Biography of Andrei Voznesensky
Andrei Andreyevich Voznesensky was a Soviet and Russian poet and writer who had been referred to by Robert Lowell as "one of the greatest living poets in any language." He was one of the "Children of the '60s," a new wave of iconic Russian intellectuals led by the Khrushchev Thaw.
Voznesensky was considered "one of the most daring writers of the Soviet era" but his style often led to regular criticism from his contemporaries and he was once threatened with expulsion by Nikita Khrushchev. He performed poetry readings in front of sold-out stadiums around the world, and was much admired for his skilled delivery. Some of his poetry was translated into English by W. H. Auden. Voznesenky's long-serving mentor and muse was Boris Pasternak, the Nobel Laureate and the author of Doctor Zhivago.
Before his death, he was both critically and popularly proclaimed "a living classic", and "an icon of Soviet intellectuals".
Andrei Voznesensky Poems
My Friend's Light
I'm waiting for my friend. The gate's unlocked. The banisters are lit so he can walk.
Red cows on the asphalt road have settled. Lazing on the asphalt pan they lie. We drive them round for cows are sacred! They are loyal to the highway, we wonder why. 'Old herdsman, we want our question answered: Why have the cows gone mad?' 'God forbid! The point is that flies do not like asphalt.' Those modern cows! The are wise indeed! They got it, the sly ones! Cattle of genius! Unlike the poor, unfortunate flies. 'The flies know that asphalt is carcinogenic.' Those modern flies! They are really wise! Alec Vagapov's translation
Sailor, my dear, my heaven-made spouse! There is one thing that I beg of you, man: Kiss any strangers, and give them your flowers, love many women. But, pray, don't love one. These are the words that I send with my letter, piercing land after land they will moan; stay there as long as you wish, and you'd better love all the countries, but, pray, don't love one. Give me a whistle - when tired of roving. Held in sweet bondage, or about to drown, play with your life as you wish, when you're roaming, but don't ruin ours because it is one. Alec Vagapov's translation
Unshaven and thin, with an angular face He's lain on my mattress for several days. A cast-iron shadow hangs down the stair, the lips, huge and bulging, smuggle and flare. 'Hello, Russian poets, - his voice sounds wistful - shall I give you a razor or, maybe, a pistol? Are you a genius? Disdain all this chaos... Or, p'rhaps, you will say your confessional prayers? Or take a newspaper, clip out a bar and roll self-reproach like you roll a cigar?' Why is he cuddling you when I'm there? Why is he trying my scarf on? How dare? He's squinting at my cigarettes... Oh yes! Keep off me! Keep off! SOS! SOS! Alec Vagapov's translation
Fate is above me. Why should I browse? Sleeping in dosses, an outcast, I rove. Grief is a cellar, that opens in every old house. A ditch is below me and fate is above. What did I want? Well, a life of contentment. What did I get? Just a coffin and wreath... Under the cradle a grave has been latent. Fate is above me, a ditch is beneath. Up in the sky my soul, like a hound, howls, despaired, the trigger to pull it was keen. Fate has come over my family background, and on the earth where fate is my kin. What have I done, apart from the simple poems I've written in passing to date? I've been a lightening conductor for people. Now I have broken my back. Such is fate. Alec Vagapov's translation
I hate you, rubber souls, you seem to stretch to fit any regime. They'll give a yawning smile, stretched wide, and, like an octopus, they'll draw you tight. A rubber man is an elusive rogue: a fist gets sucked into the bog. The rubber editor is scared of script, the author is bogged down in it. A rubber office I used to know where 'yes' was stretched to courteous 'no'. I pity you, elastic crank, as if erased, your past is blank. You have erased many a passion, many a thought, but you were happy and excited, were you not?... Above the waist you are a cowardly man, an ace of spade, and an unlucky one... Alec Vagapov's translation
A BALLAD (THESIS FOR A DOCTOR'S DEGREE)
My doc announced yesterday : 'You may have talent, though it's hidden, your beak, however, is frost-bitten, so stick at home on a cold day'. The nose, eh? As irretrievable as time, conforming to the laws of medicine, your nose, like that of any person, keep growing steadily, with triumph! The noses of celebrities, of guards and ministers of ours grow, snoring restlessly like owls at night, along with plants and trees. They're cool and crooked, resembling bills, they're squeezed in doors, get hurt by boxers, however, our neighbour's noses screw into keyholes, just like drills! (Great Gogol felt by intuition the role they play in man's ambition.) My friend Bukashkin who was boozy dreamed of a nose that grew like crazy: above him, coming like a bore, upsetting pans and chandeliers, a nose was piercing the ceilings and threading floor upon the floor! 'What's that? - he thought, when out of bed. 'A sign of Judgement Day - I said - And the inspection of the debtors!' He was imprisoned on the 30th. Perpetual motion of the nose! It's long, while life is getting shorter. At night on faces, pale as blotter, like a black hawk, or pumping hose, the nose absorbs us, I suppose. They say, the Northern Eskimos kiss one another with the nose It hasn't caught on here, of course. Alec Vagapov's translation
ABUSES AND AWARDS
A poet can't be in disfavour, he needs no awards, no fame. A star has no setting whatever, no black nor a golden frame. A star can't be killed with a stone, or award, or that kind of stuff. He'll bear the blow of a fawner lamenting he's not big enough. What matters is music and fervour, not fame, nor abuse, anyway. World powers are out of favour when poets turn them away. Alec Vagapov's translation
In my land and yours they do hit the hay and sleep the whole night in a similar way. There's the golden Moon with a double shine. It lightens your land and it lightens mine. At the same low price, that is for free, there's the sunrise for you and the sunset for me. The wind is cool at the break of day, it's neither your fault nor mine, anyway. Behind your lies and behind my lies there is pain and love for our Motherlands. I wish in your land and mine some day we'd put all idiots out of the way. Alec Vagapov's translation
I started up the engine and I lingered. Where should I go? The night was fine, I figured. The bonnet trembled like a nervous hound. I shivered. Night lit up the houses around. The Balzac age, I felt its burning pain, Chilled to the bone, I couldn't hold my own. The age of balsam wine mixed with champaign!.. So I looked up, and wound the window down. They were young, two pretty-pretty fellows, wearing fur coats, looking slightly careless. 'You're free, Miss, aren't you ? Care for delight? Five hundred now. One thousand for the night'. I flared up. They took me for a prostitute. My heart was jumping. What an attitude! They want you, you're young, you're a whore! Indignant, I said 'Yes', instead of 'No'. The other one, so 'sweet and pure', swaying his hips, looking aside, said: 'Have you got a friend, as rich as you are? I, too, will take it. A thousand for the night'. The brutes! I thought I'd better vanish! I stepped upon the gas and left the site. My heart, however, jumped for joy and anguish! 'Five hundred now. One thousand for the night'. Alec Vagapov's translation
There is Bukashkin, our neighbor, in underpants of blotting paper, and, like balloons, the Antiworlds hang up above him in the vaults. Up there, like a magic daemon, he smartly rules the Universe, Antibukashkin lies there giving Lollobrigida a caress. The Anti-great-academician has got a blotting paper vision. Long live creative Antiworlds, great fantasy amidst daft words! There are wise men and stupid peasants, there are no trees without deserts. There're Antimen and Antilorries, Antimachines in woods and forests. There's salt of earth, and there's a fake. A falcon dies without a snake. I like my dear critics best. The greatest of them beats the rest for on his shoulders there's no head, he's got an Antihead instead. At night I sleep with windows open and hear the rings of falling stars, From up above skyscrapers drop and, like stalactites, look down on us. High up above me upside down, stuck like a fork into the ground, my nice light-hearted butterfly, my Antiworld, is getting by. I wonder if it's wrong or right that Antiworlds should date at night. Why should they sit there side by side watching TV all through the night? They do not understand a word. It's their last date in this world. They sit and chat for hours, and they will regret it in the end! The two have burning ears and eyes, resembling purple butterflies... ...A lecturer once said to me: 'An Antiworld? It's loonacy!' I'm half asleep, and I would sooner believe than doubt the man's word... My green-eyed kitty, like a tuner, receives the signals of the world. Alec Vagapov's translation
THE PARABOLIC BALLAD
My life, like a rocket, makes a parabola flying in darkness, - no rainbow for traveler. There once lived an artist, red-haired Gauguin, he was a bohemian, a former tradesman. To get to the Louvre from the lanes of Montmartre he circled around as far as Sumatra! He had to abandon the madness of money, the filth of the scholars, the snarl of his honey. The man overcame the terrestrial gravity, The priests, drinking beer, would laugh at his 'vanity': 'A straight line is short, but it is much too simple, He'd better depict beds of roses for people.' And yet, like a rocket, he flew off with ease through winds penetrating his coat and his ears. He didn't fetch up to the Louvre through the door but, like a parabola, pierced the floor! Each gets to the truth with his own parameter a worm finds a crack, man makes a parabola. There once lived a girl in the neighboring house. We studied together, through books we would browse. Why did I leave, moved by devilish powers amidst the equivocal Georgian stars! I'm sorry for making that silly parabola, The shivering shoulders in darkness, why trouble her?... Your rings in the dark Universe were dramatic, and like an antenna, straight and elastic. Meanwhile I'm flying to land here because I hear your earthly and shivering calls. It doesn't come easy with a parabola!.. For wiping prediction, tradition, preamble off Art, History, Love and ÑŽesthetics Prefer to take parabolical paths, as it were! He leaves for Siberia now, on a visit. ..................................... It isn't so long as parabola, is it? Alec Vagapov's translation
In my land and yours they do hit the hay and sleep the whole night in a similar way.
THE PARABOLIC BALLAD
My life, like a rocket, makes a parabola
flying in darkness, - no rainbow for traveler.
There once lived an artist, red-haired Gauguin,
he was a bohemian, a former tradesman.
To get to the Louvre
from the lanes of Montmartre
he circled around
as far as Sumatra!