Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Shadows Pass Us By & Other Poems— Nikola Mazdirov

Nov 11, 2022 | Poetry | 0 comments

Shadows Pass Us By 

We’ll meet one day,
like a paper boat and
a watermelon that’s been cooling in the river.
The anxiety of the world will
be with us. Our palms
will eclipse the sun and we’ll
approach each other holding lanterns.

One day, the wind won’t
change direction.
The birch will send away leaves
into our shoes on the doorstep.
The wolves will come after
our innocence.
The butterflies will leave
their dust on our cheeks.

An old woman will tell stories
about us in the waiting room every morning.
Even what I’m saying has
been said already: we’re waiting for the wind
like two flags on a border.

One day every shadow
                                    will pass us by.

Translated from the Macedonian by Magdalena Horvat 

Fast Is The Century 

Fast is the century. If I were the wind
I would have peeled the bark off the trees
and the facades of the buildings on the outskirts.

If I were gold, I would have been hidden in cellars,
into crumbly earth and among broken toys,
I would have been forgotten by the fathers,
and their sons would remember me forever.

If I were a dog, I wouldn’t have been afraid of
refugees, if I were a moon
I wouldn’t have been scared of executions.

If I were a wall clock
I would have covered the cracks on the wall.

Fast is the century. We survive the weak earthquakes
watching towards the sky, yet not towards the ground.
We open the windows to let in the air
of the places we have never been.
Wars don’t exist,
since someone wounds our hearts every day.
Fast is the century.
Faster than the word.
If I were dead, everyone would have believed me
when I kept silent.

— Translated from the Macedonian by Peggy Reid and Graham W. Reid

Usual Summer Nightfall 


This is what summer nightfall is like:
the adulteress comes onto the balcony
in a silk nightgown that lets through
the trembling of the stars,
a twig drops from the beak of a bird
that falls asleep before it has built its home,
a soldier lowers the flag of the state
with a letter from his mother in his pocket
and atomic tests in the womb of the earth
secretly revive the dead. At that moment someone
quietly interprets Byzantine neumes[1],
someone else falsifies the exoduses
of the Balkan and the civil wars
in the name of universal truths.
In the factory yards
the statues of participants
in annulled revolutions sleep,
on the symmetrical graves
plastic flowers lose their color
and ordinary ones their shape,
but this peace of the dead
we have parted from
is not ours.


In the village with three-lit windows
a fortune-teller foresees only
recoveries, and not illnesses.
The waves throw up bottles enough
to hold the whole sea,
the arrow on the one-way road sign
points to God,
a fisherman rips off a bit of the sky
as he casts his baited line into the river,
some poor child searches for the Little Bear
and the planet hed like to come from,
in front of  the doorstep of the killer with an alibi
a feather attempts to fly.
This is what usual summer nightfall is like.
The town combusts in the redness of the moon
and the fire brigade ladders seem
to lead to heaven, even then when
               is climbing

— Translated from the Macedonian by Peggy Reid and Graham W. Reid

Perfection Is Born 

I want someone to tell me
about the messages in the water in our bodies,
about yesterdays air
in telephone booths,
about flights postponed because of
poor visibility, despite
all the invisible angels.

The fan that weeps for tropical winds,
the incense that smells best
as it vanishes—I want someone to tell me about these things.

I believe that when perfection is born
all forms and truths
crack like eggshells.

Only the sigh of gentle partings
can tear a cobweb apart
and the perfection of imagined lands
can postpone the secret
migration of souls.

And what can I do with my imperfect body:
I go and I return, go and return
like a plastic sandal on the waves
by the shore.

— Translated from the Macedonian by Peggy Reid and Graham W. Reid


There is no silence in the world.
Monks have created it
to hear the horses every day
and feathers falling from wings.

— Translated from the Macedonian by Peggy Reid and Graham W. Reid

I Saw Dreams 

I saw dreams that no one remembers
and people wailing at the wrong graves.
I saw embraces in a falling airplane
and streets with open arteries.
I saw volcanoes asleep longer than
the roots of the family tree
and a child who’s not afraid of the rain.
Only it was me no one saw,
only it was me no one saw.

— Translated from the Macedonian by Peggy Reid and Graham W. Reid


[1]Basic elements of Eastern systems of musical notation prior to the invention of five-line staff notation.

Also, read four poems by Malayalam poet Rafeeq Ahamed , translated into English by K.M. Ajir Kutty, and published in The Antonym

Tear Curtains & Other Poems— Rafeeq Ahamed

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Nikola Madzirov (poet, essayist, translator) was born in 1973 in Strumica, R.Macedonia, in a family of war refugees from the Balkan Wars. When he was 18, the collapse of Yugoslavia prompted a shift in his sense of identity—as a writer reinventing himself in a country that felt new but was still nourished by deeply rooted historical traditions. His poems are translated into more than forty languages. The book Relocated Stone (2007) was given the East European Hubert Burda poetry award and the most prestigious Macedonian poetry award Miladinov Brothers at Struga Poetry Evenings. Other recognitions include the Studentski Zbor award for best poetry debut and the Xu Zhimo Silver Leaf award for European poetry at King’s College, Cambridge in the UK. American composers Oliver Lake, Michael League, and Becca Stevens or Du Yun have composed music based on Madzirov’s poems. He was granted several international fellowships: International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa; DAAD in Berlin; Marguerite Yourcenar in France and Civitella Ranieri in Italy. Nikola Madzirov is one of the coordinators of the international poetry network Lyrikline, based in Berlin. He edited the Macedonian edition of the Anthology of World’s Poetry: XX and XXI Century. His book in English Remnants of Another Age was published in the UK by Bloodaxe Books, in the USA by BOA Editions and in Australia by Vagabond Press.

Magdalena Horvat (b. 1978, Skopje, Macedonia) is the author of three poetry collections: This is it, your (2006), Bluish and Other Poems (2010), and Sensitive to Light: Selected Poems (2018). Among the books she has translated into Macedonian are Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Fiona Sampson’s The Distance Between Us.

Graham W. Reid

Graham W. Reid, M.A., M.B.E. (b. Edinburgh, 1938, died 2015), has studied English at Trinity College, Cambridge, and taught English for 25 years at Ss. Cyril & Methodius University, Skopje, Macedonia. He has widely translated both poetry and prose from Macedonian into English. His M.A. thesis at Bradford University was on Reflections of Rural-Urban Migration in Contemporary Macedonian Poetry.

Peggy Reid

Peggy Reid, M.A. (Cantab), Doctor honoris causa, Skopje, M.B.E. (Born in Bath, U.K, 1939, died 2015), has taught English at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, R. Macedonia, for twenty years between 1969 and 2006. She is a translator/co-translator from Macedonian of novels, poetry, plays, and works of non-fiction.






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