Home > Poetry > Moscow Drizzle
profile/osip-mandelstam.md
Translated from the Russian by Svetlana Lavochkina
Published: Fri Jul 1 2016
Art by Jin Suk.  CLICK HERE for AGNI’s 50th Anniversary Celebration on November 4th!
Moscow Drizzle

Translated from the Russian by Svetlana Lavochkina

 

hands out its sparrow coolness
in such a parsimonious way:
a bit to us, a bit to bushes,
a bit to cherries on the tray.

And in the dark, it starts to simmer—
the frolic of the light tea leaves,
as if an airy anthill banquet
sped in high gear in somber green.

A vineyard of fresh drizzle droplets
moves in the juicy greensward,
as if the wet, duck-footed Moscow
unfurled a chilly orchard!

 

Osip Mandelstam was born into a Polish-Jewish family in what was then the Russian Empire. He became one of the great poets of Russia’s Silver Age, with a keen sense of the melodies of spoken language. By the 1920s, he was shunned by the Soviet establishment for refusing to write in praise of the state. He died in a prison camp in Siberia in 1938; his poetry and prose was preserved by his wife and friends and published in New York in a collected edition in 1955.

Svetlana Lavochkina is a Ukrainian-born novelist and poetry translator residing in Leipzig, Germany. Her work has appeared in Witness, Drunken Boat, Circumference, Eclectica, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She was a winner in the 2013 Paris Literary Prize, run by Shakespeare and Company. Her debut novel, Zap, was shortlisted for the 2015 Tibor & Jones Pageturner Prize. (8/2016)

Osip Mandelstam (1891–1938) was born into a Polish-Jewish family in what was then the Russian Empire. He became one of the great poets of Russia’s Silver Age, with a keen sense of the melodies of spoken language. He published his first book, Stone, before the Russian Revolution of 1917. His poetry was celebrated from early on, even in an era rich with great poets. However, as the aims of socialism crystallized in tyranny, Russia, and Russian writers in particular, came to live under relentless terror. By the 1920s, he was shunned by the Soviet establishment for refusing to write in praise of the state. Few poets escaped premature death, whether by privation, suicide, or judicial murder. He died in a prison camp in Siberia in 1938; his poetry and prose was preserved by his wife and friends and published in New York in a collected edition in 1955. Mandelstam dove deep beneath the bleak surface of his era to reveal both the luminosity of the living past and the all-consuming brutality yet to come.

Svetlana Lavochkina is a Ukrainian-born novelist and poetry translator residing in Leipzig, Germany. Her work has appeared in Witness, Drunken Boat, Circumference, Eclectica, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She was a prize winner in the Paris Literary Prize 2013, run by Shakespeare and Company. Her debut novel, Zap, was shortlisted for Tibor & Jones Pageturner Prize 2015. (updated 8/2016)
Back to top