Some Fathers by Peter Gruffydd

They borrowed ten bob, sloped off
to the pub or club, grew potatoes,
caulis, leeks in dead-straight lines,
remembered, I mean, were in, the Second
World War, cracked jokes, jokes about Hitler,
Goebbels, Stalin, even Churchill,
did odd things, odd things, look after
old ladies in their rich incontinence,
or drew cartoons, sketched for small mags,
cartoons, sketched, drew, small mags.

They seemed to have lots of patience,
except when opening time loomed
over some petty duty, like work.
Mine had a second childhood, a red
scooter which he regularly came off,
half-pissed back from a country pub,
mistook a bush for a turning home.
He carried on until Mother nagged
him into giving-up his latecome
burn-ups, so went sketching no more.

I’m a father now, think my sons could
sometime achieve this state, make tea
like tar, maybe keep allotments, worry
about their kids, trudge to some bloody
boring jobs to feed the family’s faces,
swear with cronies, be hurt when kids
call them old fart, stupid sod, or worse,
wonder where they too went wrong,

Pray there’s no war to haunt their nights,
make them keep graveyard horrors at bay,
with favourite ales, quips and long tales,
Nuclear families, bowed with labels, stagger
on, sperm-count falling day by day,
Still I remember those fathers, leaning on
sticks, pint in hand, know they had a sense
of what it’s all about, a cod-code to keep
and a smile for outrageous stupidity
because it was to be expected.

by Peter Gruffydd

Further information: There is a PDF help-sheet discussing the poem line by line produced by Dr Jamie Harris (Aberystwyth University, August 2019) for CREW. The following is the biography provided at the start of that document.

Peter Gruffydd was born in Liverpool in 1935. He first moved to Wales at the age of five, following his evacuation in early 1941 (due to the Second World War). Having already learned Welsh, he then began studying English at Bangor University. His time living in Wales was brief, and he has spent most of his life in England, living in Liverpool, the West Midlands, and Bristol. Gruffydd was a member of Plaid Cymru and a Welsh nationalist (his movement into Welsh politics mirrors that of the Welsh intellectual Saunders Lewis, an ardent nationalist who was born in Liverpool). Gruffydd’s nationalist politics is evident in some of his poetry, such as ‘The Small Nation’, which Matthew Jarvis suggests ‘is substantially a lament for a Wales that the poem’s speaker sees as having lost courage’, and which foresees ‘The slow funeral of a small nation’.

Before he became known by the surname with which he appears in the Poetry 1900-2000 anthology, Gruffydd published under the name Peter M. Griffith (the English-spelling, but pronounced in a similar same way). In 1993, Gruffydd became a founder member of the Welsh Branch of PEN International (now Wales PEN Cymru), an organisation which advocates on behalf of writers across the world.

Although his poems have appeared in several poetry magazines, Gruffydd has one solitary collection to his name, 1972’s The Shivering Seed. His earliest significant poetry publication was in Triad, with two other notable Welsh ‘Second Flowering’ poets, Harri Webb and Meic Stephens.

Dr Jamie Harris (Aberystwyth University, August 2019) for CREW

Отцу (To Father…) by Yury Kuznetsov

What can I say at your grave?
That you had no right to die?

You have left us alone in the world.
Look at mother – she is nothing but a scar.
A wound like this can see even the wind!
Father, these scars will never fade.

On a widow’s bed a memory grieves her,
She begged you to give her children.

Like flashes in distant storm clouds,
She gave the world fleeting spirits –
Sisters and brothers grew up in her mind…
Whom can I tell this to?

It’s not for me to ask my fate at your grave,
What have I got to wait for? …
Year after year will pass.
“Father,” I cry. “You didn’t bring us
happiness!…
Mother quiets me in fear…

by Юрий Поликарпович Кузнецов
(Yury Polikarpovich Kuznetsov)
(1969)
translated by Sarah W. Bliumis

Отцу

Что на могиле мне твоей сказать?
Что не имел ты права умирать?
Оставил нас одних на целом свете.
Взгляни на мать — она сплошной рубец.
Такая рана видит даже ветер!
На эту боль нет старости, отец.
На вдовьем ложе памятью скорбя,
Она детей просила у тебя.
Подобно вспышкам на далёких тучах,
Дарила миру призраков летучих —
Сестёр и братьев, выросших в мозгу…
Кому об этом рассказать смогу?
Мне у могилы не просить участья.
Чего мне ждать?..
Летит за годом год.
— Отец! — кричу. — Ты не принёс нам счастья!.. —
Мать в ужасе мне закрывает рот.

Additional information: Kuznetsov‘s father died during war so there is an autobiographical aspect to this poem even if the literal event of shouting at his father’s grave never occurred.

Yuri Polikarpovich Kuznetsov (11 February 1941 – 17 November 2003) was a Russian poet, translator and literary critic. There is not much immediately available in English so I took some leads from his Russian Wikipedia page. Notably it seems Yuri Kuznetsov is a relatively common name as I came across a pianist and various athletes who share the name.

“In 1970 he graduated with honours from the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute. After the institute he worked in the Moscow publishing house “Sovremennik” in the editorial office of national poetry. From 1994 he was the editor of the publishing house “Sovetsky Pisatel a.k.a. Soviet Writer“, then in 1996 the editor of the poetry department in the magazine “Nash Sovremennik a.k.a Our Contemporary“. He was also a professor of the Literary Institute, member of the Union of Soviet Writers a.k.a. Union of Writers of the USSR since 1974 and in 1990 he signed the Letter of 74.”

Here is a biography of Kuznetsov with an English translation by a non-native speaker.

Here is information about the location of his grave.

He received the following awards:
* Order of the Badge of Honor (1984)
* State Prize of the RSFSR in the field of literature (1990) – for the book of poems and poem “The soul is faithful to unknown limits” (1986)
* Yesenin Prize (1998)
* Lermontov Prize (2001)
* D. Kedrin Prize “Architect” (2001)
* International Competition “Literary Russia” (2003)

Kuznetsov’s father was a military officer who rescued his wife and son from certain execution by the Germans behind enemy lines in 1942; he himself was killed later in the war. Kuznetsov was raised in villages in the region of Stavropol and at age nine began to write poetry that was published in local newspapers. Critics in the 1960s toiled hard to establish a counterbalance to the poetry of the postwar generation, but no “great reactionary poet” ever appeared. Instead, Kunetsov wrote his own alternative to the liberalism of the day. He is not reactionary on a political sense, but his poetry seems antihumanistic and lacking in tenderness and lacking in tenderness. Kuznetsov’s unquestioned, even rare talent as a poet is a unique combination of vampire and nightingale, of darkness and light. Perhaps no one has written so shatteringly about the pain of orphanhood as he, transforming pain into a cry of accusation against his father for dying and thus abandoning his wife and son.

When his first book was published in 1972, the naked sincerity of his work had a remarkable impact. Many consider him the future hope of Russian poetry. Others, who maintain that antihumanism and talent are incompatible, considered him and obtuse reactionary. One aspect of his reactionary character is the scandalous, mocking statement he made about the poetry of women, insulting both Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetayeva and all other women poets. (He announced that there are only three types of women poets, the first being the embroidery work of Akhmatova, the second the hysteria of Tsvetayeva, and the third, a general, faceless type.) Kuznetsov is certainly more complex that Aleksandr Blok’s definition of the poet: “[The poet] is entirely the child of the good and of light, he is entirely the triumph of freedom.” Kuznetsov is a child of light, but also darkness. We should not forget his light.

Biographical information about Kuznetsov, p.984-5, ‘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).

The Mother of Peredur by Noragh Jones

Six sons and a husband gone to war,

I worried sick. Sure enough

news of their deaths came, one by one.

Then I took Peredur, my last,

To a lonely place, brought him up

in an absence of knights. We were women and children

Touching a gentleness more exact,

Listening, laughing, agreeable together.

Till one day he comes and says,

‘Mother, mother, in the forest

Riders pass in a shining haze’.

‘Ghosts’, I say sadly. ‘Heroes,

Not ghosts’, he shouts, suddenly loud.

‘They’ve promised to teach me how to fight’.

He took our stout old piebald pony,

Kissed me and left. That was the last

I saw of him. The years slip by, and

Travelling folk bring tales of my only

Hero, expecting fat tips

For boosting maternal pride. There is nothing

For them or for me. I am emptied by

His deeds. If I could, I would wish for his

One death, to save the many he will kill.

 

By Noragh Jones

from Women’s Voices from the Mabinogion


Fun fact: Peredur (Old Welsh Peretur) is the name of a number of men from the boundaries of history and legend in sub-Roman Britain.

Wedding Song by Alexander Pushkin

from The Captain’s Daughter

 

Our lovely apple tree

has no young shoots and no fine crown;

our lovely bride

has no dear father and no dear mother.

No one to dress her

in a wedding gown,

no one to bless her.

 

by Александр Сергеевич Пушкин (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)

a.k.a. Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin

(1836)

translated by Robert Chandler