A Hand Full of Water


“Tzveta Sofronieva’s poetry sparkles, not in her native Bulgarian, but in German; like her compatriot Bulgarian Julia Kristeva, she changed tongues to reach a wider world. Her A Hand Full of Water is the most compelling volume in German verse since the work of Ingeborg Bachman and Hans Magnus Enzensberger.” — Willis Barnstone

SKU: 184 Category:


White Pine Press | Poetry | Paperback
ISBN 978-1-935210-37-5 | 128 pages

Translated by Chantel Wright

A physicist and historian of science by training, Tzveta Sofronieva is the author of nine collections of poetry. She also writes short stories, essays and texts for the theater. Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, she settled in Berlin in 1992 but remains a frequent traveler. Sofronieva’s first collection of poetry Chicago Blues (1992, bilingual, Bulgarian and English) was written during her travels through the US and Canada in 1989 and 1990. Among her most recent publications are a collection of short prose texts entitled Diese Stadt kann auch weiß sein (2010) and the poetry art book Touch Me (2012, bilingual, English and German). Her work also encompasses literary installations, the latest of which are Borrowed Pillows (Lille, France, 2011 ) and My Cyborg Identity (Boston, USA, 2012), and she has edited several anthologies, including Forbidden Words (2005) and 119 Webstreaming Poetry (2010). She has translated poetry by Chris Abani, Margaret Atwood, Michael Krüger and Yoko Tawada into Bulgarian, among others. Her own work has been translated into a number of languages, among them French, Finnish, Hungarian, Polish, Serbian, Spanish and Uzbek. Tzveta Sofronieva attended a master class with Joseph Brodsky in 1992. In 1988 she was awarded a prize for poetry by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. She has been writer-in-residence at the Academy Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart (1996), at KulturKontakt in Vienna (2003), at the Villa Aurora in Pacific Palisades (2005), and at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (2010). In Spring 2012 , she was Max Kade Writer-in-Residence at MIT in Boston. Eine Hand voll Wasser (2008) was Tzveta Sofronieva’s first full-length collection of poetry in German. In 2009 Sofronieva was awarded the Adelbert-von-Chamisso-Förderpreis, a prize given to German writers whose cultural background is not Germanic.

“Her memories go from Homer and Dostoievski to Charlie Chaplin’s dance steps. Above all Sofrinieva is a mythological poet. Each narration is a Cavafian voyage, never completed in order to compel wonder. George Seferis wrote that a poet must find a symbolic landscape for one’s diction. She creates her visionary landscape and lexicon as she adventures through the Greek islands and the Mediterranean. The surreal is natural when she says, “She makes her bed with sheets of Pompeian red. / The sea roars in her bed.” Subtly, Tzveta Sofronieva refreshes and re-jewels the German language, making it plainer and richer by her global iridescence. The lucent version by Chantal Wright captures the verve and fluid images of Sofornieva’s poetry. Though close to original song, she plays with syntax in English to convey the strength and spontaneity of the German. In the best sense her translation stands as an original book of poetry.”

—Willis Barnstone



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