!!> Reading ➸ Stolen Air: Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam ➰ Author Osip Mandelstam – Shiningweb.info
This translation sings Some of my favorite excerpts Frogs, all ooze and noise, bellvowelTheir bodies into a single aural oil Faith Better to live alluvial Steppes I might have learned to hearIn any random rotting logA tree release its rings year by slow year Steppes Blossoms rupture and rapture the air,All hover and hammer,Time intensified and time intolerable, sweetness raveling rot.It is now It is not Sorrowdrawl Full range of emotions at play when reading Mandelstam. When Christian Wiman is on, he s on And in this case, he applies his considerable talents as a poet to translating Mandelstam M himself thought translating poetry nearly impossible, and his wife, Nadezhda, speaks to this as well in Hope Against Hope, suggesting that translation is a mere mechanical process of grinding out verse, and that only occasionally can a poet render poetry from another language into poetry in his or her own language The poems in this volume have been judiciously select When Christian Wiman is on, he s on And in this case, he applies his considerable talents as a poet to translating Mandelstam M himself thought translating poetry nearly impossible, and his wife, Nadezhda, speaks to this as well in Hope Against Hope, suggesting that translation is a mere mechanical process of grinding out verse, and that only occasionally can a poet render poetry from another language into poetry in his or her own language The poems in this volume have been judiciously selected Some Mandelstam pieces, IMO, simply cannot be translated well, or at least cannot be translated as great poems in English it s almost worth learning Russian to fully appreciate them And also learning the historical and cultural context to go along with that, because if you re attached to the idea that a piece of work should stand on its own, you lose attachment that when you approach that work in translation If you read through a lot of Mandelstam you ll find that there are certain pieces that translators consistently struggle with Whether it s a line or a stanza, every single attempt comes out differently, and it s not a matter of tweaks And that s only the sense, not even the sound Not to mention Mandelstam s powerful manipulation of images as juxtaposed with sound for example, he might drive you in a few stanzas through ancestors feasts, bloodied bones, cowardly shit, gleaming arctic foxes, wolfhounds hunting you down, pines reaching for stars, and execution All delivered through tight, sing song rhymes and sussurating consonants, as if he were gently whispering all this in your ear But all of the translations of the poem I just described are failures, IMO, and Wiman does not attempt it So, the translations in this collection work well because Wiman has selected the ones he could make a great difference with He s concerned with rendering both the content AND a sense of the sound, even if he doesn t structure the poems the way Mandelstam did, or use end rhymes in the cases where M did You still get feeling for the juxtapositions and some of the primary concerns He does sometimes add phrases that are in line with the meaning but not at all or even suggested in the original, but he includes them to make the lines scan, as they would have in the Russian As in Take from my palms, for joy, for ease,A little honey and a little sun In the Russian there is no sign of the phrase for ease, but it does work better that way in English Much is made of M s love of life and the joy that creeps through despite the despair Even so I would say exposing joy in the darkness is not the legacy of M s life It was to preserve a sense of human scale and the value of human life and, fundamentally what we might define as the golden rule amid Stalinism and the Communist celebration of permanent revolution He searched for and celebrated kindness eventhan joy, I think Perhaps Wiman might have made this clearer Ilya Kaminsky s introduction, BTW, is a lesson in Russian Lit that s not to be missed Sorrowdrawl written while in exile, just under 2 years before dying in the gulag after rearrest he was very sick, shattered by torture and near starvation Shut up to be alone is to be alive,To be a alive is to be a man Even hazied, even queasied by this mansmash hinterland,Lost and locked in the sky s asylum eye.This is my prayer to the airTo which I turn and turn expecting news or ease,Nerves minnowing from shadowhandsToward shadowlands inside of me This is my prayerTo be of and under a human scale sky,To suffer a human scale why, to leaveThis blunt sun, these eternal furrows,For the one country that comes when I close my eyes.From Tristia What rot has reached the very root of usThat we should have no language for our praise What is, was what was, will be again and our whole lives Sweetness lies in these meetings that we recognize.From my favorite of all M s works, My Animal, My Age also sometimes called The Age, or Blood the Builder My animal, my age, who alive can gazeInto those eyes without becoming you Who alone can use, like a kind of sacrificial glue,Word and blood to bind and mend these centuries.Blood the builder brings forth the future.From the garroted throat of this very hour..My animal, my age, ravenous in your cage,What flute might bend the bars, bind the gnarledknees of days, and bring forth a worldOf newness, a world trued to music Inspired by Anne Applebaum s i Gulag, which includes lines from Mandelstam s work, I bought this on a rainy day at the end of March Spring was supposed to be here but wasn t I read a handful of the first poems in the Barnes and Noble, a fewin a bar as I watched Barcelona win a game And then set the book aside while I finished The Man Who Loved Dogs, the new novel by Leonardo Padura that has topics and, in parts, a sensibility similar to Mandelstam s poetry.Mandelstam was a poet before Inspired by Anne Applebaum s iGulag, which includes lines from Mandelstam s work, I bought this on a rainy day at the end of March Spring was supposed to be here but wasn t I read a handful of the first poems in the Barnes and Noble, a fewin a bar as I watched Barcelona win a game And then set the book aside while I finished The Man Who Loved Dogs, the new novel by Leonardo Padura that has topics and, in parts, a sensibility similar to Mandelstam s poetry.Mandelstam was a poet before there was a revolution, before there was a Soviet gulag though a czarist one , and before he was an exile and victim of Stalinism So his poetry isn t so much shaped by these later experiences but a defiant response to it The first poem is from 1910, Cathedral, Empty When light, failing,FallingThrough stained glass,LiquefiesThe long grassAt the feet of Christ,I crawl diabolicalTo the foot of the crossTo sip the infiniteTendernessDistilledFrom destroyedHearts An air of thrivingHopelessnessLike a lone cypressHolding onTo some airlessAnnihilating height The last poem in the selection is And I Was Alive from 1937, a year before his presumed death And I was alive in the blizzard of the blossoming pear,Myself I stood in the storm of the bird cherry tree.It was all leaflife and starshower, unerring, self shattering power,And it was all aimed at me.What is this dire delight flowering fleeing always earth What is being What is truth Blossoms rupture and rapture the air,All hover and hammer,Time intensified and time intolerable, sweetness raveling rot.It is now It is not In one sense Mandelstam, who has many poems that deal directly with Stalinism and the gulag, in the latter poem above gives no ground whatsoever to Stalinism and this potent song of life s short wonder, which makes Mandelstam s life in poetry all theheroic and important And always there is the poetry, whether about life or life under the Soviets I like the tone of green that oceans inAnd the tight rosebuds of wine that bloom in the mind,And the towering, scouring seagull, in whose eyes nothing is lost from Casino, 1912 But who can prophesy in the word good byeThe abyss of loss into which we fall Or what, when the dawn fires burn in the Acropolis,The rooster s rusty clamor means for us Or why, when some new life floods the cut sky,And the barn warm oxen slowly eat each instant,The rooster, harbinger of the one true life,Beats his blazing wings on the city wall from Tristia, 1918 Wave after wave of grave aboriginal green,And then, buds plumped to the point of bursting,And then, again, all the soft detonations of simple spring But not for you, my beautiful, my pitiful,My necrotic, psychotic age.More cruel for the weakness that taunts you,More crippled for the supple animal that haunts you,You stagger on,Staring back at the way you ve taken Mad tracks in a land called Gone from My Animal, My Age, 1923 Odds are I m alive.Odds are, like a jockey gone to slop,There s skip and nimble in me yet,There s a length of neck to stake, and there s cunning,And there s an animal under me runningWhich, if I can hold on, will not stop Easy, boy impatience, too, is candy,And we are sulk soft, silk kneed, mild.Let s take the track early, and pace ourselves,Until all the trapped acids trickle out as sweat,And we take time between our teeth like a bitAnd let fly the wild from Let Fly the Wild, 1931 You have stolen my ocean, my swiftness, my soar,Delivered me to the clutch of unrupturing earth,And for what The mouth still moves though the man cannot You Have Stolen My Ocean, 1935.And finally, Rough Draft, which begins with acknowledged limits but ends with expansive defiance Provisionally, then, and secretive,I speak a truth whose time is not It lives in love and the pain of love,In sweat, and the sky s playful vacancy.A whisper, then, a purgatorial prayer,A testament of one man, in one place Our bright abyss is also and simply happiness,And this expanding, life demanding spaceA lifetime home for us Christian Wiman has done athan admiral job selecting and translating the poems in his afterword, Wiman calls them versions, not translations, faithful in tone, structure and inventiveness see the chronological liberties Wiman takes with this verse in Gown of Iron Father, friend, O my cold counselor, I, lonely prodigal, lopped off limb of the human tree,Do hereby promise to plane the wood that is given me, and to plumb the lines, and to polish the grain of a frameFit for neo Tatars to waterboard our latter kingdom s quislings This was my first reading of Mandelstam but I will readand soon This is my first encounter with Mandelstam and my first encounter with translated poetry of this magnitude collected selected poems of one author in one book Beautiful, humorous and heart wrenching are all words I could use to describe the poems here I remain mystified as to how someone who does not read write speak Russian translated these poems into English Wiman, the translator, actually notes he is careful to call these poems versions of Mandelstam He has tried, and to my non Russian This is my first encounter with Mandelstam and my first encounter with translated poetry of this magnitude collected selected poems of one author in one book Beautiful, humorous and heart wrenching are all words I could use to describe the poems here I remain mystified as to how someone who does not read write speak Russian translated these poems into English Wiman, the translator, actually notes he is careful to call these poems versions of Mandelstam He has tried, and to my non Russian speaking mind, done so with success, to bring out Mandelstam s musicality from the transliterated originals he was working with Whether Mandelstam would have used these exact words that Wiman has chosen, they are beautiful works of art with words Mandelstam was, as Wiman says, a model for not only how to be a poet, but for how to be alive So glad I read this, and gave it only 4 stars because I m still hung up on this issue of translation Wishing I read Russian so I could experience this renowned poet in the original.The introducation is really valuable and the translator s note at the end is as well both contribute to an understanding of the creative genius if I may use the phrase that was Mandelstam His voice shifts from humor to heartbreak and his ideas and style really shine here Some of the most moving poetry I have read Breathtaking. To translate, or to emulate It s a vogueish question, with respondents increasingly filling the latter pool After War Music, it seems silly to put forthprosaic translations, with approximated enjambments and swapping out one language for another as though it could be done with a thesaurus Today, an errant version of a poem can be forgiven if it captures the poem s quintessence while imitating its melopoeia This book even compares itself to War Music in the translator s afterword So i To translate, or to emulate It s a vogueish question, with respondents increasingly filling the latter pool After War Music, it seems silly to put forthprosaic translations, with approximated enjambments and swapping out one language for another as though it could be done with a thesaurus Today, an errant version of a poem can be forgiven if it captures the poem s quintessence while imitating its melopoeia This book even compares itself to War Music in the translator s afterword So it goes with this version of Osip Mandelstam s poetry, translated by Christian Wiman After a second reading, I got the feeling I was at times reading Wimanthan M, and so I supplemented my third reading with thestraightforward translations available online That said, I don t want to sing the praises of literal translations, nor do I want to slight versions Give a student War Music, for example, and s he won t know shit about Homer on the other hand, present a student with a prose translation of Homer and you re going to ruin the poem There has to be a balance And readers need context in order to venture out from the translations and into the versions of foreign language poets Fortunately for readers who know zilch about Russian i.e me , slim book comes with a nifty introduction that orients readers in M s voice There s even an afterword by Wiman explaining his translation method First things first Ilya Kaminski s introduction is so filmic, so electric that it alone justifies the book s existence He introduces M with an urgency one might find in a Frank Miller comic I ve never encountered an introduction quite like it it can be downright silly in its playfulness And what Russian poetry was before Pushkin Darkness And one can almost hear the clatter of a typewriter or the ding of the ribbon as Kaminsky breaks paragraphs with sentences like 1919 Kiev He marries Nadezha Clocking in at 42 pages, Kaminski s intro comprises one third of this book, and could not serve as a better warm up act for some poetry.Kaminsky says M s voice was mutable, shifting as M went from youth into exile These poems are accordingly trifurcated into Early Poems , The Moscow Notebooks , and the Voronezh Notebooks It sounds obvious to say, but this is very helpful without the dates, it would be impossible to parse which era each poem comes from And that s my chief gripe with this book Wiman translates each poem in a different voice Does this contradict the introduction, which argues that M s voice evolved with time Or does this reflect the Russian itself Did M wake up with a different voice each day.Example Three poems from the 1910s, though technically all Early Poems , shift registers Consider Hard Night the Homer poem Wiman translates the birds above Troy as the sun flecked, god picked wings glinting spray , which is distinctly the voice of Gerard Manley Hopkins The poem takes a turn into Heaney The singer and the sea, all things are moved by love before concluding with the voice of Larkin And a wall of silence, eerily eloquent, Breaks like a black wave above my bed The next poem in the collection, Tristia , sounds like a necromancer has reawakened Emily Dickinson There is, I know, a science of separation If you just heard, After a great pain, a formal feeling comes , then I m with you And I think Wiman is, too He s a master at picking and choosing from the Anglophonic canon Ezra Pound and T.S Eliot have both stated how important rhythm is to a poet that rhythm should come into the poet s mind before words and Wiman has a deft ear for that That he can pull from Donne and H.D., then blend Rich and Larkin all the while earning the stamp of approval from Kaminsky is remarkable it s also something only the editor of a noteworthy poetry magazine could do It s impossible not to hear Larkin in closing lines of CasinoI like the cakelike casino on the dunes,And how the strict fingers of skeletal lightCome alive on the baize, and the view, vast as a mist So, there s an added bonus We get to read Mandelstam ish and also play a guessing game whom was Wiman conjuring when he translated this poem But forget about all of that for a moment, because one could flip to any page of this collection and hear something serene Here I ll do it myself right now Let me flip to a random page Half cocked blacksmith, he lifts from hell s hottest forgeHis latest law and with it brands a breast, a groin, a brainWhat remarkable rhythm the symmetry of vowels in half cocked blacksmith , the pants of h sounds in he lifts from hell s hottest forge , followed by the tongue flicking l sounds of latest laws Yes, it s no wonder that somewhere in the Russian this poem We Live pissed off Stalin so much that it sent Mandelstam into prison, then exile, and death A New Selection And Translation Of The Work Of Osip Mandelstam, Perhaps The Most Important Russian Poet Of The Twentieth Century.Political Nonconformist Osip Mandelstam S Opposition To Stalin S Totalitarian Government Made Him A Target Of The Communist State The Public Recitation Of His 1933 Poem Known In English As The Stalin Epigram Led To His Arrest, Exile, And Eventual Imprisonment In A Siberian Transit Camp, Where He Died, Presumably In 1938 Mandelstam S Work, Much Of It Written Under Extreme Duress, Is An Extraordinary Testament To The Enduring Power Of Art In The Face Of Oppression And Terror Stolen Air Spans Mandelstam S Entire Poetic Career, From His Early Highly Formal Poems In Which He Reacted Against Russian Symbolism To The Poems Of Anguish And Defiant Abundance Written In Exile, When Mandelstam Became A Truly Great Poet Aside From The Famous Early Poems, Which Have A Sharp New Vitality In Wiman S Versions, Stolen Air Includes Large Selections From The Moscow Notebooks And The Voronezh Notebooks.Going Beyond Previous Translators Who Did Not Try To Reproduce Mandelstam S Music, Christian Wiman Has Captured In English For The First Time Something Of Mandelstam S Enticing, Turbulent, And Utterly Heartbreaking Sounds. This book is unfathomably brilliant If you are reading this review, I hope you re reading to hear someone else gush about it.For context Osip Mandelstman wrote during the reign of Stallin Mandelstam wrote a poem Stallin s Epigraph where he calls Stalin a parasite of power Soviet party members shun him Mandelstam goes broke He asks about the Writers Guild about the price of a coffin Why Mandelstam didn t care they could bury him in the ground he was hungry Eventually Stallin has enough This book is unfathomably brilliant If you are reading this review, I hope you re reading to hear someone else gush about it.For context Osip Mandelstman wrote during the reign of Stallin Mandelstam wrote a poem Stallin s Epigraph where he calls Stalin a parasite of power Soviet party members shun him Mandelstam goes broke He asks about the Writers Guild about the price of a coffin Why Mandelstam didn t care they could bury him in the ground he was hungry Eventually Stallin has enough and Osip gets sent to a forced labor camp to die Stallin starts burning his poems Nadezhda Mandelstam, Osip s partner, starts memorizing everything he ever wrote Everything we have is because Nadezhda memorized it.The poetry itself is stunning, Christian Wiman got this one write My favorite poem begins Fuck, this sulk, these pansy stanzas tickling doom Another translation of the same line begins That s enough of this sulking, shove the papers in the desk Wiman turned me into a devotee of Mandelstam, there is so much beauty You can t untie a boat unmoared, fur shod shadows can t be heard nor terror in this life, mastered IDK what to say, humanity would be better if we all read this collection, beautiful, electric and unapolgetically alive Mandelstam s voice rings beyond the grave I may be a poet, but i have difficulty reading poetry The poems here are good, if not earth shatteringly so, the shorter pieces, i believe, being the most effective I am always uneasy about reading poetry in translation, and i feel this translation feels to haveflourish than substance of course, that is just a feeling i get, not being a speaker of Russian, or any Slavic language Only in the shorter poems do i really feel the artist coming through.