In the cold season, in a locality accustomed to heat more than to cold, to horizontality more than to a mountain, a child was born in a cave in order to save the world; it blew as only in deserts in winter it blows, athwart.
To Him, all things seemed enormous: His mother’s breast, the steam out of the ox’s nostrils, Caspar, Balthazar, Melchior – the team of Magi, their presents heaped by the door, ajar. He was but a dot, and a dot was the star.
Keenly, without blinking, through pallid, stray clouds, upon the child in the manger, from far away – from the depth of the universe, from its opposite end – the star was looking into the cave. And that was the Father’s stare.
By Иосиф Александрович Бродский (Joseph Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky a.k.a. Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky) (December 1987) translated by the author, Brodsky, himself
В холодную пору, в местности, привычной скорей к жаре, чем к холоду, к плоской поверхности более, чем к горе, младенец родился в пещере, чтоб мир спасти: мело, как только в пустыне может зимой мести.
Ему все казалось огромным: грудь матери, желтый пар из воловьих ноздрей, волхвы — Балтазар, Гаспар, Мельхиор; их подарки, втащенные сюда. Он был всего лишь точкой. И точкой была звезда.
Внимательно, не мигая, сквозь редкие облака, на лежащего в яслях ребенка издалека, из глубины Вселенной, с другого ее конца, звезда смотрела в пещеру. И это был взгляд Отца.
We banished the tyrant tsars, the tsarist cannibals were smashed, and afterward – faster! To the wall! We ourselves were dragged.
And afterwards – our fine young reapers came out swinging with such zeal, that all those murder-loving tsars turned over in their graves.
by Николай Иванович Тряпкин (Nikoai Ivanovich Tryapkin) (1981) translated by Bradley Jordan
Прогнали иродов-царей, Разбили царских людоедов, А после — к стенке, поскорей Тянули собственных полпредов. А после — хлопцы-косари С таким усердьем размахнулись, Что все кровавые цари В своих гробах перевернулись.
Additional information: There is little about Tryapkin in English except a Russian site with a few details. Much of his poetry involved rural imagery. Tryapkin was born 19 December 1919 and died on 20 February 1999. He was buried at the Rakitki cemetery in the Moscow region.
The original version’s first line refers to Herod (Ирод) but the translation subtitutes this with the more secular ‘tyrant’.
Tryapkin was born into a peasant family; his father was a joiner. In 1930 his family moved into the trading village Lotoshino near Moscow. Though his father’s income was slight and times were difficult, something about country life enchanted the future poet forever. From 1939 to 1941 he studied in Moscow at the Historical Archive Institute (from 1956 to 1958 he also studied at the Higher Literary Courses). Rejected by the army for health reasons during World War II, he was evacuated to a tiny village in the far north near Solvychegodsky, at first to plow and then to work as an accountant on a collective farm. Here Tryapkin’s creative life began; his first poems were published in 1945.
At first it seemed that he was no more than a talented balalaika player whose fingers skillfully played the strings at a time when the Russian peasant was writhing under the lash of a system directed against both the land and the people who loved the land. But when the era of glasnost began and the censor was no longer able to defend the system from the bitter truths about itself, Tryapkin suddenly appeared with a magic tablecloth of Russian folklore that had been hidden until the time was right. He unfolded it and wrapped in its white fabric was not the traditional abundance of food, but the bones of so many nameless people, the testimony of their suffering.
Biographical information about Tryapkin, p.678, ‘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).
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.
This blog is now 7 years old. Technically the anniversary was in November but I always forget to mark it.
So, what are the plans for the next year? More of the same really. I’ve recently been trying to post poems around the time their subject, theme or date of creation are relevant but I don’t know if anyone has really noticed it.
I mention each year that I will upload reviews and such but the laptop they were stored on broke. Anyone familiar with my past reviews knows I tend to go a bit overboard with them so I might try to do some concise ones this year rather than include the exhaustive synopses featured in past ones.
So… not so much an update as a confirmation things will continue ticking over. I just fell out of the habit of saying much between poetry uploads over the years as I don’t know if anyone is that interesting in my ramblings so took this opportunity before posting a poem tomorrow.
Thanks to everyone who has supported this site over the years!
As part of this New Year’s post I was going to do a list of poets, authors and media I suggest from Welsh and Russian origins for those looking for starting points or recommendation but realised I need to give it a bit more time and consideration rather than rush out a list of names, brief comments and hyperlinks. So, that will be coming some time this year hopefully.
Instead let me highly recommend Anton Lapenko‘s Внутри Лапенко (Inside Lapenko) series! The first two seasons are available on YouTube with English subtitles. There is also the (unsubtitled) third season, a number of short video sketches and his seasonal special set in December 1886, which was released recently (at the time of posting).
Внутри Лапенко (Inside Lapenko)
Anton Lapenko, alongside his brothers who stand in when there are multiple people on camera, plays a range of characters in a late era Soviet town. Although a number of loosely connected comedy sketches there are overarching storylines in each season. In the first season an unnamed engineer runs afoul of a local gang leader and events spiral from there. I defy you not to be fully invested in the plight of the Engineer character by the end of the first season! In the second season the gang leader’s ex-wife takes over the town/country with a totalitarian regime and everyone joins together to depose her.
The series is filmed to emulate the aesthetics of the late Soviet era and 1990s reflecting the filming style, dramatic beats, technology, culture, fashion and movies of the time with many references to the era (although there are ones more easily recognisable to those familiar with American films also in the second season). It acts as both a satire and love letter to the late Soviet era (mixing elements of the 1980s, 1990s and anachronistic later modern things like Alice – the Yandex equivalent of Amazon’s Alexa or adverts for their sponsors which adds to the surreal nature of scenes) with a soundtrack of popular songs from the time which will quickly become earworms you can’t forget.
Season one consists of 5 episodes of about 22 minutes average length.
Season 2 has 8 episodes which each run a little longer about 25 minutes long each on average.
The Engineer, as the central character functions as the classic ‘little man’ of Russian culture (Ма́ленький челове́к). A small man, of low social status and origin, not gifted with outstanding abilities nor distinguished by strength of character, who satisfies himself with the small victories and moments of contentment in life. He waxes lyrical while constantly making plans about how he will spend his life with his Особа (lit. ‘person/individual’ but I personally read it as ‘my girl’ or ‘beloved’ considering the tones in which he speaks about her – if you are more familiar with the use of the term please leave a comment). Importantly we never see her face and there is a fake out at the end of season 2 where we think we have seen her face finally but it proves to be a case of mistaken identity. In fact this is a cameo by the actress, Irina Gorbacheva, who helped promote Lapenko‘s work by sharing his Instagram short videos (some of which are not on the YouTube channel).
Igor Katamaranov: A childhood friend of Engineer’s who now works as a labourer in multiple jobs. He is perpetually drunk on turpentine yet, when Engineer is in danger, is always there when needed while also having his own surreal side adventures in the background of events (including at one point living inside the Alice device somehow). My favourite moment, without spoiling when it happens, has him with a boom box playing «Туман» by Сектор Газа during one of the times Engineer needs his help.
The Journalist (Yuri): Host of ‘The Riddle of the Hole’ trying to uncover conspiracies at every corner. In the first season he has a romantic relationship with Yandex’s Alice device he ‘rescues’ from a cupboard in the Iron Sleeves hideout and in the second with Tatiana causing a love triangle to develop with his boss Richard Sapogov. The song «Время, вперёд!» by Георгий Свиридов serves as his leitmotif and theme of the programme he records.
The Iron Sleeves gang: The leader, who eventually ends up wheelchair bound, and his henchmen who have the individual habits of being on the phone to their mother, carrying a keyboard around and being a saxophone player. The leader often appears by surprise and greets the Engineer casually saying здарова отец (‘hello father’ but more tonally ‘hey, old guy’ or ‘hiya, governor’ indicating the mat tone of informal non-standard speech gangsters would affect).
Zhilin: The local police captain who seems to be a one man taskforce. He laughs at his own jokes and often imprisons people but doesn’t actually bother to lock the door despite often being unwavering in his dedication in detecting wrongdoing. At one point a pigeon is involved in shooting him.
Crimson Fantomas: The rock band consisting of blonde haired Rosa Robot and the red haired Shershen (lit: Hornet) who live next to the Engineer constantly drinking and annoying him with their noise making. They have good hearts and big dreams but Rosa is clearly an air head and Hornet is too quiet to challenge his wild ideas.
The survival expert: He appears a few times to offer the audience of his show advice how to survive dangerous circumstances like a poisonous snake bite or being shot which often leaves him in a critical condition needing medical aid. He disappears eventually from the show, presumably having died off-screen, only to make a surprise reappearance!
Richard Sapogov: The arrogant, hedonistic and self serving, vain manager of the TV station the Journalist works at. He lives only for enjoying beauty and the better things in life. He and Tatiana appear in adverts in the first season but are much more prominent in the second season onwards due to the love triangle.
Tatiana: Sapogov’s assistant and girlfriend who is initially incapable of coherent speech until, during an all out battle, an arrow lodges in her head. She begins a relationship with Yuri the Journalist when he shows her far greater affection than Sapagov who neglects her. Both she and Sapogov make brief appearances in season 1. Also, she has a collection of wooden sticks she is very fond of.
Natella: The ex-wife of the Iron Sleeves’ leader. She is an active prostitute who appears briefly in season 1 but, in season 2, eventually leads her group the Iron Heels (whose members mirror those of the Iron Sleeves) to take over the town by becoming the totalitarian president of the country!
Vsevolod Starozubov: A popular singer who is an affectionate parody of talent of the era like Eduard Khil (who you might know from the meme Mr. Tro-lo-lo). He often affects odd ‘off to the side’ looks as if constantly posing to capture the right camera he should be looking towards or for ‘cheeky’ looking photos although it humorously comes across more like one of those moving black cat clocks that were once fashionable that would look back and forth with each tick of the clock. (He is also possibly lip syncing which I recall being common in the past with British shows e.g. BBC’s Top of the Pops where people were supposedly performing ‘live’ so can easily imagine it happening in other countries).
Guidon Vishnevsky : An esoteric local artist who unexpectedly provides a surreal method of escape, in desperate times, while struggling with his own issues.
The mesmerist: Another minor character. He assists Natella using his powers to manipulate people.
There are other characters but hopefully that gives you a head start on enjoying the series.
If you are wondering, the time code at the start of each video being 01.09.1986 is an Easter egg referring to Anton Lapenko’s birth date. As for the time stamps which proceed chronologically I have no answer and invite you to speculate.
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