Monday, 20 April 2015

Unknown Translations

Having experiment with writing in rather hazy Bulgarian and then translating the poems back into English, I've put a few together in a little e-pamphlet ...…/0B-86PW85jfQRVkltTVNneG5NV…/view…

Saturday, 18 April 2015

From 'Unknown Translations'

For the last couple of weeks, I've been dallying with an experiment. Rather than writing in English, I've been writing in Bulgarian (which I'm learning in a DIY kind of way) and translating the results back into English. Being far from fluent in Bulgarian, I've had to work with a very limited vocabulary and very limited knowledge of idiom and grammar. In many ways, the results have been fairly hit and miss, but one or two of these efforts (which almost certainly read very badly in Bulgarian) seem OK - perhaps because, to me, they seem to be wholly different to what I would 'normally' write and perhaps because trying to think in another language results in connections which I wouldn't have otherwise made. 

Weather forecast

Today it will rain butter,
a bookish wind will blow,
the sun will wash dishes
and the clouds will play
the bagpipes. Don’t worry.
This is normal when
love is allowed to write
the weather forecast.
It’s best to walk barefoot
and carry a big coat.

Tom Phillips, 2015

Friday, 10 April 2015

Everything looks good tonight

Everything looks good tonight
because children emerged from the dark,
laughing and singing in Queen Square,
because, beyond them, two terriers
snuffled at a wooden post,
because a conversation had only just ended,
because by the zebra crossing
someone automatically took
someone else’s hand,
because the city lights
opened out around the docks
and, beneath the Balmoral, the boat’s reflection
hung, almost perfect, upside down,
because on the last few hundred yards home
I heard people speaking Russian, Spanish, Italian,
because I had been talking with friends
from somewhere I’d been last summer,
because I was wearing the shoes I’d worn
in that place and for a moment
I could feel again the contours
of the pavements as if they’d been
imprinted on cheap plastic and canvas.

And so, yes, crossing the footbridge
everything looks good. By the old gaol gate,
someone pissed against a stone bulwark.
A cyclist went past. And I remembered
deliberately making another footbridge
pulse and shake by walking in step –
and Mike plunging into the river
from a pub terrace in Shrewsbury,
and reading ‘They flee from me ...’
for a practical criticism assignment
months after driving up the east coast
of Australia in bush-fire season
and being in love with people
I’d never see again, because
that was how it was back then,
because even flying home
was an opportunity and we sat
outside a house in Buckinghamshire,
with me jet-lagged and still smelling
of the chemicals they’d sprayed us with
in Sydney, and we were talking
at the night as it came down
and I would sleep on the sofa
when the cat brought in a dead pigeon.

Cars pass. The passengers look out.
I’m in amongst the bins and recycling boxes.
Across the valley, the city lights articulate
a kind of semaphore and I am nearly home.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Some films

It's been a while, to be honest, but, if it came to it, I'd probably say these:
Moderato Cantabile: piano lessons and gender politics in rural France (OK, I know that doesn't sound very attractive, but great nonetheless)
Tales from the Golden Age: nails the myths of totalitarianism in five short pieces
And, somewhat more obviously ...
Withnail & I, Spinal Tap, Salvador, Apocalypse Now and Lawrence of Arabia.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Shopping in February

Today it felt like spring
so I walked through town:
the amplified evangelists
were in full swing.
In the franchised mall,
I thought about
smoking a cigarette
but that is now against the law.
Up a reinvented street
I went into a shop,
talked Madara and Shumen,
bought red peppers, feta cheese.

Tom Phillips

Wednesday, 24 December 2014


This year has been pretty quiet on Recreation Ground, but there are reasons for that. At the beginning of 2014, I was a virtually unemployed sub-editor with time on my hands and the prospect of a rather cheerless January ahead. Then things started to happen.
One night I set up a group on Facebook as a possible space for the writers and artists I’ve met in SE Europe to discuss a putative cultural exchange project. Within only a few days, this was populated by more than seventy people in half-a-dozen different countries and plans were underway for a first exchange visit. This took place in June when, thanks to Arts Council England and the British Council, I got to spend an extraordinary week in Prishtina, hosted by the Club of Kosova’s Writers and coordinated by my dear friend Adil Olluri. Not really knowing what to expect, I was overwhelmed by the energy and enthusiasm of the poets, novelists, playwrights and theatre directors I met. Together we spent long days discussing translation, collaboration and exchange – or, often as not, comparing our experiences as artists in the UK and Kosova. Since then we have continued to work together and the fruits of this first project should emerge in 2015.
On another day in January, my Bulgarian friends Marina and Vasilena Shiderovi and I launched the online project Colourful Star – and every Friday since then we’ve made a collaborative post, usually in the form of a painting by Marina with a poem by me (for the most part in English, but when I’m feeling brave in Bulgarian too). It’s a project about finding common ground and, again, we have plans for developing it in 2015. Marina and I also now work together on children’s stories – the first one of which, ‘Nicholas – The Stolen Reindeer’ – was released as an app last week.
Meanwhile, this year also saw me begin working with two Bulgarians in Canada on the English translations of poems by Iliyan Lyubomirov (aka Augustin Gospodinov). Published in the autumn, his debut collection has become one of the most successful books of Bulgarian poetry since the end of communism. Again, we’re hoping that 2015 will see our translation of the whole book published.
At the same time, I’ve had the good fortune to work with Theatre West again (and with the Tobacco Factory) on ‘Coastal Defences’, to climb Mt Lovcen in Montenegro thanks to a conference at the University of Niksic, to spend another three weeks in Vermosh in northern Albania with the Balkan Peace Park Project, to be an attendee at the birth of Bristol 24/7, to be hired as a tutor by Bath Spa University and to see my daughter graduate with a first. Not to mention that I turned 50 and celebrated 25 years of marriage to Sarra.
This is not supposed to be a ‘look at me, I’m enormous’ moment (although, somewhat inevitably, it will look like that), but rather an acknowledgement of the openness and welcome with which these various unlikely proposals and schemes have been greeted.
A very happy Christmas and New Year to one and all.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

A new venture

My collaborator on the Colourful Star project, Marina Shiderova and I are also working together on multimedia children's stories - and the first one has been published as an app in time for Christmas.
'Nicholas - The Stolen Reindeer' is a seasonal adventure about Mary Torpipit - a little girl who lives in the mountains and who finds herself having to set out on a quest to save Christmas.
As well as Marina's illustrations, the story includes animation, music and a voice over (in the English version, recorded by Lydia Blakemore Phillips).
There are more details and information about how to buy the book here.