Saturday, November 18, 2017

The cosmic drowning.
A frozen person cannot recognize love.
I, a messenger from the North Pole, can tell you that.
Ice cannot register this softness.
Something must melt.

Painting by Fuyuko Matsui

I do not begin anywhere. I do not end anywhere.
I sit and notice the ice melting where once there was dark.

Euterpe's Gift (Jaclyn Alderete)

I tell you that we are thousands of wave-motions that converge to form what is now being called a "body." Water is the medium of our deliverance.

The core of human life is the inner sea that shapes us.

A Painting by Fuyuko Matsui

No one really knows the immensity of the fluid that pulsates within. What we can do is fully enter...the beckoning pool...and become the fluid, utterly and completely.

Sunyata (Jaclyn Alderete)

(Quotes from Emilie Conrad's Life on Land.)

There is a kind of dancer who can convert the body into a luminous fluidity, surrendering it to the inspiration of the soul. 

--Isadora Duncan
A fragment of a Fuyuko Matsui painting

be silent until the appearance of verses - Maria Sergeevna Petrovykh

(Apologies for technical difficulties, dear Reader.) 

One of my favorite lines from a poem written in 1971 by Maria Petrovykh could be translated as "be silent until the appearance of verses." This line was used as the title of a collection of her poetry which was published posthumously in 1999.

Maria Petrovykh (1908-1979)

There is but one grace in this world -
To give one's self, forgetting, to give
and to be annihilated without a trace.
There is but one path to victory -
To live like running water:
as lightly, as carefree, and as youthful,
for a wave is displaced by another
and abides without struggling,
all as one or always as the other,
and is always life-generating.

Although she was a poet prodigy, who composed her first quatrain at age 6, entered the Yaroslavl Poets Union at age 14, and then moved to Moscow to attend university at age 17, Maria Petrovykh seemed to question her own identity:

With neither Akhmatova's meekness, 
nor Tsvetaeva's ferocity,
At first, because of shyness,
but later, due to old age.

Was it in vain that you lived
for so many years in this place?
Who, after all, who are you?
Answer me from obscurity!

From 1934 onwards, Petrovykh engaged herself in translations of Bulgarian, Yiddish, Lithuanian, Czech, Polish, and, in particular, Armenian poetry. She was known widely as a translator and editor. Anna Akhmatova said of her, "Marusya knows language, like God."

Maria Petrovykh married the musicologist Dmitry Golovachev in 1936, but in 1937, her husband was sentenced to five years in the camps, and she was left alone with a four-month-old daughter. During those years, her family's house burned, her father died, and the second world war began.

When unto the azure skies
you cannot lift your eyes,
to you in answer, despondency,
one word arises: daughter. 

In 1941, Petrovykh was evacuated with her child and a small group of writers to Chistopol. "It was a tragic and wonderful time. It was a time of extraordinary spiritual unity and unity. Everything separating us disappeared. It was a time of deep attention to each other," the poet recalled.

Maria Petrovykh's husband died in a camp in 1942. 

Osip Mandelstam,  who was also a translator, felt that the process of translation drained his skill as a poet, but he praised Petrovykh as a person, saying, "You, Maria, are a helper to the dying."

Anna Akhmatova and Maria Petrovykh

Although Maria Petrovykh was not a classic beauty, Mikhail Landman recalled in his memoirs: "Many fell in love with her. In addition to Mandelstam and Pasternak, Emmanuel Kazakevich, Alexander Tvardovsky and Pavel Antokolsky were fascinated by her at different times .... in a word, she was a woman who elicited strong feelings from many who were in contact with her .... and the reason for this was some elusive inner strength and charm which she possessed, not only of the mind, but of an astonishing childlikeness and severity, openness and restraint."

According to David Samoilov, Maria Petrovykh fell in love, in a literary fashion, with nearly every poet she translated. But in the consensus of those who remember her, the great love of her life was the writer Alexander Fadeev (a controversial and tragic figure, who perished by his own hand). Oy, Marusya .... sigh.  Korney Chukovsky wrote in his diary after Fadeev's suicide, "Conscientious, talented, and sensitive as he was, he was floundering in oozy, putrid mud and drowning his conscience in wine." 
Alexander Fadeev (1901-1956)
I had heard the song below (sung by Elena Frolova, with a guitar solo by Tatiana Aleshina) before, but was unaware that the writer of the lyrics was Maria Petrovykh. This was an unexpected discovery. For some reason, I had assumed Tsvetaeva was the author.

Elena Frolova composed the musical accompaniment. While I listen, I wonder, how does Frolova manage to create such a sensation of both passion and weightlessness? 

My hope is that this perfunctory translation can convey a bit of the flavor of this poet. If you want to feel the poem, however, please listen to the video.  :-) 

Do not seek out my rude confessions,
For they are befitting to my fate.
My lips become parched
from the mere thought of you.

I will give this tribute to you:
a life of embodied supplication,
I lose control of my breathing
from the mere thought of you.

It matters not that my garden was flattened by storms,
that I live, struggling with my very self.
But my eyes are covered with tears
from the mere thought of you.

--Maria Petrovykh

When the wind is out of breath, I retreat to the mother-roots, to the heartwood, through dragon-whispers of darklight to the song of th...

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