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
Year one. At the end of a dusty road, find a malarial swamp. Year two. Construct a wooden cabin with shells for doorknobs, mist for glass. Year three. Plant seeds. The earth muffles the past with leaves ~ Kapka Kassabova Simple Complex Shapes Take her by the hand,
Drain and fill with earth. Get sick. Curse the day you came.
Lie and listen to the waves. Remember, you were sick before you came.
and roots. Now wait for someone to come and understand…
by the hair,
shut your eyes and lead her
to the sea
for the great ceremony of presentation:
where, if she’s to dance,
she’ll enjoy horizons.
These warm trees,
they have intentions
Make contact with them,
please, be flexible…
Year one. At the end of a dusty road, find a malarial swamp.
Year two. Construct a wooden cabin with shells for doorknobs, mist for glass.
Year three. Plant seeds. The earth muffles the past with leaves
~ Kapka Kassabova
Simple Complex Shapes
Take her by the hand,
~ Vahni Capildeo
RESULT: Trinidad & Tobago won by 3 votes.
‘A National Literature?’: Kapka Kassabova’s keynote address at The Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference.
Kapka Kassabova in conversation with Ryan Van Winkle (representing Scotland in our Poetry World Cup).