Reviewing Evgeny Boratynsky and the Russian Golden Age by Anatoly Liberman, Sibelan Forrester remarks:

Russians who read Anglophone poetry in the Soviet period turned to the works available, which were largely translations or original editions of poetry from the era of rhyme and meter… A Russian who loved Anglophone poetry might be familiar with Longfellow and Tennyson, but not Dylan Thomas or Sylvia Plath, who brought formal poetic devices closer to our day.

This wasn’t quite true beginning from the year 1972, when this anthology got published in Moscow. I can’t get hold of the book right now but I recall Dylan Thomas among the names in there. Not sure about Plath but I can vouchsafe for some older Modernists – William Carlos Williams and Amy Lowell, for instance. Also, post-war Americans: I remember Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Levertov. A few post-war Brits as well, although I only remember Larkin. The youngest poet included was the Anglo-Indian Dom Moraes, born 1938.

Some lines are still in my memory, if imperfectly impressed – I had to check them against the originals:

Fly, mares!
Strain your utmost,
Scatter the milky dust of stars,
Or the tiger sun will leap upon you and destroy you
With one lick of its vermillion tongue.

This asks to be set to music – in my head, I’m repeating them to a tune of my own. In fact, this poem – Night Clouds by Amy Lowell – has been set at least once, by Rick Sowash.

And this is playing to a different tune:

Heaven knows what they are
between cerulean shapes
laid regularly round

Mat roses and tridentate
leaves of gold
threes, threes and threes

From On Gay Wallpaper by William Carlos Williams. Note that some poetry websites and even one Google Book have moral sea instead of mural sea in the fourth line, the first line of the second tercet. It’s mostly likely a typo or scanning error. Of course it’s a mural sea: it’s on the wall, it’s wallpaper. Moral is even less logically justified than pensar for penar in Antero de Quental’s Solemnia Verba.

And this, too:

Well then, the last day the sharks appeared.
Dark fins appear, innocent
as if in fair warning.
The sea becomes sinister, are they everywhere?
I tell you, they break six feet of water.

It’s the beginning of The Sharks (1957) by Denise Levertov, born in England but generally considered an American poet.

One comment

Comments are closed.

Discover more from Winterings in Trans-Scythia

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading