by Sylvia Choleva; photography by Daniel Lekov

Part 3 of Vagabond's series on a project of the of the embassies of the 27 member-states of the EU and Turkey in Sofia adopts a wall in the city centre and adorns it with a poem

poetry wall portugal.jpg


Sofia City Hall, 33 Moskovska St

Fernando António Nogueira de Seabra Pessoa (1888-1935) is considered one of the greatest Portuguese authors. He wrote poetry and essays, usually under pen names – he published very few works under his own name. Almost unknown during his lifetime, he gained popularity after his death, when most of his works were published. While alive, he published only one book in Portuguese, Mensagem, in 1934. He composed his first poems in English, since he spent his childhood in Durban, South Africa, where his stepfather was a Portuguese consul. In 1905 he returned to his native Lisbon and began studying literature. He later worked translating business correspondence. He frequented the café Brasileira, where there is now a life-sized statue of the poet. In 1914 he founded the literary journal Orpheu along with other writers and artists. After his death 27,543 unpublished works and manuscripts were discovered in a suitcase.

Nao sou nada
Nunca serei nada
Nao posso querer ser nada.
A parte isso tenho em mim 
todos os sonhos do mundo

Tabacaria, 1928

I am nothing.
I shall always be nothing.
It is not my wish to be nothing.
Because of this, I carry in me 
all the dreams of the world.

The Tobacco Kiosk, 1928

Translated by Marguerite Edmonds


Vasil Aprilov Secondary School, 40 Shipka St

Poetry wall Greece

Born in 1863 in Alexandria, Constantine Cavafy is one of the greatest Greek poets. As a child he lived for some time in England, where his father had a business. Upon returning to Alexandria as a young man he first worked as a journalist and later as a bureaucrat. Until 1904 only Cavafy's friends read his poetry – that year his first collection of 14 poems appeared in Athens. However, critics ignored the work, most likely because Cavafy's language and subject matter differed fundamentally from the dominant poetic tendencies in Greece at the time. Almost unknown during his lifetime, his talent was recognised shortly after his death in 1933. Two years later the first full anthology of his poems was published and the writer gained international renown after the Second World War.


Και αν δεν μπορείς να κάμεις την
ζωή σου όπως την θέλεις,
τούτο προσπάθησε τουλάχιστον
όσο μπορείς: μην την εξευτελίζεις
μεσ την πολλή συνάφεια του κόσμου,
μεσ στες πολλές κινήσεις κι ομιλίες.

Μην την εξευτελίζεις πηαίνοντάς την
γυρίζοντας συχνά κ' εκθέτοντάς την
στων σχέσεων και των συναναστροφών
την καθημερινήν ανοησία,
ως που να γίνει σα μια ξένη φορτική.


And if you can't shape your life 
the way you want,
at least try as much as you can
not to degrade it
by too much contact with the world,
by too much activity and talk.

Try not to degrade it by dragging it along,
taking it around and exposing it so often
to the daily silliness
of social events and parties,
until it comes to seem a boring hanger-on.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard


Mall of Sofia, 101 Alexander Stamboliyski Blvd

Poetry wall Ireland

Máirtín O'Direáin was born in Inishmore on the Aran Islands on 29 November 1910. The son of a small farmer, Martin spoke only Irish until he was a teenager. In 1928 he started working for the postal service in Galway and acting in the Gaelic Theatre. In 1938 he transferred to the Department of Education in Dublin and eventually was appointed to the National College of Art. Chance attendance at a lecture in 1938 inspired him to begin writing poetry. He published at his own expense the poetry collections Coinnle Geala (1942) and Dánta Aniar (1943), and later in 1949 Rogha Dánta. His poetry addresses life on his native island, as well as the conflict between the rural and the urban, and the traditional and the modern. Máirtín O'Direáin won the Ossian Prize for Poetry from the Freiherr von Stein Foundation in Hamburg. He died on 19 March 1988.


Dhúirt file mÓr tráth
Go mba oÍleán is grá mná
Ábnar is fáth mo dháin;
is fÍor a chan mo bhráthair.

Coinneod féin an t-oileán
Seal eile i mo dhán,
Toisc a ionraice atá
Cloch, carraig is trá.


A great poet once said
an island and a woman's love
are the matter and reason for my poems.
It is trhuth you speak, my brother.

I'll keep the island
another while in my poem
because of the integrity
that is in stone, rock and strand.

Translated by Maureen Murphy


Bratya Miladinovi High School, 125A Alexander Stamboliyski Blvd

Poetry wall Poland

A Nobel laureate and one of the greatest Polish poets, Czesław Miłosz was born on 30 June 1911 in what is now Lithuania. He studied at Vilnius University and in Paris. After completing his studies, he worked for Polish Radio in Vilnius and later in Warsaw. After the Second World War he served as cultural attaché to the United States and France. In 1951 he refused to return to Poland. In the Parisian magazine Culture, Miłosz published an article entitled "No," in which he defended his decision to defect, causing an uproar among the Communist literary circles in his homeland. For years his work was officially banned in Socialist Poland, yet he remained a moral authority for his compatriots. After being invited by the University of California in 1960 to give a series of lectures on Polish literature, Miłosz moved to Berkeley and began teaching in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Prior to the collapse of Communism he published primarily in Culture but also in Poland (as long as he went unnoticed by censorship). After 1989 he split his time between Berkeley and Krakow. A legend in his own time, Miłosz has been translated into many languages. Miłosz died in Krakow on 14 August 2004.


Aleksandrowi i Oli Watom

Co było wielkie, małem się wydało.
Królestwa bladły jak miedź zaśnieżona.

Co poraziło, więcej nie poraża.
Niebiańskie ziemie toczą się i świecą.

Na brzegu rzeki, rozciągnięty w trawie,
Jak dawno, dawno, puszczam łódki z kory.

Montgeron, 1959


to Alexander and Ola Wat

What once was great, now appeared small.
Kingdoms were fading like snow-covered bronze.

What once could smite, now smites no more.
Celestial earths roll on and shine.

Streched on the grass by the bank of a river,
As long, long ago, I launch my boats of bark.

Montgeron, 1959

Translated by Czesław Miłosz

Read more Wall-to-Wall poems here (Part 1), here (Part 2), here (Part 4), and here (Part 5).


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