Tuesday Apr 23

tarkovskyArseny Arseny Tarkovsky (1907-1989) spent most of his life as a well-known translator of Turkmen, Georgian, Armenian, Arabic, and other languages. During the Second World War, he worked as a war correspondent until he was wounded in a German attack, which would cost him his leg. His first book of poems had been accepted for publication in 1946, but, in the wake of Zhdanov’s attack on Anna Akhmatova and Mikhail Zoschenko, the book was never released. Tarkovsky’s first published volume, Before the Snow, was published in 1962, at the age of 55, to the acclaim of Akhmatova, who called his work “both contemporary and eternal.”

MetresPhilip Philip Metres is the author of a number of books and chapbooks, most recently A Concordance of Leaves(Diode, 2013), abu ghraib arias (Flying Guillotine, 2011), winner of the 2012 Arab American Book Award in poetry, To See the Earth (Cleveland State UP, 2008), and Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941 (U of Iowa P, 2007). His work has appeared in Best American Poetry and has garnered two NEA fellowships, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, four Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Beatrice Hawley Award (for the forthcoming Sand Opera), the Anne Halley Prize, the Arab American Book Award, and the Cleveland Arts Prize. He teaches literature and creative writing at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. Visit his web site here for more information.

PsurtsevDmitri Dimitri Psurtsev
(b. 1960) is a Russian poet and translator of British and American prose-writers and poets (including Dylan Thomas, James Aldridge, AS Byatt, L.F. Baum, John Steinbeck, L.H. Hix, Dana Gioia). His two books of poetry, Ex Roma Tertia and Tengiz Notebook were published in 2001.  Dimitri teaches translation at Moscow State Linguistic University and lives with his wife Natalia and daughter Anna outside Moscow.

In a time when official Russian poetry was anything but independent, Tarkovsky’s verse maintained its resolute allegiance to a poetic sound and vision that hearkened back to the masters of Russian poetry. Akhmatova called Tarkovsky the one “real poet” in the Soviet Union. In her words, “of all contemporary poets Tarkovsky alone is completely his own self, completely independent. He possesses the most important feature of a poet which I’d call the birthright.” In his spiritual and poetic independence, he outlasted the dross of totalitarianism.

Vividly musical, rich in Biblical and folk echoes, Tarkovsky’s poems exude a poignant gratitude for living on earth, and a childlike wonder in nature, even though they are often set in the backdrop of terrible heartbreak of one of the most miserable centuries in Russian history.



     Никого со мною нет.
     На стене висит портрет.

     По слепым глазам старухи
     Ходят мухи,

     Хорошо ли,- говорю,-
     Под стеклом твоем в раю?

     По щеке сползает муха,
     Отвечает мне старуха:

     - А тебе в твоем дому
     Хорошо ли одному?


          There’s no one here
          But me. A portrait on the wall—

                                  flies     crawl

          Over the old woman’s blind eyes.

          I ask: is it nice there
          Under the glass, in your paradise?

          Down her cheek, a fly slides.
          The old woman replies:

          And you there, in your home—
          Do you like being alone?

     Не стой тут,

     Воздух! Ложись!
     Проклятая жизнь!
     Милая жизнь,
     Странная смутная жизнь,
     Дикая жизнь!
     Травы мои коленчатые,
     Мои луговые бабочки,
     Небо все в облаках, городах, лагунах и парусных лодках!
     Дай мне еще подышать,
     Дай мне побыть в этой жизни безумной и жадной,
     Хмельному от водки,
     С пистолетом в руках
     Ждать танков немецких,
     Дай мне побыть хоть в этом окопе…

          Stand Right Here . . .

          Stand right here
          or you’ll get smeared.
          Incoming! Get down!
          This damned,
          this darling,
          this strange indiscernable
          untameable life.
          O knobby-kneed grasses,
          my meadow butterflies,
          sky all in cloudbanks, towns, lagoons
                                                                      and sailboats!
          Let me breathe a little longer.
          In this crazy, greedy life, let me stay
                                                          just a little longer,
          hungover from vodka,
          pistol in my hands,
          waiting for German tanks,
          in this trench, just let me be…


     Мерцая желтым язычком,
     Свеча все больше оплывает.
     Вот так и мы с тобой живем
     Душа горит и тело тает.


          A small yellow tongue flickers.
          The candle drips and drips.
          This is how you and I live—
          Our souls flare, flesh disappears.