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pieces i love: boris pasternak’s “february”

January 7, 2011

February. Get ink, shed tears.
Write of it, sob your heart out, sing,
While torrential slush that roars
Burns in the blackness of the spring.

Go hire a buggy. For six grivnas,
Race through the noice of bells and wheels
To where the ink and all you grieving
Are muffled when the rainshower falls.

To where, like pears burnt black as charcoal,
A myriad rooks, plucked from the trees,
Fall down into the puddles, hurl
Dry sadness deep into the eyes.

Below, the wet black earth shows through,
With sudden cries the wind is pitted,
The more haphazard, the more true
The poetry that sobs its heart out.

© Boris Pasternak

in honor of the julian calendar and christmas today (veselykh sviat), here is a russian poem.

is eastern european poetry starker and more heart-wrenching than any other types of poetry? i don’t think that is something we can distinguish, because something will always be lost in translation. this poem is originally in russian, so there is most certainly something being lost in translation – there always is, with translations. but that doesn’t mean that a translation can’t gain something, as well – a new twist to the words. sometimes a word exists in one language – “saudade”, “duende”, etc – that cannot be completely expressed in another (english). and so the translator has to take liberties, and sometimes those work out very well.

i don’t speak russian very well. (ha ha joking i don’t speak russian at all.) so i can’t tell if this translation works or not with regards to the original poem, but it works for me. “get ink shed tears” isn’t that how the writing process goes? “write of it sob your heart out sing” such simple words but words that break my heart wide open in their honesty.

“the poetry that sobs its heart out” – isn’t that the sort of poetry that we should all be writing? or trying to write? or that we should all be reading? poetry – and prose – they are both supposed to sob their hearts out. the odd diction, the stark language, the slushy slavic greyness – it all works for me.

 

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