Black Flag Poetry

Black Flag Poetry (Part 2/2)

Black Flag Poetry


Read the second part of Bogomil’s interview on Spotlight Europe and discover this young poet’s thoughts on the future. For his poems, have a look at Bogomil’s blog ‘Black Flag Poetry‘.
1. Is poetry  only a hobby of yours or eager ambition to start a career as a poet?
Both ambition and career imply a desire to reach a final destination. I can’t say the same is true of the art of poetry. To be a poet, one has to already be where he wants and ought to be which excludes the possibility of him trying to elevate himself and to reach some kind of an ideal. I don’t think you can learn that art much more than you can learn how to laugh at jokes. You can’t really get much better but you can stop being as bad at it as before i.e. you can manage to say more in less words and thus increasing the presence of the only known to humanity weapon of truth – silence. I’d like to enclose a poem by Basil Bunting right after this sentence:

Basil Bunting, 1900-1985

Poetry? It’s a hobby.
I run model trains.
Mr Shaw there breeds pigeons.

It’s not work. You don’t sweat.
Nobody pays for it.
You could advertise soap.

Art, that’s opera; or repertory–
The Desert Song.
Nancy was in the chorus.

But to ask for twelve pounds a week–
married, aren’t you?–
you’ve got a nerve.

How could I look a bus conductor
in the face
if I paid you twelve pounds?

Who says it’s poetry, anyhow?
My ten year old
can do it and rhyme.

I get three thousand and expenses,
a car, vouchers,
but I’m an accountant.

They do what I tell them,
my company.
What do you do?

Nasty little words, nasty long words,
it’s unhealthy.
I want to wash when I meet a poet.

They’re Reds, addicts, all delinquents.
What you write is rot.

Mr. Hines says so, and he’s a schoolteacher, he ought to know.
Go and find work.

2. From you view: Will books still be read in 2030 or will everyone read via digital devices like smartphones, tablets etc.?
Whether people will read their favourite novels enclosed in hardcover books or from digital devices remains a trivial subject as long as the content of the book in question remains in the Gutenberg era i.e. a static immutable printed text with fixed positioning on paper or screen. A more important question regarding the future of literature is not how the mediums of reading will change or how the visual representation of a text will evolve, but rather how would the enormous capabilities of our machines affect the way we “encode” and create literary texts. I’d like to think of the future of poetry through an allegory which I’d name “Poetry as a constellation observed in the night sky”.

Poetry can be seen and researched as a natural phenomenon instead of as a dusty artefact in a museum.

The idea is that future literature will have dynamic representation instead of static one, it’s shape will shift and morph with time. Imagine a text which changes everyday because it relies on external input (let’s say on the content of ten different online magazines). In that way poetry can be seen and researched as a natural phenomenon instead of as a dusty artefact in a museum.


3. What advice could you give to other young writers?
I won’t give any advices, but I’d say what I will never do myself and that is I won’t get obsessed with the question of creativity. I consider the very word obscene and preposterous. I believe it’s a meaningless term whose place is in the same category as free will, freedom, the meaning of life and so on. It is an unsuccessful and arrogant attempt by our simple-mindedness to break the intense complexity of human thought into simplistic categories that we like to believe we control, into squares and circles, equators and meridians. Striving for creativity in your writing is like trying to paint a mathematical equation. By desperately trying to match the people’s evaluation of a work and studying how to appease them by fitting into the accepted ideas of originality leads to infertility and disappointment. A much better process, in my opinion, is to instead divert your attention towards deep comprehension, appreciation and contemplation of the world driven by what moves you around. Every time I was advised to read an article on creativity, I’d take my dog for a walk and let it lead me on my own leash.


About the interview partner:
Bogomil Gospodinov - Author at Spotlight Europe
Bogomil Gospodinov – Author at Spotlight Europe

Bogomil (20) participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2012. He currently studies Computer Science at the University of Southampton in England. He loves poetry and playing football.

Black Flag Poetry (Part 1/2)

Picture Bogomil Todorov Gospodinov

Bogomil is a young Bulgarian poet studying in England. He publishes his work on his own blog ‘Black Flag Poetry‘. For Spotlight Europe, he gives an interview on his work and inspiration.

1. Why did you choose this specific name for your blog and poetry work?

The black flag is the infamous insignia of the pirates, the symbol of the rebels during the German Peasant’s War and the Black Guards during the Russian Revolution. Ironically, it is also the flag raised in front of a prison signifying an upcoming execution. It is a flag standing for the absence of a flag, the Mare Liberum of the fleets of national identity. Ultimately, it represents the No Man’s land populated by the minds in exile, by those most unwilling to surrender.

What actually made me choose this title is a quote from the Bulgarian new wave musician Dimitar Voev which goes roughly like this: “Wave a black flag on which it is written without words “It’s filthy inside me”.”

2. What made you want to start a blog about poetry?

My blog is private and not indexed on the Internet. It’s purpose is bibliographical. It is a convenient way of having a holistic view on your work, as one is able to follow his progress through time summarised on a computer screen.

3. All of your poems are in English. That is quite remarkable as your mother tongue is Bulgarian – Why did you choose English as language for your poems?

Most of my poems are not initially written in English, but in Bulgarian. I am gradually translating them into English (following the steps of Brodsky and Nabokov), obviously because it is a lingua franca and because, in my opinion, the successful transition of a poem between several languages is a litmus test of its well-craftedness. It is not a novelty in the scientific or the philosophical world that human thought speaks in an universal language and I believe, ultimately, human languages are an important but trivial matter when it comes to fine literature. Such literature always speaks in strictly humanistic terms and stands on a higher abstraction level then let’s say what we call German or English.

4. What are the main topics of your poems?

Every time you had something on the tip of your tongue but couldn’t find the right words to express or the people to talk to – that is my topic.

As Adrian Mitchell once said:

“We must speak

instead of the poor,

instead of the deranged,

instead of the dying from hunger,

instead of the fighting for freedom,

instead of all children,

instead of all thrown into jail,

instead of the senile,

instead of the unborn, instead of the dead,

instead of the animals and the birds,

instead of the earth, the water and the sky.

These are our brothers and sisters. Every day one of them is being ridiculed. They are being destroyed, oppressed and murdered. The revolution, which could set them free, has just begun. In order to succeed, this revolution must be a revolution of empathy, which will bring us closer to a more peaceful and less vulgar world.

5. Is there something that especially inspires you?

Strangeness. I always fall in love with bizarre people and circumstances slightly (but not too much) detached from reality – people whose shadows are not copycats

6. How much time does it take you to write a poem?

A poem is not meant to be written. It is to be edited. For a long time. And then either the author and/or the poem dies. People then gather and mourn for a while and start reading it aloud. And then they get some ideas and start writing themselves expanding on the previous one. The original poem has started a long time ago with the first heartbeat of the first broken heart.

7. What do your friends and family think about your hobby?

If life is an exam, my poetry is my private notes. You can look at them on your own risk of being expelled.

8. Do you follow other poetry blogs? (Is there something like a poet network in the internet?)

I don’t follow blogs or magazines or newspapers. I follow my eyes. 21st gives us an unprecedented opportunity to choose and pick in an extremely fast pace. We have at hand the luxury to filter our information based on the quality of the content and form instead of blindly following blog X or magazine Y.


About the interview partner:
Bogomil Gospodinov - Author at Spotlight Europe
Bogomil Gospodinov – Author at Spotlight Europe

Bogomil (20) participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2012. He currently studies Computer Science at the University of Southampton in England. He loves poetry and playing football.

Strange Love (2/2)

Have you ever been afraid that the world might end within a moment for no particular reason whatsoever? Have you ever been suspicious that if you read just the right line coined from the right poet with the right intensity and pitch of your voice, you can accidentally cause Earth’s fiery destruction? I hope so.

Because, you see, a world which can be shattered to pieces merely by the emotional buildup of a poem is the same world which another poem can reassemble on the very next day. It is a world preserved by its own power of self-expression, because it is a world which lives twice simultaneously. But today self-expression just as our ozone layer is endangered instead of supported by human technology. We seem to be concerned only with the “self-” part completely forgetting about the “expression” itself. What we often ignore is that self-expression is not merely to play music or to write verse or to paint, it is to a much higher degree listening, reading, absorbing, being curious and autodidactic, collaborating and experimenting. It is so easy these days to meet a British “poet” who has never heard of Ted Hughes or Philip Larkin or a German one who never found time to discover Hans Magnus Enzensberger or Gottfried Benn. It seems to me that contemporary communication made us feel more self-centred and self-absorbed than ever instead of widening our horizons for the work of others around us.

“Today literature and art are exposed to another danger. They are not endangered by ideology or a political party, but by an economic process without face, without soul and without direction. Its censure is not ideological. It has no ideas. It knows everything about prices and nothing about virtues.”                                                                                       – Octavio Paz, ‘Poetry and the Free Market’

I don’t miss the glorious days when T.S. Elliot and W.H. Auden were regarded as living demigods or when New York Times used to publish poetry on its pages, I don’t even miss the times when the governing elite of Ancient Ellada and Rome was abundant with true worshippers of poetry. Dreaming about this would have been sentimental and because of that – bad poetry. What I’d really like to see today is rage against the machine, rebellion against the dissolution of individuality in favour of mediocrity, dissatisfaction with the mass production and fabrication of music, literature and cinema. I am afraid that we will soon be able to create a machine indistinguishable from man not because Alan Turing said so but simply because we have turned ourselves into one of his definitions – by straightening up and abstracting all the curves and wiggles life has, by not admitting that reason and logic are not as fundamental to the human’s nature as the primordial power of metaphor and rhythm.

“I fought the law and the law won.”                                                                                              – The Clash

Day by day, I recognise more easily the patterns of the monstrous mechanisation and standartization that our society is going through. I see more and more people refusing to accept the fact that we don’t have mythology anymore, that we live in a world where mysteries are sentenced to death for being “one hundred percent truth and two hundred percent fiction”. The problem of poetry is that it is an incompetent businessman trying to capitalize on a highly distinctive and challenging product which no one is able to mass produce and standartize. A product that doesn’t impose on you any kind of cheap tricks and promises. Its packaging doesn’t try to flatter you, to reassure you or to convince you, it doesn’t bring you any short-term appeasement with yourself. Instead it very often wants you to “gaze into the abyss” and to realize that “the abyss gazes back into you”.

“Poetry is everywhere except in the poems of weak poets.”                                                   – Paul Claudel

Last but not least, poetry can be studied, but not taught. I find it really amusing that some people still believe that they can standartize poetry by creating a mechanical algorithm for creativeness. I am of course speaking of the fashionable creative writing courses. These are ridiculous because to try to study how to write poetry is like trying to study how to laugh at jokes. You don’t. It’s not funny. It’s an anti-joke and anti-poetry. If you devise an algorithm for how people should be creative, they won’t be creative anymore. Creativeness is always mysterious and unknown and that is why we appreciate geniuses. We simply don’t have a clue how do they do what they do. The day we understand that process will be the day when we are going to stop praising them for being creative.

But what is one way to write poetry? When mediocre musicians from the Austrian aristocracy asked Mozart how does he write music, he simply answered, “I bring together sounds which love each other.” As simple as a little night music. You see, footballers don’t write dissertations on how to play football. They come together and play. In the same way, a good poet plays football with a ball which nobody else can touch. The brilliant poet does the same with a ball which nobody else can see. I warned you. It is a strange love.

About the author:

Picture Bogomil Todorov GospodinovBogomil (20) participated in our workshop in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2012. He currently studies Computer Science at the University of Southampton in England.

Strange Love (1/2)

“There are people who understand and love poetry and people who cannot stand it. The latter are much more and they are the masters of today’s world.”                                 – Lyubomir Levchev

These days only the poet himself doesn’t know what poetry is. He is the one who doesn’t try to beautify its dead lovers. He doesn’t take advantage of its former wives. He doesn’t kill it without making mistakes. He doesn’t dream of its cold comfort. He puts all his questions to its mirror. He doesn’t try to convince the shape of its stone in his firmness. He knows that if it is heads and he is tails, what’s important is the coin. But he is not its fairy tale.

If someone asks him why poetry is important or why he is interested in poetry, he answers that poetry is not important at all and that’s the sole reason for which he is interested in it. “In the century of you must do it because it is good for you”, he will continue, “there exists this special kind of artistry, this unique cross-breed of originality and cautious contemplation, this music for the inner ear and imagery for the inner eyes which is not doing any good to anybody”. The oldest tree in the forest, you see, is the most useless one, owed to the fact that it is good for nothing else but providing shade to strangers.

“Everyone stands alone at the heart of the world,
pierced by a ray of sunlight,
and suddenly it’s evening”
– Salvatore Quasimodo, Tutte le poesie

And this is precisely how a strange and unnecessary love like this can happen in an alternative world where happiness is not the universal virtue by default and clichés are not always regarded as common sense. Such a love seems to occur only when uncalled-for and unexpected and then disappears if you try to talk to her about the practical implications of her essence or the importance of her virtue. As Lao-Tzu once beautifully said, “A virtue that is aware of itself is not a virtue”.

Once Diogenes saw a child drinking out of his hands, and so he threw away his cup and said “That child has beaten me in simplicity”.

Yes, you don’t have to do it. If you can go without it, it’s better for you. To believe in absurdities is the first symptom of poetry and unless you are terminally ill with it, save yourself the trouble. If you believe it is inevitable, always have in mind that “the point of action is contemplation”. If you read and write poetry, don’t do it to put down people who may not look as erudite as you and don’t do it for the sake of being non-conformist, because this is exactly what conformists do. No insincere and inferior motivation will bring you the same experience as when you just do it for the sake of spontaneity. It’s not the same as going to the gym regularly or nightclubbing every Saturday even when what you really wanted was to sleep that night. There is no authority and no law which requires you to do it and no social pressure to do it under the false promises of certain yet never fulfilled future happiness.

“Because verse writing is an extraordinary accelerator of conscience, of thinking, of comprehending the universe. Having experienced this acceleration once, one is no longer capable of abandoning the chance to repeat this experience; one falls into dependency on this process, the way others fall into dependency on drugs or on alcohol. One who finds himself in this sort of dependency on language is, I guess, what they call a poet.”                                                                                                                                  – Joseph Brodsky

…continue to Part 2

About the author:

Picture Bogomil Todorov GospodinovBogomil (20) participated in our workshop in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2012. He currently studies Computer Science at the University of Southampton in England.