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May 21, 2004 by AK

Transfigured

Some of English Poetry’s Ten Dirtiest Secrets are secrets of poetry in any language. Says Aaron,

Reputation bloat is directly proportional to the fodder the poet supplies for doctoral theses. “Philosophical” poets are especially prized.

My general rule is to pick un-philosophical pieces by philosophizers, and sane poems by the insane. They stand a fat chance of being good. What’s encouraging is that there are poets who both write well and supply the said fodder in abundance. Among modern Russians, that’d be Elena Shvarts for sure. “De-Stalinizing gender”, “a psychocritical view of the poetry of Elena Shvarts”, and even “the vigorous transfigurational capacity of Shvarts’s poetry from the point of view of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s theory of de- and re-territorialization” should not discourage anyone from taking a look at the actual poems this verbiage purports to refer to.

Ksenia sacrificed Ksenia:

“My beloved one died. I shall become him myself.”

She went out of her mind

and, like onto a round ice-floe,

jumped into another:

into another one’s memory,

into another one’s dreams,

into a silken vest,

into red pants.

Running, in a bass voice

she shouts into the damp dark:

“Live! I’m disappearing!

“Live!” crying out to him–

she runs out of Ksenia,

“Sick her! Quick!”

Now she’s already him–

alive again, Andrey.

There’s a lot to be said about the metric structure of the Russian original, and as far as its content, a book on lives of the saints would, I trust, be a better guide than Deleuze and Guattari together. This is the beggining of a poem about the Blessed Ksenia of St. Petersburg, whose husband died suddenly in the middle of a drinking party, and who insisted on wearing his clothes and being called by his name for a while after his death. Her hagiography would tell the story way better than I can.


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