Three Poems by Nikola Madzirov

Nikola Madzirov was born in 1973 in Strumica, Macedonia in a family of Balkan Wars refugees. His first collection of poetry, »Zaklučeni vo gradot« (tr: Locked in the City), won the »Studentski zbor« prize for best début. In the same year he published his second book, »Nekade nikade« (tr: Somewhere Nowhere), also a poetry collection, which won the Aco-Karamanov prize. The anthology »Vo gradot, nekade« (tr: In the City, Somewhere) followed in 2004, and in 2007 he published his last poetry collection to date, »Premesten kamen« (tr: Relocated Stone), for which he was awarded the prestigious Miladinov-Brothers Prize and the Hubert-Burda Prize for Literature.

Madzirov was poetry editor of the Macedonian e-magazine »Blesok« and is the Macedonian co-ordinator of the international network Lyrikline. He lives in Macedonia and works as a poet, essayist and literary translator.


The Shadow of the World Passes Over My Heart

—Lucian Blaga
(translated by Peggy and Graham W. Reid)

I haven’t the courage of a relocated stone.
You’ll find me stretched on a damp bench
beyond all army camps and arenas. 

I’m empty as a plastic bag
filled with air. 

With hands parted and fingers joined
I indicate a roof. 

My absence is a consequence
of all recounted histories and deliberate longings.      

I have a heart pierced by a rib.
Fragments of glass float through my blood
and clouds hidden behind white cells.

The ring on my hand has no shadow of its own
and is reminiscent of the sun. I haven’t the courage
of a relocated star.


Before We Were Born

(translated by Peggy and Graham W. Reid)

The streets were asphalted
before we were born and all
the constellations were already formed.
The leaves were rotting
on the edge of the pavement,
the silver was tarnishing
on the workers’ skin,
someone’s bones were growing through
the length of the sleep.

Europe was uniting
before we were born and
a woman’s hair was spreading
calmly over the surface
of the sea.


(translated by Magdalena Horvat and Adam Reed)

I separated myself from each truth about the beginnings
of rivers, trees, and cities.
I have a name that will be a street of goodbyes
and a heart that appears on X-ray films.
I separated myself even from you, mother of all skies
and carefree houses.
Now my blood is a refugee that belongs
to several souls and open wounds.
My god lives in the phosphorous of a match,
in the ashes holding the shape of the firewood.
I don’t need a map of the world when I fall asleep.
Now the shadow of a stalk of wheat covers my hope,
and my word is as valuable
as an old family watch that doesn’t keep time.
I separated from myself, to arrive at your skin
smelling of honey and wind, at your name
signifying restlessness that calms me down,
opening the doors to the cities in which I sleep,
but don’t live.
I separated myself from the air, the water, the fire.
The earth I was made from
is built into my home.



Peggy Reid, M.A. (Cantab), Doctor honoris causa, Skopje, M.B.E., born Bath, U.K., 1939, taught English at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje, Macedonia, for twenty years between 1969 and 2006. Translator/co-translator from Macedonian of novels, poetry, plays and works of nonfiction. Lives in Edinburgh, U.K.

Graham W. Reid, M.A., M.B.E. born Edinburgh, 1938. Read English at Trinity College, Cambridge. Taught English for twenty-five years at Ss. Cyril & Methodius University, Skopje, Macedonia. Widely translated both poetry and prose from Macedonian into English. M.A. thesis at Bradford University on Reflections of Rural-Urban Migration in Contemporary Macedonian Poetry. Currently lives in Edinburgh, U.K.

Magdalena Horvat (born 1978, Skopje, Macedonia) is the author of two poetry collections: This is it, your (2006) and Bluish and other poems (2010). Among the books she has translated into Macedonian are Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Fiona Sampson’s The Distance Between Us. She currently lives in Athens, Georgia.

Adam Reed (born 1978, Athens, Georgia) has co-translated/edited several poetry collections, anthologies and works of nonfiction from Macedonian into English. He taught English, Writing and History courses at University American College Skopje, Macedonia, for several years. He currently lives in Athens, Georgia.