Sunday, May 25, 2008

Russian poetry: Timur Kibirov

From Book Bench, the New Yorker book blog: The Russian poet Timur Kibirov, whose work could not be published under the Soviet regime, wins the government’s straightforwardly named “Poet” Award, with a prize of fifty thousand dollars.

I've been looking for poems by Kibirov but finding mostly scholarly articles about his poetry. that is so not right I don't trust myself to expand on it. Suffice it to say, as a former denizen of those towers, yet another black mark against the academy.

Cited from Transformation of Kitsch
As civilizations fall, many poets hear the call for the art of memory that would preserve the traces of past life, but in the end few are chosen. Ostensibly a lyric, self-consciously sentimental poet, Kibirov is among the chosen few whose record of Soviet civilization is savoured by the post-Soviet reader.  Every poem in his collection may be used as a basis for a reconstruction of that world, as its clamour continues to resonate in the hearts of its former citizens.  Like a folk ballad or Homer's catalogue of ships, Kibirov’s poems appear telescoped into infinity, with variations piled upon variations, detail upon detail, nostalgically retarding the coda ad infinitum: 
You [Russia] know how to share the last ruble,
How to confiscate it, or to booze it away,
How to drown the great grandchildren
Of your great writers!

You can dance till you drop,
Compose verses till dawn,
And right there and then, tear
A sheet from the same notebook and-look-

You write a denunciation of your neighbor,
Quarrel over the communal garbage pale,
Send Frenchmen into space in a rocket,
Get stoned in the evening subway.

You strike demonstrators with shovels1,
You deride the stubborn Estonians2
And imagine that your cowardly soul
Makes for True Spirituality.

Dekulakized through and through, you weep from pity,
Deprived of Christ, you are busy painting Easter eggs,
You toil like a slave building factories and roads
To save up for a coat for the winter

Let the English fleas keep dancing,
We have no time to shoe them,
On Saturdays, we moonlight,
Can’t keep anything under control.

Oh your every last dive at the town gate,
Your every last coin clutched in the hand,
Your every last gulp of free booze,
Your Lenin lodged in every last head.

With sadness, you avert your eyes from the gallows
Pushkin3 had to cover your shame
1 A reference to the Tbilisi massacre of 1988 when paratroopers attacked with sapper shovels a crowd demonstrating outside the headquarters of the Georgian Communist Party.

2 A reference to the Estonians' stubborn insistence on restoring their independence from the Soviet Union during the last years of perestroika (1989-91).

3 By effecting a new synthesis between the three main ingredients of the Russian literary idiom -- Church Slovanic, Western European borrowings, and the spoken vernacular -- Pushkin created the language of modern Russian poetry. He was the first to use everyday speech in his poetry. His personal life was made difficult by his conflicts with the authorities who disapproved of his liberal views.

From Marijeta Bozovic on Timur Kibirov:
Criticism has yet to adequately catch up with Timur Kibirov’s popularity and significance in late 20th and 21st century Russian poetry. His highly meta-literary lyrics are rife with allusions, ironic quotations, paraphrases, borrowings and responses: the verses call into question accepted notions of canon and “literariness,” pulling apart Soviet, intelligentsia and general “Russian Literature” clichés alike. And yet for all the radical elements and irony in his work, Kibirov consistently demonstrates a profound knowledge of, debt to—and love for—the Russian poetic tradition. 

Bilingual anthology of Russian verse online, From the Ends to the Beginning

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