Category: Issue 26

Kursk

And the motherland, as always, stands alone,
and she has so many of us, too many….
And if from the depths you look up at her,
you see that, for us, God’s closer than she is.

And we’re not there, where you search for us:
it makes no sense to search our iron coffin—
fulfilling the final order that was given,
we and all our crew ascended to Heaven.

… Such a death, where there aren’t even bones,
such a life, where there’s no spark of hope….
Russia, keep your children safe, or else
you’ll be left in this world all alone.

Those aren’t rivers that flow to the ocean—
what empties now in the ocean is grief.
Look on the map, it will never diminish…
the Barents has become the biggest sea.

*The Kursk submarine was lost in the Barents Sea on August 12, 2000, the result of an onboard explosion. All 118 hands and officers perished as Russia refused all offers of international assistance; evidence was found during recovery of the submarine that at least 24 men survived the explosion and later died of suffocation.

Translated from the Russian by Katherine E. Young

*

Inna Kabysh is the author of eight collections of poetry. Her first collection, Lichnye trudnosti, was awarded the 1996 Pushkin Prize of the Alfred Toepfer Fund (Hamburg, Germany); she has also won the 2005 Anton Delwig Prize; the 2014 Moskovsky schet Prize; the 2016 Anna Akhmatova Prize; and the 2016 Deti Ra Prize. Individual poems have appeared in English translation in Tupelo Quarterly, Trafika Europe, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Subtropics, and many others. A digital chapbook for the iPad, Two Poems, appeared in 2014, while Blue Birds and Red Horses appeared in 2018. Several of Kabysh’s poems have been made into short films by Russian and American directors; many have been set to music.

Katherine E. Young is the author of Day of the Border Guards, 2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize finalist, and two chapbooks. She is the translator of Farewell, Aylis by Azerbaijani political prisoner Akram Aylisli, named one of 2018’s “Eleven Groundbreaking Works” by Words Without Borders, as well as Blue Birds and Red Horses and Two Poems, both by Inna Kabysh. Her translations of Russian-language authors have appeared in Asymptote, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The White Review, The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry, and 100 Poems about Moscow: An Anthology, winner of the 2017 Books of Russia award in Poetry; several of her translations have been made into short films. Young was named a 2015 Hawthornden fellow (Scotland) and a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellow. From 2016–2018 she served as the inaugural poet laureate for Arlington, VA.

“O, Moscow, Tatar sack of gold…”

O, Moscow, Tatar sack of gold:
obedient and cunning,
boyar’s beard, son-of-a-bitch,
matchmaker, drunk in the morning.

Half-tsar, half-khan, half city,
half village, she’s my motley
fool, my boor: cruel, like a beast,
and forever a beauty.

Beloved mother, time-tested friend,
long-armed like your prince,
and like a leech, insatiable:
snap!—and Novgorod’s finished—

snap!—and everything’s hers—Kurils
to Vilnius—she’s gotten fat!—
big shot Peter gave way to her:
damn! mother mine, you cut a wide swath!

Takes every demon at his word—
doesn’t believe in tears:
Magdalene, Katyusha Maslova,
wide open to Heaven. And Earth.

That’s why she’s the capital—
like the pot, communal.
My poor one, my maternity ward,
my madhouse, my table, my own.

… God-given, like summer lightning,
created, like a star,
my own beloved capital city,
my very own golden horde.

Translated from the Russian by Katherine E. Young

*

Inna Kabysh is the author of eight collections of poetry. Her first collection, Lichnye trudnosti, was awarded the 1996 Pushkin Prize of the Alfred Toepfer Fund (Hamburg, Germany); she has also won the 2005 Anton Delwig Prize; the 2014 Moskovsky schet Prize; the 2016 Anna Akhmatova Prize; and the 2016 Deti Ra Prize. Individual poems have appeared in English translation in Tupelo Quarterly, Trafika Europe, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Subtropics, and many others. A digital chapbook for the iPad, Two Poems, appeared in 2014, while Blue Birds and Red Horses appeared in 2018. Several of Kabysh’s poems have been made into short films by Russian and American directors; many have been set to music.

Katherine E. Young is the author of Day of the Border Guards, 2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize finalist, and two chapbooks. She is the translator of Farewell, Aylis by Azerbaijani political prisoner Akram Aylisli, named one of 2018’s “Eleven Groundbreaking Works” by Words Without Borders, as well as Blue Birds and Red Horses and Two Poems, both by Inna Kabysh. Her translations of Russian-language authors have appeared in Asymptote, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The White Review, The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry, and 100 Poems about Moscow: An Anthology, winner of the 2017 Books of Russia award in Poetry; several of her translations have been made into short films. Young was named a 2015 Hawthornden fellow (Scotland) and a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellow. From 2016–2018 she served as the inaugural poet laureate for Arlington, VA.

Mock Execution

The day of my execution was sunny,
like Dostoevsky’s, that bearded gambler,
my mentor at roulette and argument. Like him,
our Petrashevsky circle debated economics
and government and literature. Although,

the day before police hauled me off
was one of laundry and bill paying. Darkness
dripped from overhanging trees like rain,
a slow leaking too distant and soothing
to be death. . . until it was. And that’s what they

luxuriate in, those who sit behind desks,
signing off on the hour of our last breath.
Perhaps I’m the great writer before
he comes to his full powers. Perhaps you are.
Both of us blindfolded, both of us counting

the final minutes, you in Semyonov Square,
me in Columbus Circle, the first three of us lined up
and tied up and guns leveled at them. We could all
taste the metal in our mouths because it was
the taste of fear. And that is what they cherish

in those they govern, those sitting behind desks,
signing orders for the solders’ fingers to settle
onto the triggers, and at the very last, the pardon
coming to save us all, and we shout, “Long live
the President! High may rise his border walls!”

Everyone so grateful, laughing to live,
even to labor for such benevolent powers
who granted us more time, even if we all
live on nothing but rotten food and our children
can’t read and are too thin and too weak to play.

*

Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was long-listed for the Julie Suk Award. His previous collections are The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost and Transcriptions of Daylight. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award for his collection, Living in the Counterpoint. His poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals including The Los Angeles Review, One, The Smart Set, Rattle, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. His poetry has also been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac.

Song

1

The last hour has been scheduled
For a forthcoming night.
You’ll ask, “Couldn’t this be avoided?”
Alas, what can I do, mate?

Before the lights go out,
Be sure to embrace action,
Till pompous speeches start to spout
In every direction.
2

Only memories of childhood
Can hope to cheer us up
Against the bitter orphanhood
That overfills the cup.

Much must be forgotten for
The sake of a new beginning,
So you may live forevermore
And answer for everything.
3

There is no truth of text,
Only the way itself has truth.
Only depending on this or that context
Can we know the right path to choose.

So may you, just as in the past,
Live on in this big world
And meet your death, if die you must,
The way you have deserved.

Translated from the Russian by Philip Nikolayev

*

Born in 1947, Lev Rubinstein was a major figure of Moscow Conceptualism and the unofficial Soviet art scene of the 1970s and 1980s. While working as a librarian, he began using catalogue cards to write sequential texts. He described his “note-card poems,” as a “hybrid genre” that “slides along the edges of genres and, like a small mirror, fleetingly reflects each of them, without identifying with any of them.” His work was circulated through samizdat and underground readings in the “unofficial” art scene of the sixties and seventies, finding wide publication only after the late 1980s. Now among Russia’s most well-known living poets, Rubinstein lives in Moscow and writes cultural criticism for the independent media. His books in English translation include Here I Am (Glas, 2001), Catalogue of Comedic Novelties (UDP, 2004), and Thirty-Five New Pages (UDP, 2011). In Compleat Catalogue of Comedic Novelties (UDP, 2014), his note-card poems appear in their entirety for the first time.

Daughter of Heaven & Earth

1917: Faberge eggs shattered. Dead butterflies

flew out, darkened the sky, petaled 

eyes of imperial statues.

 

The French glaze that had permeated the Russian world,

eroded, scoured all that came before. A pair of
revolutions
dismantled Tsarist autocracy,

 

leading to the rise of the Soviet Union. Born in 1900,

Nabokov entered young adulthood when revolutions

ripped the Tsars into bronze shards.

 

Crushed jewels dusted pores. Red

posters propelled propaganda. Mechanical grimaces

ground poems. Deus ex machina: a new idol—Stalin.

 

Gallic pages crumbled & blew away as the Soviet Union

bled. Nabokov first called forth, Speak, Mnemosyne.

Goddess of memory, mother of Zeus,

 

daughter of Heaven & Earth.

The memoir sprouted into Speak, Memory,

written in English, translated into Russian’s

 

glistering words. Dark ash

fell like black snow.

Bodies burning.

 

*

Dean Kostos is a poet, translator, anthologist, and memoirist. He is the author of eight books. His collection, This Is Not a Skyscraper, won the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, selected by Mark Doty. He was the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Cultural Innovation grant. His memoir, The Boy Who Listened to Paintings, will be released this fall.

Odors

Odors, those varieties of smell,
can be good at swimming. Far they go,
like the bubble, straw and bast-shoe tale,
or the mellow tune of “Suliko.”

Take this eatery. Amid all these
goodies, fruit-starch drink and cottage cheese,
one will sometimes catch a pong of chlorine,
of the morgue, of desiccated pine.

Other times, you come to say goodbye
to a corpse, and smell a sudden whiff,
by the morgue, of baking apple pie,
and the sun shines, and leaf clings to leaf…

Translated from the Russian by Philip Nikolayev

*

Yuli Gugolev is a poet, translator, and television personality born in 1964 in Moscow; TV-host of the foodie-program “Moscow in Your Plate” at the TV-channel Moscow 24, he is the author of four books of poetry: Polnoe: Sobranie sochineniy (Complete: Collected Works; Moscow: OGI, 2000); Komandirovochnye predpisaniya (Official Instructions; Moscow: Novoe izdatelstvo, 2006), which won the Moscow Score prize for 2007; Estestvenniy otbor (Natural selection; Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie,2010; Miy drugoi (Us is the other one), Novoe izdatelstvo, 2019). In 2008, Gugolev was one of three poets invited to give a series of bilingual readings around the United States sponsored by the NEA and the Poetry Foundation in conjunction with the release of Contemporary Russian Poetry: An Anthology from Dalkey Archive Press, (2008).Yuli Gugolev’s poems were also translated and published in Crossing Centuries, Talisman House Publishers, 2000. He has translated poems by Alice Fulton, Tony Hoagland, and A.E. Stallings (Modern American Poetry, an Anthology, Moscow: OGI, 2007),by Tom Paulin (Peashes and Diesel, Six Irish Poets. B.S.G.-PRESS, 2000); and by Patrick Kavanah (Irish Literature in Russian Translation, issue 1, Dublin: Trinity College, 2012).

Questions

Again, the milieu is enraged,
but the food’s taste’s unchanged,
and water’s keen to spew its wrath
without leaving the mouth.

Isn’t there something we could do
in spite of such sad trends,
by joining ranks without ado
with our like-minded friends?

It can be anything at all
our friends and we could do,
join ranks, lock arms and walk awol,
hobo abreast of hobo.

The cage door shuts no matter what,
there’s no more “no,” nor “yes.”
Truthless, the world ends in the twat
of its big universe.

So, what’s the moral? Must we pass,
submissive biomass,
like herds regurgitating grass,
silent into the past

as powerlines stretch in long strands
toward a nowhere night
and overhead a band of clouds
floats perilously bright?

Translated from the Russian by Philip Nikolayev

*

Yuli Gugolev is a poet, translator, and television personality born in 1964 in Moscow; TV-host of the foodie-program “Moscow in Your Plate” at the TV-channel Moscow 24, he is the author of four books of poetry: Polnoe: Sobranie sochineniy (Complete: Collected Works; Moscow: OGI, 2000); Komandirovochnye predpisaniya (Official Instructions; Moscow: Novoe izdatelstvo, 2006), which won the Moscow Score prize for 2007; Estestvenniy otbor (Natural selection; Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie,2010; Miy drugoi (Us is the other one), Novoe izdatelstvo, 2019). In 2008, Gugolev was one of three poets invited to give a series of bilingual readings around the United States sponsored by the NEA and the Poetry Foundation in conjunction with the release of Contemporary Russian Poetry: An Anthology from Dalkey Archive Press, (2008).Yuli Gugolev’s poems were also translated and published in Crossing Centuries, Talisman House Publishers, 2000. He has translated poems by Alice Fulton, Tony Hoagland, and A.E. Stallings (Modern American Poetry, an Anthology, Moscow: OGI, 2007),by Tom Paulin (Peashes and Diesel, Six Irish Poets. B.S.G.-PRESS, 2000); and by Patrick Kavanah (Irish Literature in Russian Translation, issue 1, Dublin: Trinity College, 2012).