Guest poem submitted by Uma Raman:
(Poem #557) Parabolic Balad
Among a parabola life like a rocket flies, Mainly in darkness, now and then on a rainbow, Red-headed bohemian Gauguin the painter Started out life as a prosperous stockbroker. In order to get to the Louvre from Montmartre He made a detour all through Java, Sumatra, Tahiti, the Isles of Marquesas. With levity He took off in flight from the madness of money, The cackle of women, the frowst of academies, Overpowered the force of terrestrial gravity. The high priests drank their porter and kept up their jabbering: 'Straight lines are shorter, less steep than parabolas. It's more proper to copy the heavenly mansions.' He rose like a howling rocket, insulting them, With a gale that tore off the tails of their frock-coats. So he didn't steal into the Louvre by the front door But on a parabola smashed through the ceiling. In finding their truths lives vary in daring: Worms come through holes and bold men on parabolas. There was once a girl who lived in my neighbourhood. We went to school, took exams simultaneously. But I took off with a bang, I went whizzing Through the prosperous double-faced stars of Tiflis. Forgive me for this idiotic parabola Cold shoulders in a pitch dark vestibule... Rigid, erect as a radio antenna-rod Sending its call-sign out through the freezing Dark of the universe, how you rang out to me, An undoubtable signal, an earthly stand-by From whom I might get my flight-bearings to land by The parabola does not come to us easily. Laughing at law with its warnings and paragraphs Art, love and history race along recklessly Over a parabolic trajectory. He is leaving tonight for Siberia. Perhaps A straight line after all is the shorter one actually.
tr. W.H. Auden. I found this marvellous poet in a slender anthology of post-Stalin Russian writing called Half-way to the Moon edited by Patricia Blake and Max Hayward and published in the US, by Holt, Rinehart and Winstein in 1964. It was nestled among other half-forgotten books donated by some kind soul to a hospital ward. The dark and dusty cupboards of hospital wards are veritable buried treasure to the single-minded ferreter and lover of second-hand volumes. It helps to be a doctor and inhabit those nether regions. I rescued Voznesensky and brought him and his companions home. They have kept me frequent and excellent company for more than 20 years now. At the back of the anthology, in the section on Notes on Authors, Andrei Voznesensky is listed tersely as 'the best of the post-Stalinist generation of poets. He was born in Moscow in 1933. He attended the Moscow Architectural Institute in 1957, and published his first poems in 1958.' The longer and more evocative Introduction by Ms. Blake fleshes this skeleton to life. He was Russia's first modern poet, who flowered in the the thaw after Stalin's three decades of repression. He was Pasternak's devoted disciple and stayed with the Master until his death. He was an accomplished and sophisticated technician who constructed his verse of assonances, rhymes and puns that served his intention rather as a brilliant orchestration serves a central musical idea. "Form isn't what counts", he says. "Form must be clear, unfathomable,disquieting, like the sky in which only the radar can sense the presence of a plane." Most characteristic of his idiom are the abrupt shifts in tone and intention within the same poem, he is tender jocular mocking and finally compellingly ironic. A very compelling poet and performer, he electrified the Russians of his time and had a tremendous following. The translation renders the Russian into a powerful English poem. Through Auden, Voznesensky speaks to a wider audience and now he and other fine non-English speaking and writing poets need to be introduced to the world wide web. Uma.