Archive for Russian Poetry

I’m in Tbilisi

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 25, 2013 by mikhailych

I’m in Tbilisi

-Yuri Iofe

All damned poets,

Will be able to understand this.

I wander about Tbilisi,

Back and forth,

And gnaw on impressions,

As a dog would on scraps,

And pick subjects,

With readied rhymes.

Everything is strange and new to me,

Incomprehensible and wild,

Even the Eastern sky,

The color of indigo paint,

Blind alleys,

In blinding light,

As winding as letters,

In a Georgian newspaper.

Here, the law is irrelevant,

A European mask!

Now night is falling,

Like an Arabian fairy tale.

And I observe it all,

From bottom to top,

Delirious with rhyme,

I wander about Tbilisi.

In this madness,

All life is crumpled.

But this is something,

That all damn poets will be able to understand.

Tbilisi, 1960

Translated by me.


In commemoration of the 64th anniversary of the end of WWII…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2009 by mikhailych

The First Death

You know,
        There is in our soldierly fate,
That first death, Of a classmate, or a friend…
We waited for the patrol to return, in the muggy hut, 
 We were silent,
       Passing around a lone cigarette butt.
Potatoes roasted in a cast iron pot.
I rolled a cigarette,
       And handed it to my neighbor.
You know,
       We have a rule in the war:
To wait for the patrol’s return,
       And eat dinner together.
“Well, how are the guys doing out there?… 
      “Will they make it back?…”
Each one of us repeated the phrase.
He entered.
        Handed a machine gun off to the sergeant.
                 “Serezha is dead…
                              In the head…
And if you ever, 
        Had friends at the front,
You will understand this truth:
                            I expected him to return,
The way, 
        He did in the forests outside Moscow,
Wrapped in machine gun rounds. 
I waited for him in the morning.
       A snowstorm noisily raged.
                  He has to come.
                                I made breakfast.

But somewhere,
        In the deep,
                   Smolensk snowdrifts,
Lies the frozen body,
        Of my brother-in-arms.
You know,
        There is in our soldierly fate, 
That first death…
        We went around in a circle,
Talking about only one thing,
        Not a word about ourselves,
                 Only about avenging,
                               About avenging, Our friend.

1942 -Semen Gudzenko (Translated by me)

New issue of Sovlit’s Thin Journal is out…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 5, 2009 by mikhailych


Ulbandus 11 – High/low

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2009 by mikhailych


Everyone should check out the newest issue of Ulbandus, Columbia’s Slavic Review:

Oh Kozma Prutkov….and it rhymes!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 2, 2008 by mikhailych


Осень. Скучно. Ветер воет.
Мелкий дождь по окнам льет.
Ум тоскует; сердце ноет;
И душа чего-то ждет.


Autumn. Boredom. The wind whips.
A light rain on the window drips.
My mind longs; my heart whines;
And my soul for something pines.

- Kozma Prutkov (Translated by me)

Berggolts Revisited

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 28, 2008 by mikhailych

Hi all, my previously posted translation of “My Home” has made its way to
Thank you to the folks at Calque for publishing it!

Calque is a great place for poetry in translation in general and I encourage all of you to check them out.

In Memoriam

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 10, 2008 by mikhailych

This entire evening I will,
While suffocating on cigarette smoke,
Be tortured by thoughts of certain people,
Who perished very young,
Who either at sunrise or in the night,
Suddenly and inappropriately,
Died. Leaving unsteady verses unfinished,
Love unfulfilled,
         Stories untold,
                 Endeavors undone…


-Boris Smolensky (Translated by me)


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 1, 2008 by mikhailych

We kissed,
And sang.
We rushed with bayonets.
And in the middle of the charge,
The girl in the rag-tag overcoat,
Fell, and clutched the snow.

I reached our objective!
Yet, along the banks of the Volga, on the steppe,
The girl in the rag-tag overcoat,
Fell, and clutched the snow.

-Iuliia Drunina (Translated by me)


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on August 25, 2008 by mikhailych


There are in Leningrad, aside from the sky and the Neva,
Wide, empty squares, overgrown foliage.
And aside from the statues, and bridges, and dreams of a nation,
And aside from glory, which swells like an unhealed wound,
Glory, which roams the prospects at night,
Virtually unseen, of silver and ashes,
There are rigid eyes and that,
Mysterious muteness,
Those bitterly clenched teeth, those rings around the heart,
That they alone may have spared it from death.
And if you granite, learn from those burning eyes:
They are dry, dry when even a stone weeps.


-Ilya Ehrenburg (Translated by me)

My Home

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2008 by mikhailych

My Home

In the home where I lived many years,
From where I left the winter of the blockade,
A light once again appears in the evening windows.
It is pinkish, festive, elegant.

Glancing at the three windows that used to be mine,
I remember: the war happened here.
Oh how we darkened, without a ray of hope…
And everything darkened, everything darkened in this world…

Afterwards the owner did not knock on the door,
As though he had forgotten the way back to his own apartment.
Where is he now, absent-mindedly roaming?
What is the last place that gave him shelter?

No, I do not know who lives there now,
In these rooms where you and I used to live,
Who, in the evenings, knocks on that very door,
Who left the blue wallpaper as it was,
The very same wallpaper that was chosen so long ago…
I recognized it from outside through the window.

The windows’ inviting comfort,
Awaken memories of such bright, forgotten light,
That I believe that kind people live there,
Good, welcoming people.

There are even little children there,
And someone young, who is perpetually in love,
And the postman only brings them happy news,
And only the truest friends come here for noisy holidays.

I want so dearly for someone to be happy,
There, where I suffered immeasurably.
Possess everything that was denied to me,
And all that I gave up for the war…

However, should such a day arrive,
When the tranquil snow and glimmering twilight,
Will light ablaze my blessed memories,
So vividly that I will not resist knocking on the door,
Coming into my home, standing in my threshold,
And asking…well asking, “What time is it?”
Or “Water,” like I did on those roads of war.
If that happens, do not judge me,
Answer me trustingly and compassionately,
After all, I have come here to my home,
And I remember it all and believe in our happiness.


- Olga Berggolts (Translated by me)


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