As for Dante’s lovers in the first circle of Hell, Kapka Kassabova’s poems convey the slippery state of never belonging. A reader looking for a starting point need look no further than her generous autobiographical note at the end of the collection. In it she describes vividly a journey through the lands of lost language to locations that can never be destinations. In this regard her sensibility is close to Philip Larkin’s – that there can only be one destination which is individual and final. However, snapshots on the way to this destination are colourful, posiotive and wide ranging – from South America to Vietnam; from Africa to Bulgaria; from the North Sea to Mission Bay. There are temporary consolations and excitements. Kapka Kassabova snaps the fragile moment with a ruthlessly clear lens; captures moments, precise feelings of people’s lives and disjointed relationships. Characters/ghosts inhabit locations, bear witness to the eggshell nature of life.
In Steve’s last Summer “You” the often mentioned lover stands with the poet at the top of a house, sweatily triumphant at the successgful hauling of a roped double bed through the window. This is applauded by the whole street community, but particularly by the tramp that draws precise pictures of all the houses and is about to die.
In the words of another poet: “The empty handed painter on your street is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets…”
In her autobiographical note – Skipping over invisible borders, Kapka Kassabova describes her education as a poet – bound by a series of betrayals to become a displaced person writing in an alien language. In her poetry, she conveys the state of displacement in a precise crystal language that conveys both life’s terror and its albeit temporary joys.
I recommend this book to everyone – it is a feast.