Tuesday, May 4, 2010


construct & photo 4 may 10, © bob arnold



Once I had a horse —

you could stretch out on him and sleep!

Water could lie on his back

and not a drop spill.

There's no way to still my pain,

half my soul remains in that field!

I say nothing, but beyond the hill like a child

a marten weeps out loud.

My voice is soft as the cuckoo's,

it will be carried off by the wind

and echo long

by the abandoned house.

Mother, you will start sweeping the room,

and remembering me, perhaps,

you will stop short

by the door and burst out crying.

The dancing begins,

and you must light such candles

that all — my girl's — beauty

shall be illuminated.

And at last I fell to my knees

in the middle of the field,

not because I was tired,

but because my soul was burning,

Have other hands touched her? I touch her lightly;

she writhes like a snake (they have touched her),

or she twitters like a swallow

(they haven't).

translated from the Russian by Peter France

Look around and you will find the beautiful books of poetry and dreams by the late Gennady Aygi. New Directions has done us well with GA, as have Zephyr and a few other small press publishers.

Gennady Aygi was born in 1934 in Shaymurzino, a Chuvash village. Chuvash natives are descended from the Huns of Attila. Maybe two million inhabitants have settled near Kazan along the Volga, with even more settlements across river and people with similar looks but different languages and all of this within the Russian Federation. Even with different languages and different religions: the Tatars with Islam/the Chuvash holding to Christianity, intermarriages with the people thrived and amongst this shared peasant culture songs and poems arose. No demarcation.

Gennady Aygi was there to hear these songs and know them, later to collect them. I show a small selection above. He drank all of this, along with Russian Symbolism, the ramparts of Futurism and the modern era, steeped with ancient customs, rural hollow and souls, producing a bristling new poetry for himself.