Tuesday, February 25, 2014

National Translation Month - NTM: Polina Barskova translated by Catherine Ciepiela


what matters is not at what place but what moment
the uncoupling decoupling
of movement outward begins:
in December precisely in Okhta probably
identical buildings of crap leatherette
on which scars of SovHousewares glow in the night
meat vegetables footwear - abstract metamatter.
filth flies as galoshes gallop across
the wasteland: so earnest, you know,
such candor and cha-harm in those nightly sessions!
where the elevator drops you Dante-like circle by circle
to the basement where a blind cat gnaws on a piece of glass
or the anemic grove at the edge of the well-fed park
where a musing imbecile pisses on a rotting mat of leaves
with casual dignity like a faun perched on
one of Peterhof's fountains.
the boudoir protocol of familiar and formal address
eight poets one more monstrous than the next in his
despairing artistic malice,
the burning bush of crude come-ons
flares predictably with goodbyes -
again the deus ex machina misses his cue.
Morning, December, river.
laminated stamped
approved for the shining hell of resurrection.

Friday, February 21, 2014

National Translation Month - NTM: Vladimir Gandelsman translated by Olga Zilberbourg


Threaded through itself,
needle and thread,
dry hermit thought,
scant layer,
gently interleaving the air,
a bookmark for its pages,
beak askew, -
it, like a steeple of order,
or an axis,
or a blade drawn from its sheath

and driven into a pond, where fish,
where golden
halos circumscribe the scales,
where fear
is more circular and silent than a target,
and where one female with a singular
gaze skywards,
stiller than all
stands, barely swaying, stiller than a shadow.

Then, lingering at the start,
that arrow,
biting into the air, into the light,
two wings
spreading-laboriously, definitively,
and letting drops fall from its claws-
above the pond,-and in the egret's beak,
as a fish's mouth,
world opens wide and gapes dumbfounded.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

National Translation Month - NTM: Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) Translated from Russian by Alexander Cigale

As it may

The street collapsed like the nose of a syphilitic.
The river – sweet longing that spilled into spit.
Having shed their underwear down to the last leaf
the vulgar gardens have gone to seed in June.
I walked out onto the square
and put the desiccated neighborhood
on my head like an orange wig.
People terrified of me – out of my mouth
squirming with its feet an undigested scream.
But they won’t judge me, won’t bark at me.
As at a prophet, they will strew flowers in my wake.
All of them with collapsed noses know
I – am your poet.
As by tavern rot, I’m terrified of your terrible judgment.
The prostitutes will carry me alone in their hands
like a sacred relic through the burning buildings
and display me before God as their redemption.
And God will break down and whimper over my book!
Not words – shuddering, congealed into clumps;
he will race across the sky with my verses under his arm
and, all out of breath, recite them to his acquaintances.

From Back to Futurism, Alex Cigale 2012

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

National Translation Month - NTM: Sergei Sokolovskiy translated by Matvei Yankelevich


"It's a lie!" we answered in unison, without arranging it.

"It's no secret that the image of an island counts among those I most despise. It seems to me that this image has accumulated exactly as much filth and falsity as is needed to form an island, blast it! What could be more natural than when, from all the trash (spiritual, cultural, and biological) poured in a heap, suddenly, as if by the wave of a conductor's wand, an isle appears? Here we cannot help but associate-by rhyme-our hot uninhabited isle with the awl, a sharp implement, and through it all sharp-tongued witticisms and pointed puns, the tools of rhetoric, even the sharp heat of island spices, and as a result we are lead to all the potential harm caused by the isle-awl: it all goes to the same place, into one heap, one atoll. The pun, as you can see, nauseates: I will be sick with all these endless islands, all seclusion, solitude and cosmic loneliness, I'll vomit them into the auditorium, were there an auditorium before me, or wherever, if it so happens by some inexplicable reason that the auditorium is absent. The inexplicable reason, by the way, can only be the following: that the auditorium is also an island, a diminutive isle of peace and calm in the stormy sea of modernity. And it's not possible that I would be sick into the very thing thing that makes me sick, isn't that true? I'm asking you: is it true?

Once more we replied: "It's a lie!

Monday, February 17, 2014

National Translation Month - NTM: Anya Logvinova: The Old Ladies Sighed

Translated by Larissa Shmailo

The old ladies sighed—-what is going to happen?
The old ladies sighed—how’s it all going to end?
And I understood: They’re grooming me for slaughter
By some feeling of monstrous proportions.

But now, I am astonishingly old,
And that feeling never, never comes.

And I know—there are women who, to the last,
Will all rise up, every one of them,
And say, “We—we like our husbands
Better than Jeremy Irons!”

But I never saw their husbands,
Never took off their ties, never kissed their necks.
And that’s why it’s possible that
I don’t like anyone.
Except, of course, Jeremy,
Jeremy Irons.

Бабушки охали — что же такое будет.
Бабушки охали — как же все это станется.
И я понимала — меня растят на убой
Какому-то чувству чудовищного размаха.

И вот — мне уже возмутительно много лет,
А чувства такого все нет и нет.

И я знаю — есть женщины, из которых все до одной
Могут встать стеной.
И сказать — что мол «наши мужья нам нравятся
Больше Джереми Айронса!!!

Но я никогда не видела их мужей,
Не снимала с них галстуков, не целовала их шей.
И возможно поэтому
Мне так никто и не нравится.
Кроме, конечно же, Джереми,
Джереми Айронса . . .

An earlier version of this translation appeared in the anthology Contemporary Russian Poetry edited by James Tate.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

National Translation Month - NTM: Vadim Mesyats Translated by Dana Golin

Dahin, Dahin
[Away, away; German]

I'll go where the snow,
Blue like the eyes of the Virgin,
Touched by an icy crust,
Palpable in relief,
Reigns in the fields of the night.

Where under the heavy conifer wings
Stands my abandoned house,
In which I no longer have faith,
It lives and ages with me,
Just like me, pleading for mercy.

Black boulders, cold foreheads exposed,
Are waiting for us to address them aloud,
As if they have found a solution
To the riddle of time immemorial.

It's terrifying when you realize,
That the trees, the lake, the snow, and the sky,
Holding the world in the grip of their workmen's gloves,
See through you, and are willing
To sell your soul for a song...

Yes, this - the only direction worth going in,
If one is to approach all that's mightier.
Encircling in love seems just as legitimate
As thirst for revenge, while to know
The name of another's God - is to win.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

National Translation Month - NTM: In Memoriam: Boris Ryzhy (1974-2001) Translated by Philip Nikolayev

"Got neither cash nor wine..."
- Adamovich

Let's walk, my friend, along an empty street
where frozen clementines of streetlamps hover
and snow covers the distance like a sheet
and all the stores have shut their doors forever.
Show windows, neon glow, ditches and pipes.
"It's all so gruesome, hopeless, literal.
And what do you, my friend, expect from life?" -
"Sadness: it's in the nature of the beautiful!"

All that being quite so, we pass black walls.
"What do you figure will happen to us tomorrow?"
A monstrous and eternal mannequin follows
us with two perfect eyeballs free of sorrow.
"Suppose he knows that storefront rose is dead,
or his own ugliness, or the world's fears?" -
"He knows that there is happiness, my friend,
yet you and I can't see it for our tears.

Friday, February 14, 2014

For Six Months with You

For six months with you, I would
Quit my lover
Leave the city
Sell my books.

For six months with you, I would
Live in Kansas
Join a carpool
Shave my legs.

For six months with you, I would
Be an actress
Wait on tables
Burn this poem.

But what if it doesn’t work out?

If it doesn’t work out I’ll join a convent
If it doesn’t work out I’ll cut my hair
If it doesn’t work out I’ll leave the country
If it doesn’t work out I still don’t care. . . .

For six months with you, I would
Break the true law
Break my poor heart
Break my vow.

Now ask me what I’d do
For a year or two.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

National Translation Month - NTM: Klaus Merz Translated from the German by Marc Vincenz


Clouds roll
adamantly by and light
rain falls, falls.

One woman pours
milk, the other
combs her hair—for
three hundred years:

Not life, said
Malraux, but the statues,
will be our witnesses.

*From Out of the Dust.
This translation originally appeared in Asymptote.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

National Translation Month - NTM: Katia Kapovich: In Nabokov's Memory

Translated by the author

Dead roses, plastic tulips, dry immortelles-
he hated them in the German hotels,
drinking coffee from cups whose shiny backs
had been designed with swastikas of cracks.

He never settled down to sink his roots
in any fathermotherland. Old bear,
he wore the same old-fashioned English suits
that had traveled so far during the war.

His wife, his alter echo, read him books
as he lay ill in bed, prepared to die.
He knew by name all foreign lakes and brooks
as they passed by.

A man forgets men rather than forgives.
Laugh, Mnemosyne, healing muse of those
whose heads are crowned, but not with laurel leaves-
with the whispering reeds of other shores.

From an interview between Adam Weiner, chair of Slavic at Wellesley, and myself about contemporary Russian poetry:

AW: In your anthology I immediately noticed a very fine poem by Katia Kapovich, "In Nabokov's Memory." This poem flows so easily that you miss the first time through how rich it is with meaning and humor. The way the poet remembers Nabokov's famous penchant for "hating" things and applies it—in the second line!—to the flowers of the first, the discovered secondary sense of hating "dry immortelles," the way she turns his autobiography, Speak, Memory, into Laugh, Mnemosyne, and many more happy turnings.

LS: I love Katia's poem, which gives understated voice to the life of a literary expatriate, who learns the names of foreign brooks and lakes, perhaps for her new American readership, and perhaps simply for the words. Brodsky was such a "crowned head," our poet laureate. Our émigré bilinguals in Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry write of these "other shores" in bittersweet memory of home.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

National Translation Month - NTM: Nikolai Gumilev - Acrostic Poem (on the name of his wife, Anna Akhmatova)

Addis Ababa, city of roses.
Near the banks of transparent streams,
No earthly devas brought you here,
A diamond, amidst gloomy gorges.

Armidin garden … There a pilgrim
Keeps his oath of obscure love*
(Mind you, we all bow before him),
And the roses cloy, the roses red.

There, full of deceit and venom,
Ogles some gaze into the soul,
Via forests of tall sycamores,
And alleyways of dusky planes.

Tr. L Shmailo
*The Russian letter х is transliterated by kh (K-eeps h=is)


Аддис-Абеба, город роз.
На берегу ручьёв прозрачных,
Небесный див тебя принес,
Алмазной, средь ущелий мрачных.

Армидин сад… Там пилигрим
Хранит обет любви неясной
(Мы все склоняемся пред ним),
А розы душны, розы красны

Там смотрит в душу чей-то взор,
Отравы полный и обманов,
В садах высоких сикомор,
Аллеях сумрачных платанов.

Monday, February 10, 2014

National Translation Month - NTM: Alexander Skidan

the grammarian distributes the semes
a fraction of seeds
sacrificial miniscule

a name is a gravestone

and siva’s wool is dipped in a boiling column
of dancing flames

but the heart
heart in vain

Tr. L. Shmailo and the author

Saturday, February 08, 2014

List of Words Never to Be Used in Poems

Soul, being, essence, fire, dream, auburn, scent, inhumanity, starry, ripe, free, heaven, transcend, memory, butterfly, chrysalis, please, mad, ecology, teach, tear, lachrymose, cry, frown, smile, love, thought, potential, season, poetry, verse. Transubstantiate, transform, ascend, breathe, breath, usurp, sing, shudder, genius, antihero, thrush, lark, birdsong, exaltation, maid, woman, man, men, attempt, right, am, word, tresses, thrill. Form, character, said, desire, longing, elm, oak, tree, flame, yearn, burn, consume, new, human, bow, warrior, want, page, blank. And so far, you agree. Well, then…

Understanding, unique, déluge,manqué, mensch , wheelbarrow, manifest, palimpsest, avatar, sight, seer, samovar, light, ingredient, save, Oprah, Jerry, nothing, but, yet. The, a, loneliness, mélange, sea, lighthouse, tower, healing, light, use, underscore, trial, Kafka, yes, shop, radiant, garden, fore, yore, music, recollection, last, addiction, evolution. First, over, in, DNA, Darwinian, medicate, pharmacology, software, star, hardwired, stellar, bang. Relate, relationship, query, queer, think, survivor, mine, pain, sorrow, tragedy, woe, enter, laughing, mope. Still with me? How about…?

Life, live, living, hope, horror, help, one, singularity, Buddha, art, bomb, arms, lines, marital, Broadway, show, tell, ask, mission, missive, missile, realm, wonder, wander, know, knowledge, reify, epistemological, portent, magic, magical, many, omnipotent, avuncular, very, theme, adjective, parse, nun, father, mother, brother, we, our, us, I. Eye, omnibus, rarity, time, past, future, date, number, year, one, abstract, narrative, native, experiment, fusion, phrase, quote, café. Random (or mad), insight, learned, spirit, well, good, thanks, fine, good. You?

Thursday, February 06, 2014

National Translation Month: Aleksandr Blok

Tr. L. Shmailo

Night, avenue, street lamp, the drug store,
Irrational and dusky light.
Live another decade, two more—
It stays the same; there's no way out.

You'll die, then start again, beginning
And everything repeats in stamp:
Night, the cold canal's icy ripple,
The drug store, avenue, and lamp.

* * *
Ночь, улица, фонарь, аптека,
Бессмысленный и тусклый свет.
Живи еще хоть четверть века -
Все будет так. Исхода нет.

Умрешь - начнешь опять сначала
И повторится все, как встарь:
Ночь, ледяная рябь канала,
Аптека, улица, фонарь.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

For National Translation Month: "Dante" by Anna Akhmatova

Il mio bel San Giovanni

Even after death, he did not return
To his old Florence.
Leaving, he did not look back;
I sing this song to him.
The torch and the night and the last embrace
Beyond the threshold of fate’s wild lament,
He, from Hell, sent her a curse,
And could not forget her even in heaven.
But he did not pass, candle in hand,
In his penitent’s shirt through the Florence he wanted:
Faithless, low, and long-awaited.

Tr. L. Shmailo

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


As brave as a deciduous tree in winter,
with only its trembling to give, I live.
Leaves, ordinary, thin, brown, die;
dying, enrich the earth; I?

For the cruciform tree, a resurrection,
seasons, promise, a rebirth. There are no coincidences,
there is a plan, the hope of seedlings, again, again, again.

Not for me. For me, the responsibilities
of chaos. For me, the uncertainties of matter,
the randomness, the ecodisasters,
the blasted, dying trees, the impartialities
of space,
of place.

(They now find patterns
in nonlinear matter,
clinging to fractals,
still hoping to escape
random, null space
and soon

Even Heisenberg was certain
that matter would not die, but become,
if need be, E: the Einsteinian assurance.
But dying is no big deal: Only cockroaches live forever.
And matter, as we know it, must disappear.

The ultimate change,
called end, is embossed upon your genes.
And determined to live at all cost,
what freedom, what real,
if evanescent, truth
is lost?

Monday, February 03, 2014

Father of a Ghost (after Stephen Dedalus)

James Joyce b. February 2
Hamnet Shakespeare baptized February 2

Father of a ghost, but from the charnel dead!
Truepenny called, but bid his one son read
A woeful bedtime tale. So list: if Hamnet were
A suicide (the rest, what is the rest?); if Shakespeare were
Behorned by Ann (and her way hath will, clear)
And asked the poor young Hamnet now to kill the ‘dulterous peer,
(Perhaps to pour the poison in the porches of his ear?)
Cert, he would read just like a crab, ass backward and in fear:
Hamlet (his twin), ou le Distrait, une Pièce de Père Shakespeare;
Ophelia-like, rosemary clad, made mad with that despair.
Or … if the canon ‘gainst self-slaughter held fast,
Would he be murdered with all murdered at last?
And, scarred by family the most,
Who would rise to be his ghost?

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Happy Birthday, James Joyce!

Happy birthday, James Joyce! Here is an erasure of The Lotus Eaters episode from Ulysses.

past Nichols' the undertaker's. Eleven, daresay.
Sent his right hand with slow grace over his hair:
Where was the chap I saw in that picture somewhere?
Ah, in the dead sea, floating on his back;
It's a law like that. Curriculum. Crack.
It's the force of gravity of the earth is the weight.
Per second, per second. Postoffice. Too late.
Eleven, is it? I only heard it last night.
What's wrong with him? Dead. And, he filled up, all right.
Chloroform. Laudanum. Sleeping draughts. Phlegm.
Better leave him the paper and get shut of him.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Vacana for Mahadevi-akka

A vacana for Mahadevi-akka, homeless wanderer, poet, patroness of women, and bride of Siva. Om namah shivayah!

Nataraja, white as jasmine, fill me.
Lord, hair matted from love, still me.
Indra Deva of the meeting rivers, kill me.
Let eight hundred forty thousand deaths take me,
As you, Bhadra-Bhima, won't forsake me.
Laugh, brother Blue Throat, for the poison we will drink.
Brother-lover-husband-son, I'll sing and will not think.
Shakra, Lord Asura, take the burden of my tears.
Now, Indra Deva, take the tribute of my years.

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