January 31, 2014

Not where I was heading...

When I sat down to write I had another idea in mind for this post, and then as I started flipping through the rolodex of poems in my mind for some odd reason I started thinking of Dr. Zhivago (the movie).  It may have something to do with the fact that right now Wisconsin feels strangely akin to the frozen wastelands of Pasternak's Siberia.

Any chance we could turn the furnace up just a bit??
Yup, looks like our neighbor's house across the street!
I first saw the movie when I was an impressionable young girl, and fell in love with the beautiful and enigmatic Lara, the wistful Tonya and the impossibly soulful eyes of Yuri.  I have had a lifelong crush on Omar Sharif ever since.  

So I decided to look forward to tomorrow and welcome in February (the shortest winter month--hip hip hooray!) with one of Boris Pasternak's poems.  Problem is, which translation do I use?  I was surprised and fascinated at how different his poem reads and thought you might also enjoy seeing how the poem unfolds in the hands of different translators. So I am offering you a three-for-one and letting you decide for yourself which one speaks to you.  "Sing another song of February"...you can almost hear the plaintive melody of Lara's haunting love theme strummed on the balalaika.  

I fell in love with this beautiful page from The Year in Poetry by Alison Bomber.  You can check out all the poems at the link underneath the picture.  They are so beautiful!

February. Get ink. Weep.

Write the heart out about it. Sing
Another song of February
While raucous slush burns black with spring.

Six grivnas for a buggy ride
Past booming bells, on screaming gears,
Out to a place where rain pours down
Louder than any ink or tears

Where like a flock of charcoal pears,
A thousand blackbirds, ripped awry
From trees to puddles, knock dry grief
Into the deep end of the eye.

A thaw patch blackens underfoot.
The wind is gutted with a scream.
True verses are the most haphazard,
Rhyming the heart out on a theme.

Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Black spring! Pick up your pen, and weeping,
Of February, in sobs and ink,
Write poems, while the slush in thunder
Is burning in the black of spring.

Through clanking wheels, through church bells ringing
A hired cab will take you where
The town has ended, where the showers
Are louder still than ink and tears.

Where rooks, like charred pears, from the branches
In thousands break away, and sweep
Into the melting snow, instilling
Dry sadness into eyes that weep.

Beneath — the earth is black in puddles,
The wind with croaking screeches throbs,
And–the more randomly, the surer
Poems are forming out of sobs.

Lydia Pasternak Slater 

February. Take ink and weep,

write February as you’re sobbing,
while black Spring burns deep
through the slush and throbbing.

Take a cab. For a clutch of copecks,
through bell-towers’ and wheel noise,
go where the rain-storm’s din breaks,
greater than crying or ink employs.

Where rooks in thousands falling,
like charred pears from the skies,
drop down into puddles, bringing
cold grief to the depths of eyes.

Below, the black shows through,
and the wind’s furrowed with cries:
the more freely, the more truly
then, sobbing verse is realised.

Translated by A. S. Kline 


  1. One of my favorite movies of all time. And in particular, I loved that magical frozen scene of the family home in the Ural Mountains.

  2. I don't think I've ever seen this move from start to finish! I also have never seen Gone With The Wind- can you believe it? Have a lovely Valentine's Day :)