Friday, 25 April 2014

Valia Balkanska

Always a story there if you stop and look:
hers begins in mountains and meadows
and will not end until, on some distant planet
or in the emptiness between stars,
the fragile messengers we've sent
meet whatever their fate might be.

We will not, cannot know –
but might take some hope in thinking
that these traces of ours will be found
and that the song of a хайдук rebel,
music drawn from the grass and earth,
will be heard beneath unfamiliar constellations
will sound beneath an otherworldly sky.

Valia Balkanska’s recording of the Bulgarian folk song ‘Излел е Делю хайдутин’ features on the Golden Record, a selection of the sounds and music of the Earth sent into space on board the two Voyager probes. The song's on YouTube here

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

On 'Twelfth Night' (For Shakespeare's 450th)

I was tempted to ask it myself
as the ferry ground against
seaweed-greened harbour walls:
‘What country, friends, is this?’

Overlooked by abandoned palace,
remnant of some earlier kingdom,
we pulled in by a customs house
with handwritten welcome sign
and sprouting wire palms
across the dockside development area.

Who knew what we would find?

In a dark cell,
perched above shale-beds
in this corner of a promontory,
I’m overlooking absences
of a neatly turned plot,
a plunging watercourse.
‘We’ll come out of it
all right in the end,’
I think I heard you say.

Over our heads, birds plunge
and swoop into the thermals.
Stripped down to no more
than a bare, forked fear of heights,
I’m walking back up the slope
into a myriad coincidences,
opportunities for love amended.

23rd April marks the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth - and we wanted to celebrate it on Colourful Star, not least because Marina took inspiration from Shakespeare for the design of the project's logo. 'Twelfth Night' seems an apposite choice of subject for this post, because the answer to Viola's famous question at the beginning of the play - 'What country, friends, is this?' - is 'This is Illyria, lady', effectively locating the play in SE Europe.

Images: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Честит Великден Happy Easter

 In the quiet of Easter morning,
the children are all anticipation.
We are prone in our bed,
rumpling the cover into a sea.

Light doesn’t so much insist
as wash against the windows.
The year cleanses itself.
This game of waves flings up
rubbery dog fish, spiny crustaceans.

At the point where water laps
at rock pools and shingle,
our daughter reaches out,
finds a black-and-tan egg case,
hope washed up, an angel’s purse.

Bulgaria's Easter traditions are rich and various: you can read more about them here.

Images: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips 

Friday, 11 April 2014


On the cusp of tulip season
in our mid-spring garden
colours break through damp grey:
pie-eyed crocus, fried-egg plants,
daffodils, snowdrops, keen annuals.
Blossom fills out the teetering branches.

Somewhere else (not far, not wild),
on this Palm Sunday, Flower Day,
visits and greetings, tables laid
for those who’ve come to say
Честит имен ден!
in living room, hall or kitchen.

The smell of loam and petals
the same in both our houses.

Sunday 13 April this year is both Palm Sunday and Flower Day – a name-day for all those in Bulgaria whose names derive from flowers. 

Images: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips 

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Old Bell Tower

From sharp edges of Atlantic weather,
bungalows, ring roads, Saxon churches,
Europe proceeds to shallow roofs,
slate yards, balconies, onion domes:
pragmatic architectural variations
might easily be mistaken
for proof of differences set in stone.

History emerges from perspective;
sky darkens from the past.
The silence of bells is the same
no matter what the language,
and yet with a little learning
I might just hear
footsteps, stirrups, sword-blades –
whatever it is that’s gathering in those clouds.

Image: Marina Shiderova; text: Tom Phillips