Last month, while I was in Ekaterinburg, I had the pleasure of meeting the poet Evgenie Kasimov. Marianne and I spent an afternoon in his flat, talking about life and literature. He also read one of his poems, titled either "Ghost City" or "Ghost Town," depending on how you translate it.
Above is Evgenie, reading the poem in Russian. I have no Russian at all, but he is a great reader, one of the best I've heard, and something of the poem comes through. When I told him how much I admire his reading, he recited from memory one of Mayakovsky's poems. Mayakovsky was an admirable man and a tragic figure, killed by the very regime he believed in and supported. Hearing Kasimov recite the poem made me aware of how much I miss out on being monolingual.
The video is made public by Evgenie Kasimov's express permission. Here's a translation of the poem, courtesy of the multi-brilliant Eileen Gunn:
from the series “Ghost Town”Silver smog! I sing this soot and emerald smoke!
Pearl-grey mist and the carcasses of trees.
A lonely skyscraper stands, like the king of clubs,
A dull fish speared on a silver trident.
Madly, bravely, I sing the municipal granite!
And at the same time I sing that clear, affectionate word, “Ovsyen."
George, with a golden spear, defeats a crooked snake .
Bitter air collects on the mountains, and then vanishes.And now into the fray rushes Superman in faded tights --
In an invisible flying lounge-chair pestering the sky.
I sing the oily blue waves of the Iset River!
Their heavy, iridescent light quietly gladdens my soul.
A malachite, jasper city in a magical benzene ring!
We are all pale children of the dragon, sleeping in dark sheds.
Through the asphalt and concrete drives a thin falsetto.
Rubies light up the TV tower. And, in the sky, it’s warm.
September 11, 2005Evgeny Kasimov
Extra points to those who can spot the line that made him think I'd like to hear this poem in particular.