Round 1: Bulgaria-Trinidad & Tobago


2 countries, 1 competition. 2 poems, 1 prize. 2 girls, 1 cu…. No, wait. Scratch that. Whatever tacky tagline you deign to apply (preferably no tagline at all), we’ve reached what promises to be one of the best match-ups of the Poetry World Cup first round. Today’s contenders are two multi-talented poets — two writers who deserve to win just about every prize going. But only one of them can go through to the next round.

Kapka Kassabova, whose poem ‘How To Build Your Dream Garden’ represents Bulgaria, was educated at the French College in Sofia before emigrating to New Zealand shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Currently based in the Scottish Highlands, she is an impressively protean writer — comfortable with poetry, prose (everything from memoirs to mystery novels), journalism and essays.

Representing Trinidad and Tobago in our competition is the equally versatile Vahni Capildeo, whose work has moved from a PhD thesis in Old Norse and translation theory to ‘Utter’, her most recent collection of poetry, which tears down ‘old boundaries… between the past and present, between human and animal, animate and inanimate, between the Caribbean and the global elsewhere.’


Photo of Kapka Kassabova © Marti Friedlander 

How to Build Your Dream Garden

Year one. At the end of a dusty road, find a malarial swamp.
Drain and fill with earth. Get sick. Curse the day you came.

Year two. Construct a wooden cabin with shells for doorknobs, mist for glass.
Lie and listen to the waves. Remember, you were sick before you came.

Year three. Plant seeds. The earth muffles the past with leaves
and roots. Now wait for someone to come and understand…

~ Kapka Kassabova

Read the full poem (in English and Bulgarian)

Simple Complex Shapes

Take her by the hand,
by the hair,
shut your eyes and lead her
to the sea
for the great ceremony of presentation:
the pinhead
where, if she’s to dance,
she’ll enjoy horizons.

These warm trees,
they have intentions
Make contact with them,
please, be flexible…

~ Vahni Capildeo

Read the full poem


RESULT: Trinidad & Tobago won by 3 votes.