Eratosphere Forums - Metrical Poetry, Free Verse, Fiction, Art, Critique, Discussions Able Muse - a review of poetry, prose and art

Forum Left Top

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 07-05-2017, 10:00 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
Distinguished Guest
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 2,421
Default Russian Poetry

I have been devouring "The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry." As expected, the poets' bios are as depressing as their poems. Here is an amazing poem by Nikolay Gumilyov (executed by the Bolsheviks at age 36):

The Sixth Sense

Good is the wine that is in love with us,
and good is bread, our generous friend;
and good the woman who brings us torment
yet yields her sweetness to us in the end.

But what are we to do with sunset fires?
With joys that can't be eaten, drunk or kissed?
And what are we to do with deathless verse?
We stand and watch--as mysteries slip past.

Just as some boy too young to know of love
will leave his play to gaze, his heart on fire,
at maidens swimming in a lake, and gaze
and gaze, tormented by obscure desire;

or as within the gloom of ancient jungle
some earthbound beast once slithered from its lair
with wing buds on its back, still tightly closed,
and let out cries of impotent despair;

so year on year--how long, Lord, must we wait?--
beneath the surgeon's knife of art and nature,
our flesh is wasted and our spirit howls
as one more sense moves slowly to creation.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 07-05-2017, 11:09 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
Distinguished Guest
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 2,421
Default

Eureka! I think I have found the most depressing poem ever written, by Georgy Ivanov (1894-1958):

It's good that Russia has no Tsar,
it's good that Russia's just a dream,
it's good that God has disappeared,

that nothing's real, except the stars
in icy skies, the yellow gleam
of dawn, the unrelenting years.

It's good that people don't exist,
that nothingness is all there is,
that's life's as dark and cold as this;

until we couldn't be more dead,
nor ever were so dark before,
and no one now can bring us aid,
nor even needs to anymore.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 07-06-2017, 08:53 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 2,087
Default

Is this to a be a competition? Here's an untitled poem by Alexander Blok, dated 1912


The night. The street. Street-lamp. Drugstore.
A meaningless dull light about.
You may live twenty-five years more;
All will still be there. No way out.

You die. You start again and all
Will be repeated as before:
The cold rippling of a canal.
The night. The street. Street-lamp. Drugstore.
.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 07-06-2017, 10:24 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 13,607
Default

You've inspired me to try to write the most depressing poem I could. I'd post it, but rules are rules. I think this would be a funny topic for D&A, though. Everyone could write verse that is over-the-top pessimistic and depressing and emphasizes the meaninglessness of a life of pain.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 07-06-2017, 10:31 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
Distinguished Guest
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 2,421
Default

Thank you, Matt, for the Blok poem. I have been working my way through his stuff more slowly.

Roger, I want to read your very depressing poem. I will start a thread at Drills and Amusements.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 07-06-2017, 11:15 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
Distinguished Guest
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 2,421
Default

This morning I have been enjoying the work of Varlam Shalamov, who spent a fair portion of his life in the Kolyma labor camp. It seems he often had to compose orally because he did not have access to a pencil and paper. Here he recounts what has been confirmed to be a true story:

Three Robinson Crusoes
in an abandoned shack,
we found a real find--
a single, battered book.

We three were friends
and we quickly agreed
to share out this treasure
as Solomon decreed.

The foreward for cigarette paper:
one friend was delighted
with a gift so unlikely
he feared he was dreaming.

The second made playing cards
from the notes at the back.
May his play bring him pleasure,
every page bring him luck.

As for my own cut--
those precious jottings,
the dreams of a poet
now long forgotten--

it was all I wanted.
How wisely we'd judged.
What a joy to set foot in
a forgotten hut.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 07-06-2017, 12:14 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
Distinguished Guest
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 2,421
Default

New favorite female poet--Elena Shvarts, as ardent and striking as Sappho.

Here's a great one:

On the Street

A mirror's gaze slipped across me
half-mocking, half-severe
and in it, crooked, staring back
some laughable old dear.

Mirrors have often shown me change
yet in them, always, a face I knew--
till now. It would have seemed less strange
to see a beast come leaping through.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 07-07-2017, 11:22 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
Distinguished Guest
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 2,421
Default

Here is another gem, this one by Sergey Yesenin, who died at age 30 under mysterious circumstances (that is, assassinated by the Soviets) and was "much loved by the Russian criminal underworld."

The Backstreets of Moscow

The farmhouse is lonely without me,
and my old dog is gone from the door;
God sent me to die in the backstreets
and I can't go home any more.

I'm in love with this overdone city,
through it's dirty and falling apart;
it reminds me of stories at bedtime,
and the street sounds hurt my heart.

I go out for a fix after midnight,
and the fix that I'm after is fame,
so I head for a bar in the backstreets
where everyone knows my name.

It's noisy and dirty and drunken
but nobody there drinks alone--
the bartenders buy me my vodka
and the hookers cry at my poems.

My heart beats faster and faster,
and I say to the drunk by the door--
"I'm like you, my life's a disaster,
and I can't go home any more."

Oh, the farmhouse is lonely without me,
and my old dog is gone from the door;
God sent me to die in the backstreets
and I can't go home any more.

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 07-07-2017 at 11:30 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 07-07-2017, 11:39 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
Distinguished Guest
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 2,421
Default

And, ok, since I have been avoiding the topic, here's something about Armenians. Anna Akhmatova's "Imitation of the Armenian:"

I shall come to you in a dream,
a black ewe that can barely stand;
I'll stagger up to you and I'll bleat,
"Shah of Shahs, have you dined well?

You are protected by Allah's will,
the world is a bead in your hand. . .
and did my son's flesh taste sweet?
Did your children enjoy their lamb?"
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 07-07-2017, 07:39 PM
RCL's Avatar
RCL RCL is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 4,742
Default

My Georgian friends and I have serious reservations about calling their poetry "Russian" when written in the Soviet Union—as I also gathered the soviet Armenians felt. That was when I was there in the late 70’s. After Rustaveli, the Georgian people generally and my students especially praised Galaction Tabidze, strongly influenced by the Symbolists (no tractors or dams in his work!). I have a booklet of English translations given to me then but can’t lay my hands on it. Mtatsminda is a very high hill in Tbilisi, its top a recreational area, and its terraces the resting place of many Georgian writers. Here’s one I found online:

The Moon over Mtatsminda

My eyes have never seen the moon so lovely as tonight;
In silence wrapt it is the breathless music of the night.
Moonbeams embroider shadows with fine thread of silver light;
O, eyes have never seen the sky so lovely as tonight!

The moon adorned in beams of pearls seems like a queen divine;
The stars like fire-flies tangled in a web about her shine.
The Mtkvari flows a silver stream of lambent beauty bright;
O, eyes have never seen the sky so lovely as tonight!

Here in immortal calm and peace the great and noble sleep
Beneath the soft and dewy turf in many a mouldering heap.
Here Baratashvili came with wild desires to madness wrought,
Oppressed by raging fires of passion, and perplexing thought.

O, could I like the swan pour forth my sould in melody
That melts the mortal heart and breathes of immortality!
Let my free song fly far beyond this world to regions high
Where on the wings of poesy it will glorify the sky.

If death approaching makes the fragrance of the roses sweeter,
Attunes the soul to melodies that make all sadness dearer,
And if that swan's song thus becomes a denizen of heaven,
If in that song she feels that death will be but ecstasy, then, -
Let me like her sing one last song, and in death find delight.
So breathless still and lovely I have never seen the night!

O, mighty dead, let me die here beside you as I sing.
I am a poet, and to eternity my song I fling,
And let it be the fire that warms and lights the spirit's flight.
O, eyes have never seen the sky so lovely as tonight!
__________________
Ralph

Last edited by RCL; 07-07-2017 at 10:59 PM.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



Forum Right Top
Forum Left Bottom Forum Right Bottom
 
Right Left
Member Login
Forgot password?
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Statistics:
Forum Members: 7,813
Total Threads: 18,338
Total Posts: 236,700
There are 87 users
currently browsing forums.
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Sponsor:
Donate & Support Able Muse / Eratosphere
Forum LeftForum Right
Right Right
Right Bottom Left Right Bottom Right

Hosted by ApplauZ Online