Sunday Poem – Nikola Madzirov



Fast is the century. If I were wind
I would have peeled the bark off the trees
and the facades off the buildings in the outskirts.

If I were gold, I would have been hidden in cellars,
into crumbly earth and among broken toys,
I would have been forgotten by the fathers,
and their sons would remember me forever.

 If I were a dog, I wouldn’t have been afraid of
refugees, if I were a moon
I wouldn’t have been scared of executions.

 If I wеre a wall clock
I would have covered the cracks on the wall.

 Fast is the century. We survive the weak earthquakes
watching towards the sky, yet not towards the ground.
We open the windows to let in the air
of the places we have never been.
Wars don’t exist,
since someone wounds our heart every day.
Fast is the century.
Faster than the word.
If I were dead, everyone would have believed me
when I kept silent.

Translated by Peggy and Graham W. Reid,
Magdalena Horvat and Adam Reed

I wanted to put this up before I go off on holiday – what an exciting poem.  As I was writing my previous blog, I suddenly decided I would bite the bullet and ask Nikola if I could put this poem up – the worst he could say was no, right?  Anyway, he said yes, and very graciously too. 

If you would like to read more of Nikola’s work you could order his collection ‘Remnants From Another Age’ from here: 

 and why would you not want to read more poetry like that? The whole book is full of poems that are exciting, daring and doing something rather special with language, I think.  I love ‘Fast Is The Century’ for its mystery, yet the poem has its own inner logic which holds it together.  I love the refain of ‘Fast is the century’ which keeps coming back throughout.  I kind of had a thunderbolt moment when I read this poem, so I’m absolutely honoured to have it here, on my blog. 
As you can see from the biography below, Nikola is quite a big deal elsewhere in the world – maybe it’s my ignorance, or maybe we are still a little isolated here and too focused on British poetry to the exclusion of other countries, but I’d never heard of Nikola till I heard him read at Poetry Parnassus.  It will be interesting to see whether other poets/readers/commentators on this blog have come across him or not – he obviously deserves to be more widely known, and as far as I know has a collection coming out here next year with a pretty major poetry publisher, which will obviously help this. 

Nikola Madzirov, “a first-rate poet who deserves worldwide attention” (Tottenville Review), is one of the most powerful voices of the new European poetry. He was born in a family of Balkan Wars refugees in 1973 in Strumica, Macedonia. His award-winning poetry has been translated into thirty languages and published in collections and anthologies in US, Europe and Asia. In 2011 BOA Editions published a selection of his poetry in the US titled Remnants of Another Age. In the foreword, Carolyn Forché tells us, “Madzirov calls himself ‘an involuntary descendant of refugees,’ referring to his family’s flight from the Balkan Wars a century ago: his surname derives from mazir or majir, meaning ‘people without a home.’ The ideas of shelter and of homelessness, of nomadism, and spiritual transience serves as a palimpsest in these Remnants”—while Madzirov himself tells us in one of his poems, “History is the first border I have to cross.”

If you would like to find out more about Nikola you can have a look at this website for more biographical details: 

There is a really interesting interview with Nikola on this site: 

There is also a fascinating kind of analysis of the book which provides interesting background information here: 
Please let me know what you think, I hope you enjoy. 

4 responses »

  1. Very beautiful. Sometimes astonishing and chilling. The repeated refrain makes me think of the inevitability of events unfolding and the powerlessness of people to stop them. l will delve into the links to find out more. Thanks for posting.

  2. This poem has a strange and suprising excellence. it has order and disorder, it is moving in lots of directions. It has huge scale and small detail. The voice is almost prophetic, but without pomposity. Here is a quote from Dan Chiasson taken from Poetry, 2005. ‘ When you read a great poem you fear it, because something of the oringinal fire of composition has been transmitted.’
    Thanks Kim

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