Holly Karapetkova translating Kiril Merjanski

Translator Statement

A playwright, scholarly writer, and accomplished translator, Merjanski is a formidable presence in the Bulgarian literary and scholarly world. I was first introduced to Merjanski in the early late 90s through his work as literary manager and playwright at Sfumato Theatre, one of the most esteemed and influential theatre companies in Bulgaria. His dramatic background comes through clearly in his poetry, which is full of motion, sound, conflict, and visual imagery.  His close affiliation with history and the classics also impact his poetry in collections like Selected Epitaphs from the Decline of the Roman Empire and The Myth of Odysseus and the New Bucolic Poetry, though as a recent article by Yoana Sirakova in Classical Receptions Journal (2013) argues, Merjanski’s poetical histories “do not search for a reconstruction of the past but for a construction of the present by means of the past.”

Merjanski’s poetry often contains traces of symbolism and magic realism, but these forces are always grounded in the reality of human physicality; in “Evening,” for example, the rain, dull and interminable, merges with the concept of a love gone numb to the beloved’s presence. The end of the poem brings us back to the concrete world of the body—and in fact the speaker seeks this grounding in the physical reality of the body as a way of reconnecting. In “A Breath of Air,” the intangible world of shadow and air resonates with symbolic meaning but is yoked to the physical presence of the bodies beneath a curtain. What drew me to both of these poems was their concrete physicality which arrives as clearly and vividly in translation as in the original.


The rhythm
of the falling rain
is not mine.

The sound of it
lulls us
to sleep
and gray as rain.

is like that
when it falls
within me
washing out the lines
of your face
and I forget…

You have a body.

Remind me.

A Breath of Air

Shadow of a wing. Sail of a ship

above the bodies

naked under an open window
where the wind pushes in.


Just a breath
in the glass of memory.

Just a breath of air.

The white window curtain
rising and falling down.

Kiril Merjanski

Kiril Merjanski (also transliterated Merdzhanski) is a Bulgarian poet, playwright and translator. He holds a degree in History from the University of Sofia and since 2001 has lived in the United States where he completed his Master's in History from Wright State University. He is considered to be one of the most influential postmodern Bulgarian poets. His many collections of poetry include Night Tide and Birds, Visions, Deserts: Poems. He is also the author of several dramatic texts, as well as The Serbian-Bulgarian Treaties of 1904 and the Balkan Policy of Russia. His works have been translated around the world.

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.