About the Work

by dorotea lechkova

My hope with these translations of Geo Milev’s poetry is to bring the Bulgarian experience of the First World War to an English-speaking audience, as well as to revitalize international interest in the leading voice of Bulgarian modernism. I offer English-speaking readers two poems from 1920 that provide a glimpse into the Eastern European post-war era. In my translations of Milev’s poetry, I spotlight the poet’s experimentation with sound—a consistent use of consonants like s, z, k, dz, and ts in the Bulgarian, which convey the rejection of lyricism. Clusters of consonants strike jagged and dissonant notes, underscoring the nightmarish quality of the poems. These are ugly poems for revolting times. There is, however, a sort of elegance in the rigid unattractiveness of the sounds and the complexity of the linguistic experimentation. My translations also highlight Milev’s use of imagery—moons, snakes, woodlands, burning buildings, bloodied narcissi—that hints at a myriad of traumas. As a translator, I find that the most alluring aspect of Milev’s work is its grotesque strangeness that defines his poetic project and, at the same time, reveals the horrors of war.


geo milev (1895–1925) is a Bulgarian poet, essayist, and public intellectual who founded the modernist journals Scales  (1919–22) and Flame  (1924–25). Although short-lived, these journals redefined established literary conventions and gave voice to Bulgarian writers and translators engaged in the broader European literary and cultural sphere. Much of Milev’s work reflects the personal trauma of World War I and the political and social turmoil of the postwar years in Bulgarian society. Shortly after the publication of the revolutionary poem “September” in 1924 Milev was detained, and his body was discovered years later in a mass grave.

dorotea lechkova holds a Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature from Washington University in St. Louis, an M.A. in Spanish from Saint Louis University, and an M. St. in Slavonic Studies from the University of Oxford. She has published journal articles in Confluencia: Revista hispànica de cultura y literatura and Bulgarian Studies. She is currently interested in translation, bilingual education, and children’s literature.


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