Description By Lyn Hejinian, Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, Elena Balashova
January, 1990 | English | ISBN-10: 1557130752 | 135 pages | PDF | 1.55 MB
While visiting Riga, Latvia in November 1989, I asked a young Latvian poet who were his major poetic influences. Without hesitation he answered that he was most influenced by the European-style poetry of Soviet poet Arkadii Dragomoschenko. The answer is extraordinary when one thinks that at the time Dragomoschenko had not yet published a book in the Soviet Union and that only a year earlier he had been working as a coal stoker. But Dragomoschenko's writing had appeared in several magazines and in samisdat publications, and his reputation had already been established as early as 1983, when American poet Lyn Hejinian, traveling with the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, had been introduced to Dragomoschenko who was described as a new poetic force in Soviet writing.
The creative collaboration between poet and translator that followed as represented in these brilliant pages of poetry is, as Michael Molnar describes it, "a movement up and down the registers of discourse and across genres" in a poetry as different from traditional Russian poets and the Soviet modernists such as Yvgeney Yevtushenko and Andrei Voznesenky as the American "Language" poets are from Robert Lowell or "the Beats."
With other contemporary Soviet poets such as Aleksei Parshchikov and Ivan Zhdanov, Dragomoschenko's poetry represents a radical transformation in contemporary Soviet writing that challenges the poetic art in the same way the Futurists linguistically and socially challenged early Twentieth century art.
The verse collection Description is the product of a threefold collaboration involving the ultramodern Soviet poet from Leningrad, Arkadii Dragomoschenko (b. 1946), and two translators, his friend Lyn Hejinian, an American poet, and Elena Balashova, a native Russian speaker living in California. Michael Molnar, who wrote the introduction that precedes Dragomoschenko's preface, attempts to dispel any doubts one might have concerning the value of this method of translation, particularly in the absence of an accompanying Russian text, by praising the translators' work as "meticulous" and "inspired" and calling upon American readers to accept these versions as "American poems."
The book is divided into six sections or groups of poems: "Summa Elegia," "The Islands of Sirens," "Footnotes," "Accidia," "Nasturtium as Reality," and "Kondratii Teotokopulos at the Cross Roads Awaiting a Guest." Some of the poems first appeared in Nebo sootvetstvii (Sky of Correspondences), the only collection of Dragomoschenko's work to be published thus far in the Soviet Union. Two poems are dedicated to Hejinian and one to Molnar. "Summa Elegia" is subdivided into elegies with various titles. Some poems are interspersed with passages of prose poetry, and "Accidia" has a highly subjective "note" from the poet.
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