By popular demand (well, a couple of comments), herewith two more Prigov poems with my translations. The first is a parody of a Pushkin poem (“The Black Shawl”) unknown to English-speaking readers; I’ve taken the liberty of making it instead a parody of Keats.

Когда я в Калуге по случаю был
Одну калужанку я там полюбил

Была в ней большая народная сила
Меня на руках она часто носила

А что я? – москвич я, я хрупок и мал
Однажды в сердцах я ей вот что сказал

Мужчина ведь мужественней и сильней
Быть должен – на том и рассталися с ней

I met a fair Kaluga maid
As in Kaluga I did dwell
Alone and palely loitering –
I loved her well.

She took me in her well-thewed arms
And carried me as I were light,
For she was of the people, with
The people’s might.

But I, I came from Moscow town
And I was puny, small and weak
And I was wroth and full of rage
And thus did speak:

“A man must be the manlier
The stronger of a loving pair –
Farewell.” I went my lonely way
And left her there.

And here’s another, perhaps more serious:

Висит на небе ворон-птица
А под землей лежит мертвец
Они друг другу смотрят в лица
Они друг друга видят сквозь
Все, что ни есть посередине
О ты, земля моя родная!
Меня ты держишь здесь певцом
Меж вороном и мертвецом

A raven’s hanging in the sky
And underground there lies a corpse
They look each other in the eye
They see each other through the ruck
Of everything that’s in between
O you, my own, my native land!
You make me hold a poet’s course
Between a raven and a corpse.


  1. Your translations are excellent indeed. It’s sad news, but thank you for the information and the poetry.

  2. That was quick with the Keats variation.
    I’ll buy the book. I think these translations are poetry that could sell.

  3. I think, as MM does, that a book proposal can and should come out of this.

  4. Oh man! What a loser!
    He should stay with the big girl!
    You ain’t lived ’til you had amazon!

  5. John Emerson says

    Steve, Publishing your stuff on Lulu would be a breeze. You’re copy editor, for Chrissake.
    The second poem seems like a take on something by Musorgsky, which was based on an anti-war painting which was destroyed by the artist for fear of the police.

  6. i ran into your blog from a comment you made over at Jonathon Delacour’s blog about “Two or Three Things I Know About Her”. I just wanted to let you know that there’s a new print that was recently released, I saw it at an art theatre in Columbus, OH. Thought you’d like to know.

  7. Nthing the call to publish. You know you want to.

  8. 1) Very nice writing (I can’t really say ‘translation’ as I’ve not the slightest knowledge of Russian reading).
    2) You mention “…English-speaking readers”. As an ESL/EFL teacher, I immediately thought, “Speaking and reading are 2 very different skills. Fluency in one doesn’t abrogate fluency in the other, nor are they inseparable.” Point being, didn’t you mean to say “non-Russian/monolingual English readers”. Being rather pedantic I know, but that’s why we’re here, no?
    3) You’re translations make me wish I could understand Russian.
    4) Has anyone else wondered why, in English, the term for a nation’s language, and a citizen of that nation, are the same? e.g. Russian, German, Japanese, Chinese, and the list continues. Exceptions normally being where the language doesn’t originate in the country, e.g. Australia, USA (though the debate rages on…), India, Finland, et al.

  9. It is complicated.
    It is usual for the adjective to correspond to the name of the language. Presumably because French is the French language. Other languages do the same thing, some making the noun be the same gender as the word ‘language’.
    Whether the adjective refers to a nation is almost entirely politics and demographics.
    Whether the adjective is the same as the noun for a person varies. Italian, German, Swede, Dane, Frenchman, Spaniard. Whether the noun is ordinarily countable (Russians, Arabs, ?Japanese), or only a group with the definite article (the Dutch, the Irish, the Chinese) varies.
    Whether the noun is still acceptable in polite speech varies. Chinaman is racist. Dutchman is sexist. All the -ese seem to be moving toward being definite. Icelander seems to just barely be holding on. But German and Italian seem fine.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if there are style guides that call for the total elimination of national nouns in favor of adjectives, just to be safe. “Russians vote on Sunday” becomes “Russian voters go to the polls on Sunday.”

  10. Far off topic, but awhile back we had a thread which drifted into millinery and women’s hats. I just found the link to a story about Minneapolis’s last hat shop, a family business which closed after 69 years when the 80-year olf propriter had an auto accident.
    A different story (not on the internet) gave a clue as to the store’s survival: two of her most faithful customers, the Vangstad twins, died recently at the age of about 104.

  11. John Emerson says

    “-old proprietor”

  12. Siska Flips says

    Didn’t want to make the meat and it was tough on the eye with grilling things lost–will try to get ahold of you in the morning.

Speak Your Mind