Poetry of Politics: Russian Literature

“In our village, folks say God crumbles up the old moon into stars.”

—Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – first published in first published in November 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir (New World)

The book’s publication was an extraordinary event in Soviet literary history since never before had an account of Stalinist repression been openly distributed. The editor of Novy Mir, Aleksandr Tvardovsky, wrote a short introduction for the issue, titled “Instead of a Foreword”, to prepare the journal’s readers for what they were about to experience.

 

Themes: Endurance, Hierarchy & Power, Time as Possession, Importance of Meals

 

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The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems

“In the years before the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Stray Dog Cabaret in St. Petersburg was the haunt of poets, artists and musicians, a place to meet, drink, read, brawl, celebrate and stage performances of all kinds.”

“Nobody knows what silence is.

Silence is words and music

Do nothing, love, don’t ever change.

Change only words to music.”—Osip Mandelstam, Silentium

 

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The Ratcatcher —Marina Tsvetaeva

“Tsvetaeva wrote this extraordinary work, which she subtitled ‘a lyrical satire’, in Prague and Paris in the mid 1920s. Using The Pied Piper of Hamelin, she pits Art against Philistinism in a critique of all social search for material prosperity.

The first really successful attempt to emancipate the language of Russian poetry from the tyranny of Greek, Latin and French…”

 

 

CANTO 4 The Abduction

Tra-la-la…

Over Germany near and far…

Tra-la-lee…

Over garden, pasture and lea,

Over cities charming and clean…

 

Here I go,

Giving praises to music – my Queen.

 

Here today

(Only half of me, never the whole)…

Tra-la-lay…

But tomorrow I’m far away —

So let everyone slander and scold,

 

For there’s nobody, old or young,

Who can hear my song

Without turning a yearning eye

As I wander by,

 

To the other side of all fences! –

‘Catcher of hearts!’ –

To where you are new and your senses

Have never been fathomed or parsed.

 

‘We’ve got used to this life!’ they chime.

Do you call this a life? It’s slime!

 

On the road!

Come on out of your fixed abode!

Cross a bridge!

Come on down from your settled ledge!

 

Says the Piper: To hell with your prudence!

Migrate!

Does a peacock enumerate

The hues of its iridescence?

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