Bulgarian Poetry in English Translation III/3: the period 1944-1989 – Danila Stoianova

Unfortunately, Danila Stoianova didn’t have much time to fully develop her talent as a poet. She died 1984 at the young age of 23 after a long battle with leukemia. This, and a series of deaths in her family left a deep mark on her and one can not read her poems without thinking of her tragic fate.

Ivy Press Princeton published the major part of her small oeuvre in an excellent translation years ago (Memory of a Dream, 2003). You can find some samples of Stoianova’s poems here. Love poems, verses about her suffering, but also about solitude and nature give her poetry a rather wide spectre.

The grand old lady of Bulgarian poetry, Blaga Dimitrova said about Danila Stoianova’s verses:

“The poetry of Danila Stoianova broke open a long-walled-off window on the world. It resonates with early spring and brings the memory of the long harsh winter Bulgaria lived through. It speaks of life and death, of rebirth through the miracle of poetry.”

The translation of Ludmilla Popova- Wightman is congenial and very close to the original. Another gem coming from this small publisher that focuses exclusively on Bulgarian literature in English translation. The edition is bilingual and I can recommend it highly to poetry lovers.

Thomas Hübner

Danila Stoianova

Danila Stoianova was born in Sofia in 1961. She was the daughter of Tsvetan Stoianov, a charismatic literary critic and translator. As a child, she heard the poems of Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot read in English and in her father’s translation. She lived in house full of books, and was often in the company of poets—friends of her parents. Her father died suddenly in 1971. Her grandmother died soon after. Death cast its long shadow on the family. At eighteen, Danila was diagnosed with advanced leukemia. She fought the disease valiantly for five years. Then her immune system, weakened by chemotherapy, succumbed to infection. She died in Paris in 1984.


Ludmilla G. Popova-Wightman is a Bulgarian language educator and translator. She was born in Sofia in 1933. After graduating from Sofia University in 1956, she worked at the National Library and was for several years editor of the Bulgarian Encyclopedia. She worked as a research associate in Moscow (1958-65) and as a lecturer at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey (1969-70). Since 1977 she lives permanently in the United States and has lived and worked in Princeton. She has, among others, translated poetry by Konstantin Pavlov, Blaga Dimitrova, Danila Stoianova, Alexander Shurbanov and Edvin Sugarev. Many of her translations have been published in leading American literary journals, such as The New York Review of Books, The Partisan Review, The Literary Review, Poetry East, Visions International, and in the anthology Shifting Borders: East European Poetry of the Eighties(Edited by Walter Cummins, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992). Popova-Wightman is also the owner of Ivy Press Princeton, a publishing house exclusively devoted to Bulgarian poetry in English translation.



Thomas Hübner is a German-born economist and development consultant with a life-long passion for books. He lives in Chisinau/Moldova and Sofia/Bulgaria. He is also the co-founder of Rhizome Publishing in Sofia, and translates poetry, mainly from Bulgarian to German (most recently Vladislav Hristov, Germanii, Rhizome 2017). He is blogging at Mytwostotinki on books and anything else that interests him.

Photo credits: Antoaneta Voynikova; Ivy Press Princeton; Cornelia Awear

This blog post is part of #BulgarianLiteratureMonth.

The previous parts of this article:

Part I: Bulgarian Poetry in English Translation: Anthologies

Part II: Bulgarian Poetry in English Translation: the pre-1944 period

Part III/1: Bulgarian Poetry in English Translation: the period 1944-1989 – Konstantin Pavlov

Part III/2: Bulgarian Poetry in English Translation: the period 1944-1989 – Blaga Dimitrova


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