Preface to “Here I Am, in Perfect Leaf Today”

Предговор към двуезичното издание на Петя Дубарова "Ето ме днес съвършено разлистена" от американския славист Юри Видов Караджордж (Държавен колеж – Castleton).
сряда, 5 November, 2014

The phenomenon Petya Dubarova (1962-79) is unique in Bulgarian literature – or in any literature anywhere, for that matter. Save some pieces of juvenilia written between the ages often and thirteen, Dubarova, during the very short literary career she had, created a body of poetry which bears the marks of a prodigious talent.

At fifteen Dubarova was already displaying a mastery of form and language, particularly in the imaginative (sui generis) use of metaphors and similes, and an exceptional poetic vigor. At sixteen (reportedly, Dubarova did not write much at all during the last year of her life) the poet enriched her work with philosophical considerations relating to the meaning of human experience – specifically in the context of the possibility of universal goodness and of man’s capacity to be strong, dignified, virtuous. In a short poem entitled “The Sea... II” the poet presents herself as such person: “And mute and stretched out here I stand, / alone below the sky upon the sand, / and feeling big and proud to be / as strong and good as is the sea.” Still, Dubarova took her own life at the age of seventeen. Brusquely, she must have come to, the conclusion that the world has no use for nobility of mind and soul. As Belin Tonchev puts it in “Young Poeis of a New Bulgaria” (see WLT 66:1, p. 160), “It was a tragic reaction to the first brutal attempt on behalf of her surroundings to invade her world of refinement.” Four collections of poems have been published posthumously: “Me and the Sea” in 1980, “Poetry” in 1984, “Sparrow” in 1987, and “The Bluest Magic” In 1988.

As could be expected, some of Dubarova’s subject matter pertains to the daily events, tasks, and concerns of a schoolgirl: attending school, working or not on class assignments, leisure time on weekends, passion for a boyfriend, et cetera. In “Thoughts in Class” Dubarova writes: “I’m tired of always being well-behaved, / of being in class, of listening with no noise, / and nothing but the pen to softly speak to me / on sheets of white and with a inky voice.” The poet describes boys with such lines as “Men’s veins that suddenly are branching out so, / and broad and raised-up shoulders.” In “Saturday” she thinks of herself as being “dark, not understood / and lithe, and wild just like a lynx. / Fatigue transforms into capricious mood / and leaves me like a mended wound.” But then on Mondays, “I’ll put myself inside / a jumper with the blackboard coloring outside, / and I will be a f;ood girl once again!”

In one of several poems dedicated to dreams or to daydreaming, Dubarova writes: “My dream waits there for me, and from it with cry, / the first the purest, like a newborn child, / will tremble Monday, cry a moment, / and in my smiling hands will lie.”: In “The Dream Touches Me”, with unique freshness and originality, Dubarova translates a poetic perception of trivial external occurrences: “As homeless as the fish, / fall leaves chase each other, crackling, / drunken from the rain; / vain, they’ve tucked their veins in / using stems as hairpins / comically, and songlike / they swing along in herds.” In other poems the child-poet contemplates aspects of her relations with the outside world with the profound maturity of an adult. In “As Innocent as Childish Waywardness” (dedicated to her father) she writes with striking power about the disparities and cruelty of human interplay: “I feel alone, alone and no one else’s – / enticed by evanescent glory / and wounded by the cold indifferences, / it [one red and graceful aching, playing the scales of a song in her head] saves me, powerfully, silently.”

Frequently, Dubarova’s poetry attests to an incomprehensible (for her age) insight regarding the complexities and paradoxes in life. In “Come Now,” deploring the pollution of the sea, she addresses herself to the artist’s consciousness and to his responsibility: “And come now, savior-poet, / not with paper, pencil, not to cry together / (how easy crying over sheets of paper). / Let’s lock up the poison and the dark power / haunting mankind! Hurry, brother!” In another poem of similar tone, entitled “To a Poet”, Dubarova reminds the artist where he really stands and what his responsibilities are.

Poet, I hate your clutching muse,
she’s always calling you from people, far away;
how caught you are in netting of illusions
and secrets by these gods to whom you pray!

Pagan, you must shoot those deities,
don't you believe when they say “Come”!
The earth beneath you, simple as a flower, hums,
is whispering with the timbre of the bees!

You come to us, just touchingly unskilled,
confused; stay as you are –
here, only here, tormented man, fulfilled,
your verse will come into the world alive!

C. G. Jung includes intuition of this order along with its esthetic rendition as part of “a living psychic force”, referring to it as “the child archetype which manifests itself in times of crisis as a redeeming, saving intelligence.” (The poetry of Wordsworth is given as the model example of Jung’s assumptions.) In any event, as a whole, Dubarova’s work fits well in this category. It sets forth the idea that harmony can coexist with personality and that chaos at large can be dealt with.

It is no wonder that translator D. D. Wilson, who spent some time in Bulgaria teaching English, decided, after acquainting himself with the work of Dubarova, to prepare this first book of her poetry and prose in English, presenting fifty poems, an exquisite short story (in the form of a dialogue between Petya the poet and Petya the persona), several excerpts from her lengthy diary, and some useful and interesting information about her life. Wilson and his collaborators have acquitted themselves admirably. There will undoubtedly be other translations (into English and into other languages) of Dubarova’s poetry, and Wilson will have been the pioneer. If I had to read only one collection by a teenage poet (in any language) amid the dreariness of a long northern winter, it would be that of Petya Dubarova.

Yuri Vidov Karageorge
Castleton State College


Petya Dubarova, “Here I Am, in Perfect Leaf Today”, Burgas, 2014.

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