Thursday, January 06, 2005

Getting into Russian Poetry

I think I'm starting to get into Russian poetry, or at least more generally, eastern European poetry. The seed was first planted when I happened upon Balaklava, an online collection of Russian absurdist poems in translation--sadly, it is no longer, or at least I can't find any link into it that isn't broken. That is where I was introduced to poets Alexei Parshchikov and Oleg Grigoriev and from where a relationship began with poet/translators Wayne Chambliss, Brandon Downing and Eugene Ostashevsky (the latter two though were already known: Brandon from The Shirt Weapon, and Eugene from some poems of his in Fence). More recently I've started to drool over the catalogue over at Ugly Duckling Presse (thank you P for buying m a subscription!). Matvei Yankelevich heads up its Eastern European Poetry Series which is brilliant. And upon my asking a few months back, they sent me a copy of Dmitri Prigov's Fifty Drops of Blood translated by Christopher Mattison and Charlie Foos' Bending Spoons. I reviewed the Foos, which I truly enjoyed, for Octopus #4, but chose not to review Moscow's own Prigov because I couldn't quite wrap my little head around it--and still can't. It's heavy stuff, but remarkably easy to read. It's a ways beyond me I think and I don't quite have the words to do it justice. So I chose not bring it down to my level with my own words. Most recently, Matvei has sent me some of his translations of the late Russian poet/playwright Daniil Kharms (1905-1942) which I'm so anxious to show you in Octopus #5. And it looks like there may be a possibility of some Boris Poplavsky.

When I return to PhD school, I'll have to learn two foreign languages as part of the program. One will most certainly be Russian. I know not one word currently, but am fascinated by the sound of it, the way it looks, particularly on propaganda posters, and the way it sits on the opposite page in translated works like Fifty Drops of Blood. I want to be able to read that, maybe even translate an easy little poem. And I think I'll want one of those Bolshevik snow hats to do it in. I'll wear it to class on test days, and I'll do all of my best translating in it--the hat and maybe long underwear.

No comments: