Our Man storms Sofia…

   Further to Tom’s adventures amongst the poetic heartlands, hedonists and difficult breakfasts in Montenegro and Croatia follow him as he heads over to Bulgaria to immerse himself in Sofia’s o’er-brimming literary life… Sunday 31 July There’s a long string of coincidences behind my standing in our hallway with a rucsac full of poetry books, magazines and an English-Bulgarian-English dictionary and with a boarding card for the late-night flight from Bristol to Sofia. The short version is that, in 2013, I read part of my one-man show I Went to Albania at the University of Portsmouth. Afterwards a student came down to the front and asked me if I’d ever been to Bulgaria. Less than six months later I was in Sofia as a guest of Vasilena’s family and talking with her artist sister, Marina, about an online project which would surface in January 2014 as Colourful Star – quite possibly the only Anglo-Bulgarian poetry/visual art project on the internet. Since then I’ve taught myself Bulgarian (at least to read and write – my conversational Bulgarian still suffers from my appalling accent), begun translating Bulgarian poetry and plays and – thanks to an ever-expanding circle of Bulgarian friends – somehow…

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Our Man in Montenegro…

Follow Tom’s amazing adventures in the poetic darklands of Montenegro as he tackles the complexities of literary life in the shadows of the recent conflicts… Tom Phillips Wednesday 22 June It’s not yet high season on the Croatian coast, but Dubrovnik Old Town is packed. The three of us – Mary, Peter and I – are on our way to Niksic in Montenegro for a conference on writing and place, but after an early morning flight from a rain-soaked Bristol we’re sneaking a holiday into half a day: seafood lunch, swim, ice-cream. Like the famous bridge in Mostar, much of the Old Town is a reconstruction: sections of neater stonework like scar tissue attest to the destruction wrought by artillery shells lobbed onto the city from the surrounding higher ground. By the breakwater in whose lee people swim, a man and three boys are heaving loose stones from under the city wall and tossing them into the sea. The earnestness with which they do this suggests that this isn’t merely a game; they too are engaged in some form of reconstruction. Nikola’s due to pick us up outside the West Gate in his dark-blue Audi. This is the most tenuous…

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