) received the Prix Guillaume Apollinaire, a prestigious poetry award and a great honor for a foreign author.

Aneta Panteleeva

Aneta Panteleeva, born in 1990, is a freelance translator of English and German. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in cultural studies and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in translation and editing in Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski. Her greatest passion is contemporary literature in all its shapes and moods.