But As For You, With What Are You Pregnant?: Mid-Century Russian Poetry, 2/2

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The following is the second of two poems I am posting from The New Russian Poets: 1953 to 1966: An Anthology, selected, edited, and translated by George Reavey. I am also including my original photography with the posts.
This is a poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, a man with a story nearly as complex as the 20th century Russian politics in which he was embroiled. As New York Sun journalist Michael Weiss wrote of the poet in 2008,

Bridge Motel in Red n.2, 2007
Bridge Motel room n.1, 2007 (modified Holga)

In truth, Mr. Yevtushenko’s politics have always been a complicated mixture of bravery, populism, and vulgar accommodation with dictatorship. “The writers who had briefly flourished [under Khrushchev’s thaw] … went two different ways,” the great Sovietologist and literary critic Robert Conquest put it in a 1974 profile. “Solzhenitsyn and his like into silenced opposition; Yevtushenko and his like, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes in the hope of still influencing matters a little, into well-rewarded collaboration.”

Yevtushenko died in 2017 at age 83.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

I’ll never forget about Ksiusha,
who looked so like a ninny,
with her squinting eyes,
her pockmarks.
And how was she to blame?
Her blame
lay in her pockmarks,
her squinting eyes,
and the unsightly dresses she wore…

What did she really want of us?
A kindly smile,
a glass of lemonade,
that we print her verse from time to time
and accept her, Ksuisha, as a writer…

In general, we gave her the lemonade,
but as for the kindly smile–
hardly that.
We even paid her an occasional small fee,
but we wouldn’t accept her as a writer,
because our moral guardians
had decided
she wasn’t normal.

who are so revoltingly normal,
are abnormal from birth.
How could you understand that Ksuisha
was full of courage
and pregnant with music?
Thus, our Ksuisha lay in her coffin.
She held her hands clasped on her belly,
as though she were gently protecting
an infant in it…

But as for you,
with what are you pregnant?
With music maybe?
Or merely with the bones of contention?
Why do you brag of denying your bodies,
who are pregnant only with barrenness?
You shall not be forgiven
on poor Ksuisha’s account.
You’ll have to pay
for Ksuisha’s soul.


Bridge Motel in Red n.1, 2007Photos: Bridge Motel Room, n.1 & n.2, 2007.
Taken with Holga 120, modified for 35mm film.
See more here.

Reavey, George, ed. The New Russian Poets: 1953-1966: An Anthology. Comp./Trans. George Reavey. 1st ed. New York: October House Inc., 1966.
Weiss, Michael. “A Citizen of Human Grief.” The New York Sun. 11 Feb. 2008. Web. 22 May 2017.

Citing this page:
Solomon, Alana. “But As For You, With What Are You Pregnant?.” Ortolana Studio & Press. Ortolana Studio & Press, 24 May 2017. Web.

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