Thursday 8 July 2010

Selected Poems from Osip Mandelstam

I admit I picked up this book in a second hand shop with no expectations other than I should read some Mandelstam. I ended up really loving his writing. Osip Mandelstam was born in 1891 and is considered to be one of the great Russian poets of the era. He died in 1938 on his way to a Siberian labour camp.

Mandelstam's poetry is lyrical and thoughtful and in this edition beautifully translated by Clarence Brown and W S Merwin (the new USA poetry Laureate). Most of the poems in this selection are not titled but are given numbers.

There is a very high level of political engagement in Mandelstam's poetry and a strong feeling for nature. Some of his poems draw a picture of a Nature pushed to the margins and almost seem prophetic, for example, 116 talks about the plight of the bees:

For us, all that's left is kisses
tattered as the little bees
that die when they leave the hive.


But lay to your heart my rough gift,
this unlovely dry necklace of dead bees
that once made a sun out of honey.

Osip Mandelstam - Selected Poems translated by Clarence Brown and W S Merwin and published by Penguin


Jasmine said...

Interesting use of metaphor. I think maybe he akins himself to a bee, or that of his communitiees, many who would have been victim to Stalin and the Gulags. I will look for this book, maybe in Russian, and in English. I can't speak Russian anymore, but I can pronounce the words. The language is so beautiful and poetic.

EG CameraGirl said...

How interesting that he uses bees to describe his plight. It seems even more meaningful in this modern world.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

The first three decades of the 20th century seem to have been a wonderful time for poetry. Most of my favorites are from this time period.

Short Poems said...

Beautiful language, creative and poetic!

Deb G said...

I'm going to have to find more of his poetry....