I'll be a doctor for others, and a poet for myself.
~ Dr. Zhivago
This month, I visited The Washington Museum of Russian Poetry and Music
, which is currently housed in composer/performer/author Dr. Uli Zislin's home. Dr. Zislin is devoted to sharing Russian culture and he would dearly love to find another space for his museum -- one that people can visit more easily, without making an appointment! If anyone reads this who is also dedicated to sharing Russian culture and would like to help Dr. Zislin relocate the museum, email me or Dr. Z
I thought I'd share works by poets spotlighted in the museum: Boris Pasternak
(1890-1960) is famous for writing the novel Doctor Zhivago
, for which he won a Nobel (although the book was banned in the USSR). He wrote poetry as well:
February. Get ink, shed tears.
Write of it, sob your heart out, sing,
While torrential slush that roars
Burns in the blackness of the spring.
Go hire a buggy. For six grivnas,
Race through the noise of bells and wheels
To where the ink and all you grieving
Are muffled when the rain shower falls.
To where, like pears burnt black as charcoal,
A myriad rooks, plucked from the trees,
Fall down into the puddles, hurl
Dry sadness deep into the eyes.
Below, the wet black earth shows through,
With sudden cries the wind is pitted,
The more haphazard, the more true
The poetry that sobs its heart out.
By Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Eric Gillan
When late at night I wait for her arrival,
It seems my life is hanging by a thread.
I offer youth, my freedom, glory,
To my adored guest with flute in hand.
And here she comes. She throws back her cloak
And pours a steady gaze on me.
I ask, "Did you dictate to Dante
The pages of "Inferno?" She answers, "Yes. I did."
by Nikolai Gumilev, (1886-1921)
Translated by Katharine Gilbert
Today, I see, your gaze is particularly forlorn,
And your hands particularly thin, embracing your knees.
Listen: far away, far away, on Lake Chad,
A refined giraffe is roaming.
His proportions are harmonious and his legs are long,
And a bewitching pattern adorns his skin;
Nothing dares compare with it, save the moon,
Fragmented and flowing on the liquid of broad lakes.
He juts out like the many-colored sails of ships,
And his gait is floating, like joyous birdflight.
I know this earth has seen many wonders
When at sunset he hides in a marble grotto.
I know the happy stories of secret lands,
About the dark maiden, about the passion of the young chief,
But you have breathed in the heavy mists for too long -
You will believe in nothing, except rain.
And how I would tell you about tropical orchards,
About elegant palms, about the scent of extraordinary grasses…
You're crying? Listen… far away, on Lake Chad,
A refined giraffe is roaming.
by Marina Tsvetaeva
Translated by Ilya Shambat
I think about the morning of your glory,
About the morning of your days too, when
Like a demon you from sleep had stirred
And were a god for men.
I think of when your eyebrows came together
Over the burning torches of your eyes,
Of how the ancient blood's eternal lava
Rushed through your arteries.
I think of fingers - very long - inside
The wavy hair, about all
Eyes that did thirst for you in alleys
And in the dining-halls.
About the hearts too, which - you were too young then -
You did not have the time to read, too soon,
About the times, when solely in your honor
Arose and down went the moon.
I think about a hall in semi-darkness,
About the velvet, into lace inclined,
About the poems we would have told each other,
You - yours, I - mine.
I also think about the remaining
From your lips and your eyes handful of dust.
About all eyes, that are now in the graveyard
About them and us.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~What shall I do with this body they gave me
by Osip Mandelstam
What shall I do with this body they gave me,
so much my own, so intimate with me?
For being alive, for the joy of calm breath,
tell me, who should I bless?
I am the flower, and the gardener as well,
and am not solitary, in earth’s cell.
My living warmth, exhaled, you can see,
on the clear glass of eternity.
A pattern set down,
until now, unknown.
Breath evaporates without trace,
but form no one can deface.
Another poem by Pasternak: Winter Night Violet is this week's Poetry Friday host.