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  #1  
Unread 07-21-2023, 12:15 PM
W T Clark W T Clark is offline
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Default The poetry of Osip Mandelstam

Since people seem interested in Mandelstam and are writing about him, I thought I'd show you some of the most beautiful prose I found on him. I normally read literary criticism like I eat KFC: as a light, slightly unhealthy break from "literature": the imagination. Like a relaxing. But this transcended that. It probably shouldn't be a surprise since Celan writes as piercingly as Emily Dickinson but this caught me off guard. I understood Mandelstam from the bottom up all over again:
https://jacket2.org/commentary/poetr...celan-complete
I hope this helps some people who are thinking about reading him. I would recommend the James Greene translations.
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Unread 07-28-2023, 11:10 AM
W T Clark W T Clark is offline
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This hasn't had many views. Maybe the taste for Mandelstam has passed. That would be a shame.
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Unread 07-28-2023, 06:24 PM
mignon ledgard mignon ledgard is offline
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Dear Cameron,

I'm reading the poems and they are beautiful and modern. I hope some scholars stop by with more incisive comments.

Your poems are a delectation and I like the effect the ampersands have in my reading. It is silent, understood, and almost invisible, to me. It floats me to what follows. I think of it as a way to establish pace, more than meaning. Often, if left out, the meaning would not change, though it may call for a comma.

Thank you!
~mignon
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Unread 07-29-2023, 09:18 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Iíve been reading this, Cam. I have translations I read also. I find myself not able to say much about his poems, which I think is what he intended. Thanks for this.
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  #5  
Unread 07-30-2023, 08:50 AM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
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I just ordered the Greene translation.
Thanks for the tip.

Nemo
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  #6  
Unread 07-30-2023, 10:24 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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I should make more of an effort to move past Voronezh Notebooks but that sounds easier than it is.


37

When the goldfinch, in his airy confection,
Suddenly gets angry, begins to quake,
His spite sets off his scholar's robes,
Shows to advantage his cute black cap.

And he slanders the hundred bars,
Curses the sticks and perches of his prison--
And the world's turned completely inside out,
And surely there's a forest Salamanca
for birds so smart, so disobedient.
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Unread 07-30-2023, 01:57 PM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is offline
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John, that’s Andrew Davis’s translation and a good one, except that he’s turned the subjects of the verbs into objects in the first two lines of the second stanza. Here’s my crib:

When the goldfinch in the airy pastry
suddenly begins to quiver, angry[?],
rage peppers the scholar’s robes,
and the cap is good-looking[?] in black.

The perch and plank slander,
the cage of hundreds of spikes/needles slanders,
and everything in the world is inside out,
and there is a forest Salamanca
for disobedient, clever birds.

It’s not the bird that’s doing the slandering. It’s not even 100% clear that the bird is angry; it depends on how you understand the first neologism, which contains the word “heart” and today is the name of a vitamin supplement for a healthy heart! Celan says the poems in Mandelstam’s first collection, Stone, are “free of neologisms.” That may be true, but it’s not true of Mandelstam in general.

Last edited by Carl Copeland; 07-31-2023 at 08:04 AM.
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Unread 07-30-2023, 03:15 PM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is offline
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A webpage devoted to Mandelstam’s neologisms has convinced me that the two in this poem are adjectives, not verbs, so I’ve revised my crib. I’m also now persuaded that the bird is angry; the poet’s wife, Nadezhda, quoted a variant of the poem in which “rage” is clearly attributed to the goldfinch.

Last edited by Carl Copeland; 07-30-2023 at 03:20 PM.
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Unread 07-31-2023, 09:22 AM
W T Clark W T Clark is offline
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I read an article by Davis recently. I sympathised greatly with this:
"This is Mandelstam's great gift: through a kind of synesthesia, a freak of consciousness heightened by a cultural linguistic predisposition, Mandelstam heard sense in rhyme and cadence. Sound is absorbed, and honored, as an essential vehicle of meaning, or better, as meaning itself."

And I wondered if this paragraph was spoken directly to Carl and I:
"How, then, to respond as a translator? To imitate the structure of the poetry would be to violate the essential principle of Mandelstam's prosody, which is the organic, indivisible relationship of sound and meaning. The only possible course is to obey that principle, to reimagine the poem, in a way re-hear it, in one's own language and in one's own time. Is it then so strange that the gorgeous pyrotechnics of Mandelstam's response in Russian should become, in contemporary English, a subdued, a dogged muttering?"

Last edited by W T Clark; 07-31-2023 at 10:19 AM.
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  #10  
Unread 07-31-2023, 09:55 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Are the Davis translations "dogged muttering?"

Maybe I don't want to know.
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