Holly Karapetkova translating Dostena Anguelova-Lavergne

Translator Statement

Dostena Anguelova-Lavergne is an important figure in Europe’s contemporary literary scene, and her widely read and highly influential examination of think tanks in contemporary world politics, Experts of the Transition, has recently put her in the political spotlight as well. However, she is first and foremost a poet, as the richness of her imagery in these three pieces affirms. The subject matter transforms through each, taking us on a journey that ends us back where we began, utterly changed. I chose these pieces precisely for their striking images and surprising turns; they speak beyond a specific location or culture, and their meaning works as powerfully in English as in their native Bulgarian.

One of the things I most love about translation is the way in which it pulls me out of my own voice and perspective, and Anguelova-Lavergne’s poems were a great pleasure to live inside of for a while. While translation is necessarily adaptation, when working with the poetry of living poets who are virtually unknown to an English-speaking audience, I strive to stay close to the original meaning, pushing away from the original only in spaces where a more literal version would fall flat in English or give an English-speaking reader pause. One challenge in translating from Bulgarian is that poetry in English has less tolerance for sentiment than Bulgarian poetry, so I occasionally take the liberty of pulling back. For example, in the original version of “Daybreak,” a reader can see that the poem ends with an exclamation mark: “Thank you!” This exclamation echoes powerfully in the Bulgarian original, but I chose to end instead with a period, feeling that the gratitude might come across more profoundly to an American reader in being understated. Such changes are slight and (I hope) enhance rather than detract from the poem’s resonance.


lonely jetty
where my suspicion breaks.
in which I allow myself
to overflow.
where the days come
to visit, late morning
I awake
beside you still
damp with breath from beyond
tangled in the darkness
but alive to tears
flushed close to light:
thank you.


самотен вълнолом,
във който се разбива
мойто недоверие.
в които се оставям
да прелея.
там дните идват ни
на гости, късно сутрин
събуждам се
до теб,
а ти си още
влажен, с дъх отвъден,
заплетен в мрака,
но жив до сълзи,
зачервен до светлина,


I long
for separation
beautiful as a scream
that ascends,
abruptly stops,
and is lost
somewhere high above,
the way we wish
for a beautiful death—
seeing only closed eyelids
and imagining
the eyes are sleeping
A separation
without fragments
without rust and tracks
in the bed
separation sudden
as the threads of the sun
which ripped the morning sky
into endless possible


за раздяла
красива като вик,
извисява се,
секва и се загубва
някъде на нависоко,

така както човек си пожелава
красива смърт-
виждаш само затворените и клепачи
и си представяш,
че очите сънуват

вечността недостъпна.

Една раздяла
без отломки,
без плесен и следи 
в леглото,

раздяла внезапна
като лъчите на слънцето тази сутрин,
които разсичат небето
на безброй възможни


hem of the sun
tripped up in
the snow
you know
you aren’t falling.


поръбен от слънцето
подхлъзваш се
в снега
вече знаеш
не падаш.

Dostena Anguelova-Lavergne

Dostena Anguelova-Lavergne is a poet, anthropologist, and journalist currently based in Strasbourg, where she serves as the Vice Editor-in-Chief of the cultural magazine Saisons d’Alsace. She is the author of two volumes of poetry and has been published and translated widely throughout Europe and around the world. She holds a PhD in International Relations and is the author of the influential political nonfiction text Experts of the Transition (2010).

Holly Karapetkova

Holly Karapetkova’s poetry, prose, and translations from the Bulgarian have appeared in Mid-American Review, Huffington Post, 32 Poems, and many other places. Her first book, Words We Might One Day Say, won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House Prize for Poetry. She chairs the English Department at Marymount University.