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The Air around the Butterfly Paperback – August 3, 2009
Katerina Stoykova's The Air around the Butterfly is lapidary poetry, even ascetic, without excessive wordiness and stylization; poetry that intrinsically creates its own form, like an authentic confession peering into itself and into the world... Katerina Stoykova's American poetry is also Bulgarian, not only because it is translated by its author into Bulgarian, but also because it introduces us to the artistic self-awareness of a new breed of Bulgarians. --Prof. Svetlozar Igov
About the Author
Katerina Stoykova was born on June 4th, 1971 in Bourgas, Bulgaria, where she graduated from the Electronics and Electrotechnics program at the Free University of Bourgas in 1995. During the same year, she immigrated to the U.S., where she has worked as an engineer at IBM and Lexmark. She holds an MFA in poetry from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Katerina Stoykova is the founder and leader of poetry and prose groups in Lexington, Kentucky, where she currently resides. She serves as Deputy Editor in Chief of the English language edition of online magazine Public Republic and hosts Accents - a radio show for literature, art and culture.
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Katerina is originally from Bulgaria, but now calls Kentucky home. This is her first book of poetry and it is actually a dual book - the left side is in English, the right side in her native Bulgarian. Divided into 3 parts, this insightful collection moves from the cancer diagnosis of her mother to the shock and awe of relocating to a new home and finally to the acceptance of the "foreign" American culture.
In the first part of the book - "My Mother Was Going to War" we learn her Mother is dying from cancer. Katerina opens her heart and allows the reader to see into her soul and reflect on her loved ones in Bulgaria. "Stones" highlights the agonizing pull of peer pressure, "Last Time" deals with the grief of death, and "Grandpa Refuses to Visit" shows the conflicted strife within many families. The tone of this first section reflects misery, regret, but anticipation of the events to come.
The second part of the book - "E.T. and I Phone Home" - is my favorite . I see a strong woman coming to grips in a strange culture, yet she is able to see beauty all around her. Without a doubt, my favorite poem of the entire collection is "Sus-toss."
"Sus-toss is a word in the Hopi language to describe the disease that people suffer when they move to live on new lands."
This poems speaks to my heart and tugs at the part of myself that keeps me from seeing the beauty around me. Wrapped up in my own cocoon of worry and strife, this poem opened my eyes to the possibility others are feeling the same way I feel - I am not alone. Hearing Katerina read this poem aloud, with your beautiful accent and power of conviction, "Sus-toss" took on an air of hope.
"The Apple Who Wanted To Become a Pinecone" is the last section of the book and I think Katrina managed her objective - to fall far away from the tree. She has found her voice and unnecessary words have been removed - she is short, direct and to the point. The verses may be short but they are dripping with emotions and oozing understanding. In "Reluctance" I begin to feel empathy for a spare tire - I'll never think of a flat tire in the same way again.
Katrina manages to take every day items - the alphabet, an apple, fish scales, even geometry - and transform them into delicious morsels for thought. She has made me look at poetry in an entirely different light, and for that I will always be grateful.
How do you write a poem? You "catch the air around the butterfly."
The poems of Katerina imbue words with a sense of existentialist beauty, power, irony and subtle humor. Events, people, and objects are observed in a profound yet lucid and sometimes even minimalist way ensuring the efficient transfer of mood and thought from writer to reader. The reader does not need to know the arcane language of literary theory to fall in love with Katerina's poems as they are most enjoyed at the level of the heart. In her poems of Haiku length (if not format) we get the same effect that makes Haiku so popular around the world. The poem inspiring the title of the book is a perfect example (hint: I will not spoil your surprise and tell you to what the title of the book refers!).
The book is aesthetically divided into three segments: (a) My Mother Goes To War (b) E.T. and I Phone Home (c) The Apple Who Wanted To Become a Pine Cone. In the first segment the power of memory and maternal connection is strongly present. If you have lost a parent (or contemplating such a possibility) some of these poems are deeply moving. There is often a deep sense of homesickness present in the second segment, the romanticized desire for homeland and roots and the sense of separation the poet feels in being transplanted to a new land. The third segment can best be described as a poet's deep desire to find her own voice, to explore who she is and who she can potentially be. The poem's "The Apple Who Wanted To Become a Pine Cone" and "Reluctance" display a rich humor of language but connect profoundly to the reader in search of place and purpose (and who among us is not?)
This is an excellent first book of poetry by Katerina, a prize from a poet we are sure to hear more from. I have been reluctant to put it on the shelf, because I find myself wanting to read a bit, think and reflect, and then return, to dwell in the places of the heart provided by the poet. Buy the book as soon as possible, but after that, don't rush, savor and reflect as you read....to use Katerina's words, "Impatience Kills. Quickly"
Roger Conner Jr