I have let my household disperse, My dear ones have long been apart, And a familiar loneliness Fills all of nature and all my heart.
Here I am with you in the lodge. No one walks through the woods these days. As in the old song, undergrowth Has almost hidden the forest ways.
Forlornly, the timber walls Look down on the two of us here. We did not promise to leap obstacles, We shall fall at last in the clear.
We shall sit down from one till three, You with embroidery, I deep In a book, and at dawn shall not see When we kiss each other to sleep.
More richly and more recklessly, Leaves, leaves, give tongue and whirl away, Fill yesterday’s cup of bitterness With the sadness of today.
Impulse, enchantment, beauty! Let’s dissolve in September wind And enter the rustle of autumn! Be still, or go out of your mind!
As the coppice lets slip its leaves, You let your dress slip rustling down And throw yourself into my arms In your silk-tasselled dressing gown.
You are my joy on the brink Of disaster, when life becomes A plague, and beauty is daring, And draws us into each other’s arms.
By Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к (Boris Leonidovich Pasternak) (c.1947 or 1949) from Доктор Живаго (Doctor Zhivago – where it is presented as the work of the titular character) translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France
Я дал разъехаться домашним, Все близкие давно в разброде, И одиночеством всегдашним Полно всё в сердце и природе.
И вот я здесь с тобой в сторожке. В лесу безлюдно и пустынно. Как в песне, стежки и дорожки Позаросли наполовину.
Теперь на нас одних с печалью Глядят бревенчатые стены. Мы брать преград не обещали, Мы будем гибнуть откровенно.
Мы сядем в час и встанем в третьем, Я с книгою, ты с вышиваньем, И на рассвете не заметим, Как целоваться перестанем.
Еще пышней и бесшабашней Шумите, осыпайтесь, листья, И чашу горечи вчерашней Сегодняшней тоской превысьте.
Привязанность, влеченье, прелесть! Рассеемся в сентябрьском шуме! Заройся вся в осенний шелест! Замри или ополоумей!
Ты так же сбрасываешь платье, Как роща сбрасывает листья, Когда ты падаешь в объятье В халате с шелковою кистью.
Ты — благо гибельного шага, Когда житье тошней недуга, А корень красоты — отвага, И это тянет нас друг к другу.
Born in Moscow, he was the son of an educated Jewish couple — his father a lawyer, his mother a German-language teacher, and one of his grandfathers was a rabbi. Drafted as a private in July 1941, he fought in World War II before a serious injury led to his demobilization in 1943 as a second lieutenant. That same year, he joined the Communist Party; after the war he attended the Maxim Gorky Literary Institute, graduating in 1948. He translated poetry from Georgian and Lithuanian poets.
Mezhirov was a prominent figure in the Soviet literary establishment, although his allegiances and associations were varied. At some points he was close to fellow Jewish-RussianBoris Yampolsky, Kazakh writer Olzhas Suleimenov, and Russian cultural ultranationalist and critic Vadim Kozhinov. Mezhirov associated with younger writers Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Tatyana Glushkova (known for her nationalist views in the mid-1980s, according to Shrayer) and Evgeny Reyn, who was censored in the Soviet Union until the mid-1980s.
Although Mezhirov had publicly stated that his patriotism for Russia was so intense that, unlike other Russian Jews, he could not emigrate, he suddenly left Russia for the United States in 1992, settling first in New York, then in Portland, Oregon. As of 2007, according to anthologist Maxim D. Shrayer, he had not revisited Russia. In March2009Mezhirov published a collection of new poems, two months before his death. According to the ITAR/TASS news service, his body was to be cremated in the United States, with the ashes to be buried in Peredelkino near Moscow.
Mezhirov was among what has been called a “middle generation” of Soviet poets that ignored themes of communist “world revolution” and instead focused on Soviet and Russian patriotism. Many of them specialized in patriotic lyrics, particularly its military aspects. According to G. S. Smith, Mezhirov and a number of other “middle generation” poets “were genuine poets whose testimony, however well-laundered, to the tribulations of their times will endure at least as long as their generation.” Some of Mezhirov‘s lyrical poems based on his wartime experience belong with the best Russian poetical works created in the Soviet 1950s-1960s.
Laureate of the Vazha-PshavelaPrize of the Independent Joint Venture of Georgia (1999).
In 1994, the President of the United States of America Bill Clinton, at the White House presented him with an award for being “Imbued with the spirit of partnership and mutual assistance, a grateful Nation will never forget your incomparable personal contribution and sacrifice shown in World War II”.
Regarding the reference to Kolpino: With the onset of the Great Patriotic War, Kolpino factory workers formed the Izhora Battalion, part of the militia around 24 August – 4 September, 1941. The front line was held in the immediate vicinity of the plant, which was subjected to heavy enemy shelling. By 1944, only 327 of Kolpino’s 2183 houses remained intact. 140,939 shells and 436 aerial bombs fell in Kolpino’s neighborhoods and boulevards. According to incomplete data for the war, shelling and starvation in the Kolpino district killed 4,600 people, not counting the dead on the front. By 1 January, 1944 Kolpino had only 2196 inhabitants. After the lifting of the siege, people gradually came back from the evacuation and army. On 1 January, 1945 the population was 7404 and by the beginning of the next year numbered 8914 people.
Mezhirov is one of the finest poets of the World War II generation. His father, who was both a lawyer and physician, took great pains to ensure his son’s broad education. As a soldier in World War II, Mezhirov took part in the defense of Leningrad, where he was seriously wounded and discharged. He wrote poetry as a schoolboy and began to publish in 1941; from 1943 to 1948 he studied at the Gorky Literary Institute. His first collection, Doroga dalioka (The Road Is Long) (1947), spoke with youthful passion of the war and of the suffering and triumphs it entailed; the poetry was criticized for being “too personal.” His romantic poem “Kommunisty vperyod” (Forward Communists) was for several years the most widely read work in the Soviet Union, both from the stage and over the radio. However, the finest things he has written have always been emphatically independent and nonpartisan. Mezhirov’s poetry was criticized throughout his career, but he never bowed to the pressure; as a result of his steadfastness, the quality of his verse never suffered.
Mezhirov spent considerable time in Georgia and has translated much Georgian poetry. A highly sophisticated connoisseur of Russian poetry, his more recent work speaks out against the negative influences and lack of spirituality in the modern world, especially the tendencies to destruction and isolation he perceives in the young. Not only a great poet, Mezhirov is also the teacher of many younger poets, including the compiler of this anthology.
Biographical information about Mezhirov, p.721, ‘Twentieth Century Russian Poetry’ (1993), compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (ed. Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward) , published by Fourth Estate Limited by arrangement with Doubleday of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc. (transcribed as found in the original text).
Clouds – whole valleys-sides covered in berries ripe and ready for the picking, a steep rock-face with overgrown heather, a flock of black sheep running to be rounded up and sheared by the wind: water with its roots in the sky.
Rain – the drizzly seeds of droplets sown, the slanting sea-strewn westerlies which turn clothing into blotting paper, the aching storms which gravel into bones, making you shrink and cower.
Valleys – scooped and scoured out by laws, people cleared away like shanty-dwellers bossed by bulldozers, memories left to night-writers, to bells tolled by feeding streams and rivers, to drought and dereliction exposed.
Reservoirs – acid funnels of the conifers press down soil to stop it slipping; to trippers they seem like mirrors, but they balance water on scales tapping mountains for its wealth.
Pipelines – over the border, moving like a train with trucks of coal, like iron and steel liquid and molten, like the feet of all those who had to leave muttering ‘Money, money…’ forced against the gradient, longing for sea.
Chemicals – a layer of aluminium the surface sheen, the weight of lead its depths and those substances meant to purify unseen in a clear glass, lurking like radiation.
Houses – the old person whose grasp of time runs through knotted fingers and down the drain, children whose minds become stagnant; families knowing when it’s cut off water’s precious as air when they choke on the stench of their own cack, as germs breed with cockroaches and rats.
Dŵr – they’ve stolen the word, those safe-lock faces, mispronounced it ‘Door’, reinforced and vaulted below reservoirs where they’ve counted profits from broken bones of village walls, from a thirst which opens mouths in fledging questions to the clouds.
By Mike Jenkins from This Houses, My Ghetto
Additional information: Dŵr is the Welsh word for water. The line referring to it being mispronounced as ‘door’ regards a common mistake people make when first learning how to say it if unfamiliar with Welsh pronunciation. the elongated ‘oo’ sound of dŵr is ‘oohr’ not ‘or’. To approximate the pronunciation think of the word sounding like ‘dew-er’ but don’t stress the second syllable so it becomes ‘dewr’.
Since I’m speaking about Welsh pronunciation I might as well note how amusing it is to read in every Russian-English dictionary the explanation that the Cyrillic letter ‘Ч’ “… sounds like the ‘ch’ in the Scottish word ‘loch’…” since that sound exists in the Brythonic language of Welsh e.g. Chwarae (ch-wah-rye) which means ‘play’ as in the popular Welsh phrase ‘chwarae teg‘ (teg = ‘teh-guh’) meaning ‘fair play’.
Here in the half-darkness of a basement more musty than melancholy, more soiled than sorrow, streams of dirty laundry flowed together, like ailments towards laboratory doors. Fallen on tablecloth, a cream-colored cowboy shirt lies like a leper in sticky jam, and Li Yu Chan, with his salivating pencil, brings the bill to the sinners and the redeemed. He’ll tear their flaxen body to pieces. A storm of shirt – he’s their ruthless whip! May the laundry sparkle once again in its altered appearance! In the cauldron of farfetched quantity layers of clothing toss and turn gravely, dreams are boiled out of pillowcases, and a shirt’s confession circles in the steam. Kerchiefs swim, cuddled up to them in fear, socks with holes are boiling, and the bleach is laughing like a satyr at the bed sheets’ sleepy bosom. Then with a burn in each hair the laundry is readied for new torments, to be beaten in a fever of cleaning on the steep board of pain. And another torture has been foretold: Margo Ivanova – Yu Chan’s wife, durable to the touch and in character, will iron the laundry at a most hellish pace. Moaning, she bowed the enormous, sinking suns of her breasts that dragged along like a mountain after the iron, her breasts, that have been tried in labor and desire. This wife is a delight, and a child with slanting eyes sucks a lollipop at the crossroads of the races. The laundry has been laundered. The bedbugs aren’t too big. It’s time for Yu Chan to sleep at last. He sleeps. And a created whiteness, born with difficulty from the sticky ooze, descends to him in white-snowed dreams, in the form of childhood, rice, and jasmine. And the laundry’s snow whirls out of the dark, out of the darkest of darks. And the first light, and image of purity, gratefully kisses the parchment of his brow.
by Юрий Александрович Казарновский (Yury Alexandrovich Kazarnovsky) a.k.a Юрий Алексеевич Казарновский (1904 – 1960?) translated by Bradley Jordan
Здесь в полумглу подвального жилья, Душней тоски, заношенней, чем горе, Стеклись потоки грязного белья, Как недруги к дверям амбулатории. Упав на скатерть, кремовый апаш Лежит в проказе липкого варенья. И Ли Ю-Чан. слюнявя карандаш, Подводит счет грехам и искупленьям! Льняное тело будет он терзать, Гроза рубах, он беспощадный бич их: Пускай белье сумеет засверкать Опять в переиначенных обличьях! В котле надуманной величины Пласты белья ворочаются тяжко. Из наволочек выкинет он сны. И паром вьется исповедь рубашки. Плывут платки, прижавшись в страхе к ним, Кипят носки, заношены до дырок, И заспанную груду простыни Высмеивает щелок, как сатира. Потом с ожогом в каждом волоске Белье идет на новые мученья, Чтоб на крутой и ранящей доске Забиться в лихорадке очищенья. Затем иная мука суждена: Его погладит в самом адском такте Марго Ивановна — Ю-Чанова жена — Добротная на ощупь и характер. На жаркий стол она, кряхтя, склонила Бредущие горой за утюгом Огромные закатные светила Грудей, испытанных восторгом и трудом. Жена отрадна и раскос сынишка, На перекрестке рас сосущий леденец. Белье бело, клопы крупны не слишком, Пора уснуть Ю-Чану, наконец, Он спит. И созданная белизна, Рожденная трудом из липкой тины, К нему исходит в белоснежных снах: В обличьях детства, риса и жасмина. И снег белья кружит из темноты. Из темноты нестирано угарной. И первый свет, как образ Чистоты, Пергамент лба целует благодарно.
Additional information: There is little information about Yuri Kazarnovsky online. Even his date of death, somehow, is uncertain it seems. His patronymic is Alexandrovich but apparently, for a long time, it was mistakenly believed to be Alekseevich – hence why sources might choose to forgo mentioning it.
He was born in Rostov-on-Don. As a student, he was a member of a subversive literary circle called Vremennik and was arrested by the Soviet authorities in 1926/1927. He spent the next four years (1928 to 1932) imprisoned in the Solovki prison camp. His poems of camp life were published in the OGPU-run prison journal “Solovetsky Islands“. He also worked on the construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal. In 1936 he published his only book Stikhi (lit. ‘Poems’).
Soon after, in 1937, he was caught up in Stalin’s purges, and spent four years in the Kolyma gulag. (As this was between 1938-1942 he was there at the same time as Varlam Shalamov who had begun serving a five year sentence in 1937. I don’t think there is any suggestion they ever met during their sentences, if ever at all, but I note it because Shalamov’s work instantly comes to mind when hearing of Kolyma. There are others who wrote of their experiences in Kolyma but Shalamov’sKolyma Tales is probably the best known account of the gulags there). Kazarnovsky was rehabilitated by the state in 1955 and is believed to have died in 1960.
It is speculated that he was one of the last people to have met the poet Osip Mandelstam, who died in the gulag in 1938. He also worked in the camp in Mariinsk, Siberia. According to Dmitry Likhachev (who may be the source of the inaccurate patronymic due to either mistake or misquotation) Mandelshtam‘s wife, Nadezhda, tried to extract information about her husband from Kazarnovsky but it was in vain. He spent his later years in poverty and addiction, in Tashkent and in Moscow, where he corresponded with a contemporary, the poet Ilya Selvinsky (1899–1968).
Little information about Kazarnovsky’s life has survived. After his work was published in an anthology of poetry by Ogoniok (1989), the scholar D. S. Likhachev stated that he had met the poet while both were incarcerated in the Solovki Gulag from the fall of 1928 to the fall of 1931. However, the Rostov newspaper Komsomolets reported in 1989 that Likhachev was mistaken. Relatives assert that Kazarnovsky was arrested in 1937 and rehabilitated in 1955. The compiler of this anthology met him briefly to express admiration for his only book, Stikhi (Poems) (1934). Kazarnovsky was surprised that anyone knew his poems and seemed distant, as if the hands of death were already embracing him. His poems are filled with stunning, fresh, unforgettable imagery.
Biographical information about Kazarnovsky, p.477, ‘Twentieth Century Russian Poetry’ (1993), compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (ed. Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward) , published by Fourth Estate Limited by arrangement with Doubleday of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc.
For anyone looking for more of Kazarnovsky‘s poems here are translations by Boris Dralyuk of The Stroll and The Tram.