Every young Bulgarian writer or just starting to write poetry is necessarily tempted by the many local, national and even international competitions that are organized annually in our small but talented country. It is normal for a young person, still getting to know himself and the world, making his first attempts to "tame" the word and gather it into a meaningful text, to look for a "stage" for expression and evaluation. Based on it, he can determine whether he really has talent in writing or it is better to focus on another, more promising activity, such as law, for example. Because whoever chooses literature as his field (and, of course, is aware that this will bring him more expense than income), must be sure that first - he has talent, and second - he really considers it his duty and predestination.
Everyone will agree that this is a normal stage in the development and formation of a future author, why not a Nobel laureate, and that this assessment is necessary, like compulsory unpaid seniority, before you are finally hired and proud, to say with confidence: I am an expert in my field. But writers and poets never appoint them anywhere because the state has decided that there is no need for people like them. It is commendable, however, that such competitions exist to support young talents and pave the way for them to reach the general public. Or at least it would be commendable if reality did not say otherwise.
I have witnessed all sorts of poetry competitions, named after our famous poets from the recent and distant past, with loud topics such as: Faith, Freedom, Exile and, of course, Love ("if I have no love, I am nothing"). The three-member or five-member jury is composed of prominent poets, critics, literary critics, experts and "measurers" of the word and foreign talent, whose word weighs like the golden Bulgarian lev (only it no longer exists). Sometimes, in order to keep the curiosity going, the names of the jurors are kept secret to avoid suspicions of bias. Of course, there is no such thing, because the winner is known in advance. He is even invited to participate, he is promised a first or second prize, depending on what he will have to return in return, and he quietly comes to get what he deserves.
He usually wins a well-known name in poetic circles, a member of the Union, the PEN Club, a professor or someone similar, from whom the organizer has some scam. The creator - founder of the competition gives a loud speech about the importance of the competition and the future of the country and the young people who will save it (for which time and by whom?). He then presents the award to his first friend, with whom he does not otherwise know, he thanks and respects the personality of the winner, as well as the opportunity to touch the greatness of his talent and hold in his hands a diploma proving that it is not just a poet, but an exceptional artist.
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He reads his great creation in a voice trembling with excitement, awaiting the applause of the audience, but instead he hears the creaking of chairs and the quiet footsteps of disappointed contestants who have once again been deceived. There is no echo from the event, no publications in the media. The award was received in front of a few witnesses, the ties were strengthened, the mission fulfilled.
It also happens that young artists, announced too early, are awarded. These are gifted boys and girls who take creative writing courses (and pay dearly for them), are known among the leading contemporary poets (they teach them) and strictly follow the remarks made to them during the courses. They regularly like their mentors' posts on social media, write comments to them, and ask them to edit their timid attempts at personal "evolution." These are people who have quickly concocted something like a text, hoping for quick and easy praise, diplomas and success, whether it is deserved or not. And of course, they win first and second prizes, confident that the writing template provided by their mentors will do an excellent job. It is a guarantee of success because the limits are imposed by these same people. Of course, any attempt to write something off topic and template is punishable by disqualification. No awards, no publications, let alone publishing. The more you stand out from the table, the less space you have among it and the "strong of the day". So we gradually surrounded ourselves with a dozen writers, differing only in the first letter of the name.
I recently attended the award ceremony of a poetry competition that was cleverly disguised as looking fair and seeking a different voice in a sea of equality. A dissident with a difficult past (many have represented us over the years), who swam across seas (almost oceans) to achieve the coveted freedom, became a professor in the United States, and a few years ago wrote poetry, now returns to his homeland and founded competition, which does not exist not only in the country but also in Europe. The "ceremony" was attended by about 50 retirees, completely unknown in poetic circles, except for the first place winners, of course, because the competition is made for him… For him and most of all, to highlight the personality of the professor, speaking as a new messiah, coming in the name of Bulgaria, fighting for its good. A bunch of people lined up to talk about how great he is, how many times he has been nominated for a Nobel Prize (although it remains unknown in our country) and how happy we should be to have him among us.
The poets received their promised awards, read their works, but throughout the evening we never heard real poetry. The award-winning poems were reminiscent of the first student experiments in measured and unmeasured speech, which are difficult to pass for poetry. The other participants, of course, were forgotten and no one heard their works, so they could not compare them with those of the winners. Because the difference is as huge as the Grand Canyon and would swallow all the winners, leaving no trace of them.
This was another proof that in Bulgaria there is not and will not be a fair competition. But the problem remains for those who believe that this is the way to success. I have never believed in competitions and their power. And at least I believe in those who make the assessments. Good poetry does not need the evaluation of the judges, it speaks for itself and is a measure in itself. If there is an objective assessment, it is the assessment of time and the trace that poetry leaves on readers. Hardly anyone can list the dozens of literary awards of Yavorov, Slaveykov or Dalchev (I doubt that they have participated in competitions at all), but he will immediately remember and recite: "Two beautiful eyes. The soul of a child… ”,“ Not a breath breathes over pollen, not a leaf trembles on the trees ”or“ Before me is the book open / day and night; / all alone, I do not know people, / I do not know the world.
Today, Bulgarian poets put a long list of awards and participations at the forefront of their biographies, and only at the end a poem that you have not yet read and have already forgotten. There is no one to quote them, because writers have become more than readers and no one is really touched by someone else's work - he only looks at his success and his awards. And the great jury - it does its job well, raising the incompetent, unknown "poets", chosen to be such, and skillfully covers all the verses of talented young people, just as it was with Todor Zhivkov.
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