Farewell, Captain… by Vladimir Korvin-Piotrovsky

Farewell, Captain. In bygone days,
Your features suddenly transformed,
You’d whirl away on that mad steed.
Wherever the four winds blew.
You’ll not return. Near a kiosk now,
Chewing on tobacco whiskers,
In a raincoat soiled to the shine,
You silently check your watch.
But time, violating its term,
Runs on like a mountain stream,
And it seems that a giant hand
Blends the clouds with water.
And it seems a crazed horse
Or Pegasus, caught in raging rapids,
Breaking its carriage into kindling,
Looks on, half-strangled by its trace,
Looks on mockingly at us.

By Владимир Львович Корвин-Пиотровский
(Vladimir Lvovich Korvin-Piotrovsky)
(1891-1966)
translated by Bradley Jordan

Additional information: Vladimir Lvovich Korvin-Piotrovskii (Владимир Львович Корвин-Пиотровский) was born 15 May 1891 in Kiev and died on April 2 1966. His place of birth is sometimes identified as Bila Tserkva, Ukraine, where he spent much of his childhood. During World War I, he served as an artillery officer in the White Army. After being taken prisoner and barely escaping execution, he crossed through Poland and made his way to Berlin around 1920.

In Berlin, he became active in the Russian emigre literary community. There he met Yuri Ofrosimov and Vladimir Nabokov (during the period he used the pen name Vladimir Sirin). He also became involved with the Berlin Poets’ Club, a group of Russian emigre poets founded by Mikhail Gorlin. In addition to Ofrosimov, Korvin-Piotrovskii and Sirin, members included Raisa Blokh, Nina Korvin-Piotrovskaia (née Kaplun), Vera Nabokov, and Sofia Pregel.

Vladimir and his wife left Germany before World War II began. Nina Korvin-Piotrovskaia worked at the French embassy in Berlin, and they were able to travel to Paris with embassy staff. During World War II, Korvin-Piotrovskii was active in the French Resistance movement. He was arrested and imprisoned for approximately eight months in 1944. His fellow prisoners included the French writer André Frossard, whose memoir La maison des otages documents this time period. Vladimir and Nina Korvin-Piotrovskii were close friends with Italo and Leila Griselli and visited them many times in Italy. Italo Griselli, a sculptor, made busts of both Vladimir and Nina Korvin-Piotrovskii.

In 1961 the family moved to Los Angeles, California, where Vladimir Korvin-Piotrovskii died on April 2, 1966 and Nina Korvin-Piotrovskaia died in 1975.

Korvin-Piotrovsky was descended from ancient Russian aristocracy and Hungarian kings. In the Civil War he served as an artillery officer in the White Army. As an émigré in Berlin, he worked as a chauffer while heading the poetry department for the journal Spolokhi (Nothern Lights). He published under the name P.V. In 1939 he moved to Paris, where he took part in the Resistance, and spent almost a year imprisoned by the Gestapo. His poems and essays from prison were published in the book Vozdushnyi zmei (Aerial Serpents) under his real name. A two-volume collection of his work, Pozdnii gost’ (Late Guest), was published in Washington in 1969.
While his early lyrics were often unrhymed, Korvin-Piotrovsky’s later verse returned to classical forms of rhymed iambic tetrameter. The content often turned from contemporary events to bygone centuries, to pictures of night, fog, autumn, and winter, continuing a tradition of Russian romanticism. He was both a poet and a playwright who left a heterogeneous legacy, a unique poetic testimony to Russia’s fate and his own.

Biographical information about Korvin-Piotrovsky p.224, ‘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.

I was unable to source the Russian version of the poem unfortunately. If anyone knows where to find it online please leave a comment or link.

Cирена (Siren) by Anna Prismanova

In that land we tried to speak
of thirst, unquenchable thirst,
of a mournful cry that pierced us in the dark
and was halted in mid-flight.

But in the silence there reaches out for us
a steamboat’s cry, the crying of its soul,
it pulls us in, inviting and in parting,
as it sails into the age-old twilight.

This high-flown, antediluvian howl,
that the head and insides both absorb,
that even soaks into the legs –
is the union of peace and anxiety.

The steamboat sails off into the darkness and the night.
But it’s as if the siren’s wail died long ago.
As in the time of crusades when knights
were blessed on their way by ringing church bells.

And we, my dear, will leave like this, exactly,
having spent our last small ounce of arrogance,
we’ll leave – moving restlessly into the night,
we’ll have taken little and won’t have weighed the consequences.

The siren awaits us at the end of the earth,
and I know already the torment that she bears:
she wants us all to follow in her footsteps,
and wishes too we’d leave her all alone.

And so the steamboat howls, and howls the darkness.
I’ve not the strength to counteract these howls.
It’s possible that I myself am howling
inside the funnel of just a boat as this.

by Анна Семёновна Присманова (Anna Semyonovna Prismanova)
a.k.a. Анна Симоновна Присман (Anna Simonovna Prisman)
(Date unknown – before 1953)
translated by Bradley Jordan
from the poetry collection Трубы (Trumpets/Tubes/Pipes)

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Additional information: There is a dedication in the Russian version, ‘В. Коpвин-Пиотpовcкому‘, omitted from the translation. This refers to Vladimir Lvovich Korvin-Piotrovsky (1891 -1966) who was a Russian poet, novelist and playwright.

I am unsure of the exact date of the poem but a Russian website listing the poetry collection it is from has an end note stating “The poem was included in the anthology In the West: An Anthology of Russian Foreign Poetry. Comp. Y.P.Ivask. New York. Ed. Chekhov. 1953. p. 226.” which refers to the book published in 1953, under the title Na zapade; antologiia russkoi zarubezhnoi poezii (In the West; an anthology of the Russian émigré poetry).

Prismanova is considered comparable to her contemporary, the American poet, Louise Bogan and challenged traditional ideas of femininity in her poetry.

Prismanova’s origins and early life are obscure. She appears in emigration in Paris in the mid-1920s, and her first published collection, Ten’ itelo (Shadow and Body) (1937), contains poems beginning in 1929. She and her poet husband, Aleksandr Ginger, remained in Paris during the Nazi occupation. Responding to the wave of patriotic feeling and longing for Russia that appeared among emigres after the war, they both accepted Soviet passports, though they continued to live in Paris.

Prismanova was best known in the emigre world for intimate lyrics that manifest her spiritual searching for real truth in herself, in language, and in literary form. Prismanova’s poem “Vera” (1960), about the heroic, revolutionary populist Vera Figner (1852-1942), amazed readers by its portrait of a figure so unlike the poet and her intimate lyrical themes. Overshadowed by the more vocal figures of emigration, she was nevertheless a highly intelligent, subtle, and sensitive poet.

Biographical information about Prismanova, p.342-343, ‘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.

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Cирена

В. Коpвин-Пиотpовcкому
Cтаpалиcь мы cказать на cей земле
о жажде и ее неутоленьи,
о кpике cкоpби, pвущем наc во мгле
и оcтановленном в cвоем cтpемленьи.
Но нам навcтpечу тянетcя в тиши
влекущий наc, пpизывный и пpощальный,
кpик паpоxода, кpик его души,
уже плывущей в cумpак изначальный.
Вбираемый нутpом и головой,
пpоcачивающийcя даже в ноги,
cей выcпpенний и допотопный вой
cлияние покоя и тpевоги.
Во мглу и в ночь уxодит паpоxод.
Но cтон cиpены как бы замеp в оном.
Так pыцаpи в кpеcтовый шли поxод,
напутcтвуемые цеpковным звоном.
И мы, душа моя, вот так, точь-в-точь,
утpатив до конца оcтаток cпеcи,
уйдем – вдвигаяcь неотcтупно в ночь,
немного взяв и ничего не взвеcив.
Cиpена ждет наc на конце земли,
и знаю я – томленье в ней какое:
ей xочетcя и чтоб за нею шли,
и чтоб ее оcтавили в покое…
Так воет паpоxод, и воет тьма.
Пpотиводейcтвовать такому вою
не в cилаx я. Я, может быть, cама
в тpубе такого паpоxода вою.

Веселись, душа, пей и ешь! (Make merry, my soul…) by Marina Tsvetaeva

Веселись, душа, пей и ешь! (Make merry, my soul) by Marina Tsvetaeva

Make merry, my soul, drink and eat!
When my last hour goes
Stretch me so that my two feet
Cover four high roads.

Where, the empty fields across,
Wolves and ravens roam,
Over me make the shape of a cross,
Signpost looming alone.

In the night I have never shunned
Places accursed and blamed.
High above me you shall stand,
Cross without a name.

More than one of you was drunk, full-fed
On me, companions, friends.
Cover me over to my head
Tall weeds of the fens.

Do not light a candle for me
In the church’s depth.
I don’t want eternal memory
On my native earth.

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by Марина Ивановна Цветаева
(Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva)
(4 April 1916)
from Bon-Voyages (1921-22)
translated by David McDuff

Beneath is the original form of the poem in Cyrillic.

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Веселись, душа, пей и ешь!

Веселись, душа, пей и ешь!
А настанет срок –
Положите меня промеж
Четырех дорог.

Там где во поле, во пустом
Воронье да волк,
Становись надо мной крестом,
Раздорожный столб!

Не чуралася я в ночи
Окаянных мест.
Высоко надо мной торчи,
Безымянный крест.

Не один из вас, други, мной
Был и сыт и пьян.
С головою меня укрой,
Полевой бурьян!

Не запаливайте свечу
Во церковной мгле.
Вечной памяти не хочу
На родной земле.

Distances divide, exclude us [Extract from a poem addressed to Pasternak] by Marina Tsvetaeva

Distances divide, exclude us.

They’ve dis-weilded and dis-glued us.

Despatched, disposed of, dis-inclusion –

they never knew this meant fusion

of elbow grease and inspiration.

 

by Марина Ивановна Цветаева

(Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva)

(1925)

translated by Peter Oram

Interesting addition: Throughout much of 1926 Tsvetaeva kept up and intense correspondence with Rainer Maria Rilke and Boris Pasternak. The above poem was sent to Pasternak while Tsvetaeva was in exile and had moved from Prague to Paris thus increasing her distance from her homeland. She grew increasingly isolated amongst the other emigre community as she had praised the works of Mayakovsky which got her mistakenly branded as endorsing the Soviet system which eventually led the editors of the important journal The Latest News to stop publishing her works which, via her literary earnings, had allowed her to support her family through her contributions.

‘Spring Exultation, Nightingales, The Moon…’ by Georgy Ivanov

Spring exultation, nightingales, the moon

on southern seas – they make my poor head spin

with boredom. More than that. I disappear.

The real me lives elsewhere. Far to the north.

 

Berlin, poor Russian Paris, filthy Nice –

a dream from which I soon will find release.

 

Petersburg. Winter, Gumilyov and I

walk by an ice-bound Neva, bright with snow.

The river Lethe. Side by side, we walk

and talk as poets did, so long ago.

 

by Георгий Владимирович Иванов (Georgii Vladimirovich Ivanov)

(1958)

translated by Robert Chandler


 

Fun Fact: Gumilyov of course refers to the poet Nikolay Stepanovich Gumilyov (Николай Степанович Гумилёв) who was executed by the Petrograd Cheka in 1921. Neva to the river Neva which runs through St Petersburg (also known as Petrograd or Leningrad) while Lethe is one of the five rivers running through Hades, the underworld populated by the dead, in Greek mythology.