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Book of the Week – At the Tombstone by Dimitar Anakiev

From the Forward: “The 23 poems collected in At the Tombstone were written in the summer and autumn of 2001 in the village of Groznatovci which is located in the foothills near Mount Gromada (local name Vrtop) on the border between Serbia and Bulgaria. I spent my idyllic youth in this natural wilderness where my father was born and ultimately buried. This collection is dedicated to him, as well as to the Balkan tradition which is still alive and well.

The pagan and animistic spirit of these people, living outside the ken of modern civilization and deeply connected to their mythology and to nature, interwoven with the spirituality they find in the Orthodox Church, and mixed with the remnants of Turkish customs left behind from the times of the Ottoman occupation, were strong and continual stimuli to me.

The classical haiku form of 5-7-5 syllables seemed to me necessary to express such complex feelings, both epic and lyric, as well as providing the structure wherein I could make us of local topics, both seasonal and non-seasonal.

I began my investigation of the Balkan’s cultural topics for potential application in poetry in 1995, supported through the work and personal help of Hiroshi Yamasaki Vukelic and Srba Mitrovic, and have continued it through collaboration with Ban’ya Natsuishi. It pleases me to be able to share some Balkan topics here with an English readership, and for this I must thank Jim Kacian for his willingness to follow the poetic and cultural ethos specific to these Balkan poems in his excellent English translations.

The poems were originally written in the Serbian language. We have chosen against presentation of them in the cyrillic alphabet to facilitate a more transparent communication of the original for the English reader.

Finally I am grateful to my long time friend Dragan Peric for his wonderful drawings which perfectly present the spirit of the area and this work.”

At the Tombstone was published by Red Moon Press in 2002.

Following are a few selected poems from the book:

Summer funeral –
border stones of my village
sunk deep in the earth

Pokop u leto
Jos dublje ukopane
seoske medje.

Dusty procession –
Dad takes with him to the tomb
all of the side roads.

Suv seoski put.
U grob otac ponese
sve stranputice.

The old country jug –
father now drunk on the heat
he finds in heaven.

Stara tepsija
Otac se sad opija
nebeskom jarom.

You can read the entire book in the THF Digital Library and please share your favorite poem from the book with us.

Do you have a chapbook published in 2018 or earlier that you would like featured as a Book of the Week? Contact us for details. Haiku featured in the Book of the Week Archive are selected by the THF Digital Librarian Kenneth Pearson and are used with permission.

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