Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book: Russian Poets by Everyman's Library

Poetry is not something I know about. Russian poetry, well this is an alien land altogether. "Russian Poets" has proved a great introduction to this world. The tidy volume is packed with a vast array of poems by the Russian greats. Being new to this cultural corner, I am ignorant of the poet's lives or the political backdrop, or indeed the historical events that gave birth and context to many of the lines, and so cannot provide an informed opinion nor extract full value from the works. Nevertheless, this untrained eye did find a good clutch of poems that struck a chord. Some poems, however, remained a complete mystery.

I must also heap praise on Everyman's Library for producing such lovely books. They use fine paper, sewn cloth bindings, and employ a very pleasing typeface. The books are so aesthetically attractive that their form makes you want to pick them up and start reading.

I will post my favourite poems in full over the next week (consider it Russian poetry week!). They are:

Never by Afansy Fet
I and You by Nikolai Gumilev
The Poet by Mikhail Lermontov
To a Poet by Alexander Pushkin
Arion by Alexander Pushkin
I've dissolved for you, in that glass over there' by Marina Tsvetayev 
The Beggar by Fyodor Tyutchev
Siletium! by Fyodor Tyutchev
I Have Outlived Most Things and People Round Me by Peter Vyazemsky

My favourite poem of no meaning to me was "The Dostoyology of Racing Clouds" by Velimir Khlebnikov:

The Dostoyology of racing clouds! 

The Dostoyology of racing clouds! 
Pushkincandescence of noon! 
Night resembles Tiutchev, 
filling the unfathomable full of the unknown.

However, upon revisiting the poem, I see what Khlebnikov was doing. Pushkin and Tiutchev are grand masters of Russian poetry. Fyodor Dostoyevsky I knew already. Together, they make the world.

****  Enjoyable in parts. More importantly, "Russian Poets" succeeded as a gateway book into realms unknown., sparking to life one of the dormant sleeping interests.

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