23 June 2015

Strolling with Gandlevsky / Прогулки с Гандлевским

Sergei Gandlevsky / Сергей Гандлевский (Photo: Dana Sideros)

Strolling with Gandlevsky

Sergei, I recall your Tartar-style yard,
threading back from the Yakimanka,
and your little white boxer lifting his paw
to the old farewell march, the ‘Slavyanka’.

The April-time blah blended in with the brass,
the corpulent tubes blew their noses,
as if we had managed to make a sly pass
into 1913, from those closed-in

Tartar back yards, and rear-entrance ways,
with wind licking over the ice skim,
past trashcan cats with vigilant gaze —
then we waved down a lift (unofficial),

bowled bold through the puddles to Trubnaya Place,
at an inn left a bottle much dryer,
and set free some birds, from one rouble apiece,
and higher, and higher, and higher.

From Sisyphus Redux (2000)

Translator's Notes:

Sergei Gandlevsky (b. Moscow, 1952), the eminent Russian poet. See A Kindred Orphanhood, Translated from the Russian by Philip Metres, Brookline: Zephyr Press, 2003, with a preface by Lev Loseff, ‘Fathoming Gandlevsky’; and Trepanation of the Skull, translated by Susanne Fusso, DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press. 2014. Gandlevsky is the author of one of the most insightful essays on Losev’s poetry, ‘Nezhestokii talant’, in Lev Losev, Stikhi, St Petersburg: Ivan Limbakh, 2012, 5-10.

Yakimanka: a street in central Moscow just south of the river from which the surrounding area takes its name, historically associated with residents of Tartar origin.

The ‘Slavyanka’: original title ‘The Slavic Girl’s Farewell’, a march written in 1912 by the military bandsman Vasilii Agapkin with words about soldiers going off to war; it has remained popular ever since. Hear it here.

Trubnaya Place: a square in north-central Moscow, under which the river Neglinnaya is channelled in a ‘tube’ (truba); hence the name, which here echoes the ‘tubes’ of the military band in stanza 2. From the 1840s to 1924 this square was the site of the ‘bird market’; there was a folk custom of buying a bird here on the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March/7 April), and setting it free.

The translator is deeply grateful to Olga Sventsitskaia for her expert advice about this poem.

(Translation © 2015 G.S. Smith)

Lev Loseff at the Gandlevsky home, Moscow, 1998 / Лев Лосев в гостях у Гандлевских, Москва, 1998 г.
(Photo: G.F. Komarov / Фото Г. Ф. Комарова)

Прогулки с Гандлевским

Сергей, я запомнил татaрский Ваш двор,
извилистый путь с Якиманки
и как облегчался Ваш белый боксер
под звуки «Прощанья славянки».

Так с медью мешался апрельская муть,
так толстые трубы сопели,
как будто в тринадцатый год улизнуть
мы с Вами в апреле сумели —

с татарских задворок, от черных ходов,
где ветром облизана наледь,
под пристальным взглядом помойных котов
удрать, леваку посигналить

и, лихо по лужам к Трубе подруля,
в трактире пузырь раздавивши,
мы птиц выпускали — ценой от рубля
и выше, и выше, и выше.

02 June 2015

Sky-High Sonnet / Сонет в самолёте

Sky-High Sonnet

Each fear you feel flares up a hundredfold.
Those howling turbos. Tender stench of vomit.
And God knows what... He actually does behold
what’s nightly packed into an aircraft’s stomach.

Each place is taken (bingo card’s been filled),
and everybody makes you think of something,
or rather, nothing — outer layer flown,
they look a bit like linings from their clothing.

Lo! Prophet, I foresaw and did indite,
and portents did appear in heaven’s height.
We’re beddie-byes in stinky murk up here,

while boeings fly around like garbage tubs,
and clouds worry each other, mongrel pups
atop a dumpsite for fear, fear, fear, fear.

[From Новые сведения о Карле и Кларе (New Information concerning Karl and Klara), 1996]

(© 2015 G.S.Smith)

Read Walter Arndt's 1993 translation of this poem HERE.

Сонет в самолёте 

Отдельный  страх, помноженный на сто. 
Ревут турбины. Нежно  пахнет рвота. 
Бог знает что... Уж Он-то знает, что 
набито ночью в бочку самолета.

Места заполнены, как карточки лото, 
и каждый пассажир  похож на что-то, 
вернее, ни на что — без коверкота 
все как начинка собственных пальто.  

Яко пророк провидех и писах, 
явились знамения в небесах. 
Пока мы баиньки в вонючем полумраке, 

летают боинги, как мусорные баки, 
и облака грызутся, как собаки 
на свалке, где кругом страх, страх, страх, страх.