Translation Tuesday: Three Contemporary Russian Poets

Work by Evgeny Nikitin, Andrey Tavrov, and Sergei Shestakov—translated by Kat Shapiro

I. Evgeny Nikitin

The candle flame is trembling and in sway

As, catching fire, a moth melts in to kiss her.

My friend stopped writing—he is like a whisper,

A beast that runs his hunter’s way.

Winter is closing in, drawing its shutters.

The timid gas with little azure tongue

Spurts from the burner, lightly stutters,

The dying moth forgotten before long.

My friend, what was he trying to forget?

What kind of pattern were his volumes forming,

As if he shelved them thinking they’d inform me

Of past regrets, all bound up in a set?

The years went by, he kept a stiff facade

As though—tough man—he never practiced penance.

But I could see the blanket of his wings,

And underneath—the trembling antennaes.


II. Andrey Tavrov (from the novel Moth)

Everything is—just crimson roses and pure white angels

Everything is: fences, cafés, the bleak road asphalt and cracks in it,

The auricle of the red-haired machinist girl,

Sideways rusty cast-off processed steam from the locomotive,

Seagull in the sky, warm plumbing—all of that, just roses and angels.

If you would enlarge Natalia’s auricle to the degree that

Everything takes its rightful place,—

You will see in your own spaces, crimson roses and pure white angels—

If you trim a fingernail on your thumb and think deeply about

What must occur to create it,—you will see clearly

Angels in white and roses in crimson

Petals. If you see inside your vein with a sideways glance,

You will note how the queuing of red roses is followed by white angels.

Even the blackest dog—is a strongly concentrated fragment

Of angels, sauntering down a rose-flanked alley.

The very most faraway verdant star—

Is an angel too close by, whom you forgot to adjust to long-distance vision.

Our song seems to you unconvincing,

But convincing is only conscience, love, and truthfulness,

And please believe us, that they also

Consist of pure white angels and crimson roses,

Like a soft kiss, when there is snow outside,

Like lips, when it started snowing at 10 a.m.

And what do these same angels and roses consist of?—

you will ask. Out of the movement of hands —

Not all hands, only the maximally determined.

Not any hand, but that one and only.

Not the one you can see, but the one that cannot be seen.

It belongs to a man in a glove, no more than to a woman in stockings.

It is drawing the silhouette of Lika and the crutch of Chaba.

It is sketching the suit of butterfly-man in the southern skies,

It traces the shoreline and the arcs of the bridge,

Until the day of the dawning of 666.

And then it falls apart into pure white angels and crimson roses,

So that, passing the judgement day of dead little petals,

And dead little angels,

It can reinvigorate its movement.


III. Sergei Shestakov

A time will come when we will choose to seek

A terminal entirely new to travel

Float out across the faded dusty creek

And marvel at our distance from the gravel

And countless stars will be revealed by night

As we are lead along the brow of azure

By faceless guides, the shadowless, the wights,

While fully armoured angels keep us gathered

And in an endless hall we’ll be received

A crystalline interior on a platter

And now you list the failings you perceive

And now I list the ways in which you matter

As though the universe had read our minds

And found a plaything to beguile its hollow

And now you’re saying: death is far behind

And now I’m saying: here’s the light that follows

Here is the place our sorrow and our dreams

The place our springtime sadness will be taken

And put upon the scales so they can deem

In which direction balance might be shaken

And someone’s vivid and forbearing word

Will send a verdict through the heavens primal

“The final stop”, the driver makes it heard

And, stunned awake, we exit at the final.


Kat Shapiro (Ekaterina Chapiro) is a poet and translator studying for her M.A. in poetry and American studies at the University of Copenhagen. She has contributed essays and translations to the Potomac Review, Able Muse, and other outlets.

Evgeniy Nikitin (1981 – ). Lived and worked in Russia and Germany, has worked many jobs, including as television presenter, translator, and curator of literary programs. Became known as a poet around 2002. Published his first poetry book in 2005, and started to publish in literary journals in 2006-7. Is curator over the Moscow Poetry Club funded by the Stella Art Foundation, took part in coordinating the first ever biennial Venetian poetry project. Curates “Art-con-Text”, a poetical series combining contemporary art and poetry. Winner of the “Eureka” prize and the international contest “Lost tramway”, short-listed for the “Ilya prize 2009”. Currently resides in Moscow.

Andrey Tavrov (1948 – ) is a poet, novelist, and journalist. Graduated from the philological faculty at Moscow University. Worked as a journalist and mosaic artist. Author of a radio show dedicated to mythology at “Radio Rossii”, scriptwriter for the television channel “Kultura”. A prolific writer, Tavrov is the author of poetry books close to the materialism movement, Real Time (1989), Theatric (1997), Two silver fish on a red background (1997), Star and butterfly —binary counting (1998), Alpine quintet (1999), Sanctus (2002), Psyhai (2003), Angel of ping-pong balls (2004) and the novels Orpheus and Moth.

Sergey Shestakov (1962 – ). Graduated the mathematics faculty at Moscow University, has subsequently worked as geologist, engineer, and taught advanced mathematics courses. Currently a mathematics teacher, he has been awarded twice for his outstanding teaching abilities. Has written poetry since childhood, and has been published in the journals “Volga”, “Zvezda”, “Znamya”. “Neva”, “Novyj Bereg”, and others. Has published several poetry books, including Poems (1993), Poems (Book 2) (1997), Nepryamaya Rech (2007), Scholii (2011). Currently co-editor of the literary journal “Novyj bereg” in Copenhagen.  Has been awarded the medal “For Merit to the Fatherland, 2nd degree”.

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