Ivan Landzhev is one of the most prominent names in contemporary Bulgarian poetry. A graduate of Philosophy and Cultural Studies, a Doctor of Russian Literature, he has a good command of the knowledge gained in the above fields, so that he will not become impersonal in them, but to emphasize his inner language. His poems have been translated into English, German, Italian, Spanish, Slovak, Croatian and more. He has won numerous awards in poetry competitions and has also been a screenwriter of Bulgarian serials for a long time. We talk to him about his latest book, You, Unceasing News.
What do you think the role of poetry should be today? And what is the role of your poetry?
I don't know about the role of my poetry, I don't want to think about it. I'll tell you about poetry in general. I will "steal" from Plotinus (an ancient Greek philosopher regarded as the founder of Neo-Platonism - further developing Plato's teaching). Of all the definitions and answers to the question "What is philosophy?", I like his most. Plotinus says "most important." Philosophy is simply the most important thing. I think so about poetry. It is the most important. The sober-minded, objective person would say - it doesn't make much sense to her. And he'll probably be right. But what is the most important thing?
In one of the poems (When) in your last book, you say that "the flesh is mocked with every sorrow." Isn't the opposite? Does not all mourning mock the flesh and test the endurance of the body subjected to the blows of spiritual sorrow? And isn't poetry an outlet, a defense against these mockery?
What you are talking about is another case - and it is also true. Grief can have a bad effect on the flesh. For example, it affects me, but it is something I have accepted. But this poem is about something else. It is said that the body has a different memory of love than the mind. It remembers the other body - extremely accurate, in remarkable detail. The mind may grieve, but during this time the body remembers some cosmic union with the other body, entering the bosom of all things, dissolving in the world… And this is delightful in a sense, so I wrote the poem.
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Which one have you always run from in poetry, whether you write or read?
From indifference and cynicism.
How do you determine whether a poetic work is valuable or not? Don't you think the criteria has been blurred lately?
There are purely formal criteria, of course, but not to fall into them - it must be borne in mind that the author, in general, knows what he is doing. But most importantly, the writing excites the reader. To really excite him, not to leave him alone.
What do you do with your bad poems?
If I were Dalchev, I would say that I do not write them, but alas… I write them boldly. I hope one day I will stay… how much? One dozen? Yes, a dozen good poems that you have nothing to touch. Not bad, one for each month.
What is more important in a poem, rhyme and rhythm or the meaning of words?
It is important to have something to say and to know "why" you say it. Then comes the "how." Didn't Victor Frankl like to quote Nietzsche, that aphorism from The Sunset of the Gods, which said that "if you have your why, you will endure any way"? Both Nietzsche and Frankl talk about life, but I don't think it's any different in poetry.
Have you ever gotten lost in the lines of your own texts and don't know how to proceed? How do you find the way out when it happens?
You just described the creative act of the writer (and not just the writer) perfectly, at 100 percent. Every time you get lost in your own text and you don't know how to proceed. Even if you make up your mind - things come to life, they change. You create something of the most frightening and careless emptiness - the white sheet. There is nothing, absolutely nothing. You're doing EX NIHILO. It must be remembered here, of course, that only God is the creator in the true sense of the word. You just play as much as your human "darb" allows.
To what extent is your poetry an expression of yourself and your beliefs, principles and ideals?
I cannot answer you, this question is very difficult. Sometimes I want to be entirely me, other times I want to escape as far as I can in the poem. Sometimes I'm interesting, sometimes I'm terribly annoying. I'm bored and I want to write about everything else. Or else I just want to talk through someone else's voice. Or maybe I'm trying to capture some exact moment because he himself is interesting - a moment where I think this and that, I believe this and that. And later I know that I will not think it and I will not believe it.
To all this I immediately add - there are eternal things, you call them principles, ideals that I will always believe in and will never deviate from. They are also inevitably present in creativity. Do you see how complicated it is ?!
"Carry a detailed map of the evils out" - you advise in another poem of yours ("Chet Baker"). Do you have a similar map of the great poets who built you and who they are? However, evil is always opposed to good.
In your question, it's fun to liken 'evil out' to great poets. There are many authors I like, but there are some special ones, they gave me something specific, after which I am no longer the same person. I just became different after them.
Tolstoy made me realize that death may be inevitable, but life is immediate. Chekhov taught me a warm smile in the midst of sadness, that this accidentally made me laugh out of my own failure. Teach me humanity that is not demonstrative. It's not a poster - just loving people with all their nonsense, because that nonsense is nice and we all, in general, don't even know what we're doing.
Dostoevsky taught me to see the height at the bottom. Auden taught me to be "more loving." Ivan Teofilov told me the same thing - "not to spare our spirit - to love". Konstantin Pavlov - the fastness. Elliott - dignity in suffering. Brodsky - of cultivation. There is more, but let me stop here.
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What is the news that accompanies us on a daily basis and must we hear it?
The news is that only love can be a way out of all the meaninglessness around. I can feel it, I realize, but take it for granted. I tried tell say everything else and it doesn't work. Malice threatens us. The vices do not work. Art is the only hope, because it is an expression of love, it is identical with it. But it is not self-sufficient, it should go together.
Further - ambition only works for a while, success works for an even shorter time. Even cultivation, inner peace, harmony have no meaning if you do not share them. And the proudest stoicism, the most dignified asceticism - it's just life in a test tube. Things are clear: in this world, if you don't give something of yourself to another person, your job is just broken.
You are the screenwriter of the 5 season of the Bulgarian undercover series. How do you feel about being a custom author? Did writing a movie script take you out of your comfort zone and how did you handle the imposed frames?
I was just one of the screenwriters - I worked as a screenwriter for 10 years. I am grateful for this period, teach me discipline. "Custom" writing doesn't bother me, it's work, and I'm not ashamed of earning a living. I would be ashamed if I didn't get her to work.
What is the biggest prize you have won?
Orpheus Wreath this year. Because of some of the names that won the award before.
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