Three Poems by Nikola Madzirov

Nikola Madzirov was born in 1973 in Stru­mica, Mace­do­nia in a fam­ily of Balkan Wars refugees. His first col­lec­tion of poetry, »Zak­lučeni vo gradot« (tr: Locked in the City), won the »Stu­dentski zbor« prize for best début. In the same year he pub­lished his sec­ond book, »Nekade nikade« (tr: Some­where Nowhere), also a poetry col­lec­tion, which won the Aco-Karamanov prize. The anthol­ogy »Vo gradot, nekade« (tr: In the City, Some­where) fol­lowed in 2004, and in 2007 he pub­lished his last poetry col­lec­tion to date, »Pre­mesten kamen« (tr: Relo­cated Stone), for which he was awarded the pres­ti­gious Miladinov-Brothers Prize and the Hubert-Burda Prize for Literature.

Madzirov was poetry edi­tor of the Mace­don­ian e-magazine »Ble­sok« and is the Mace­don­ian co-ordinator of the inter­na­tional net­work Lyrik­line. He lives in Mace­do­nia and works as a poet, essay­ist and lit­er­ary translator.


The Shadow of the World Passes Over My Heart

—Lucian Blaga
(trans­lated by Peggy and Gra­ham W. Reid)

I haven’t the courage of a relo­cated stone.
You’ll find me stretched on a damp bench
beyond all army camps and arenas. 

I’m empty as a plas­tic bag
filled with air. 

With hands parted and fin­gers joined
I indi­cate a roof. 

My absence is a con­se­quence
of all recounted his­to­ries and delib­er­ate longings.      

I have a heart pierced by a rib.
Frag­ments of glass float through my blood
and clouds hid­den behind white cells.

The ring on my hand has no shadow of its own
and is rem­i­nis­cent of the sun. I haven’t the courage
of a relo­cated star.


Before We Were Born

(trans­lated by Peggy and Gra­ham W. Reid)

The streets were asphalted
before we were born and all
the con­stel­la­tions were already formed.
The leaves were rot­ting
on the edge of the pave­ment,
the sil­ver was tar­nish­ing
on the work­ers’ skin,
someone’s bones were grow­ing through
the length of the sleep.

Europe was unit­ing
before we were born and
a woman’s hair was spread­ing
calmly over the sur­face
of the sea.


(trans­lated by Mag­dalena Hor­vat and Adam Reed)

I sep­a­rated myself from each truth about the begin­nings
of rivers, trees, and cities.
I have a name that will be a street of good­byes
and a heart that appears on X-ray films.
I sep­a­rated myself even from you, mother of all skies
and care­free houses.
Now my blood is a refugee that belongs
to sev­eral souls and open wounds.
My god lives in the phos­pho­rous of a match,
in the ashes hold­ing the shape of the fire­wood.
I don’t need a map of the world when I fall asleep.
Now the shadow of a stalk of wheat cov­ers my hope,
and my word is as valu­able
as an old fam­ily watch that doesn’t keep time.
I sep­a­rated from myself, to arrive at your skin
smelling of honey and wind, at your name
sig­ni­fy­ing rest­less­ness that calms me down,
open­ing the doors to the cities in which I sleep,
but don’t live.
I sep­a­rated myself from the air, the water, the fire.
The earth I was made from
is built into my home.



Peggy Reid, M.A. (Cantab), Doc­tor hon­oris causa, Skopje, M.B.E., born Bath, U.K., 1939, taught Eng­lish at Ss. Cyril and Method­ius Uni­ver­sity, Skopje, Mace­do­nia, for twenty years between 1969 and 2006. Translator/co-translator from Mace­don­ian of nov­els, poetry, plays and works of non­fic­tion. Lives in Edin­burgh, U.K.

Gra­ham W. Reid, M.A., M.B.E. born Edin­burgh, 1938. Read Eng­lish at Trin­ity Col­lege, Cam­bridge. Taught Eng­lish for twenty-five years at Ss. Cyril & Method­ius Uni­ver­sity, Skopje, Mace­do­nia. Widely trans­lated both poetry and prose from Mace­don­ian into Eng­lish. M.A. the­sis at Brad­ford Uni­ver­sity on Reflec­tions of Rural-Urban Migra­tion in Con­tem­po­rary Mace­don­ian Poetry. Cur­rently lives in Edin­burgh, U.K.

Mag­dalena Hor­vat (born 1978, Skopje, Mace­do­nia) is the author of two poetry col­lec­tions: This is it, your (2006) and Bluish and other poems (2010). Among the books she has trans­lated into Mace­don­ian are Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Fiona Sampson’s The Dis­tance Between Us. She cur­rently lives in Athens, Georgia.

Adam Reed (born 1978, Athens, Geor­gia) has co-translated/edited sev­eral poetry col­lec­tions, antholo­gies and works of non­fic­tion from Mace­don­ian into Eng­lish. He taught Eng­lish, Writ­ing and His­tory courses at Uni­ver­sity Amer­i­can Col­lege Skopje, Mace­do­nia, for sev­eral years. He cur­rently lives in Athens, Georgia.