March 5, 2013

National Translation Month: Four translations from the Russian by Alex Cigale

Alex Cigale translates for NTM

We had a blast during National Translation Month! Here are the parting shots: four very short poems by lesser known Russian Silver Age Futurists poets (Kamensky, Severyanin, Aseev, and Gnedov) translated by Alex Cigale. 2013 marks the centennial of the Russian Futurist movement,  a phenomenon about which Alex Cigale writes more extensively in em review:

And remember: until next year, read, write, and share your favorite translated poems.

Warm regards,

—Claudia Serea


In the Rathskeller

Stuffy. Filled with smoke. Bright voices
Of festively chattering guests.
With decadent music, boredom and insanity
Have madly twinned.... Damn it, over quick.
If only quicker this torture were relieved....
Life – is longing!
Just sing....

Dim, desiccated, disheveled faces
Burning in waves of tobacco smoke.
Laughing loudly wrapped in longing,
Everyone joyfully blabbering, all
About one thing, like the cursed, the blind:
Life – is longing!
Just sing....

Women’s leaden, depraved caresses,
Grief distorting their expressions,
Drunken tears and cheap makeup,
Truth painted on their deceitful lips.
Swirling whirlwind of a fiery dance.
Life – is longing!
Just sing....


IGOR' SEVERYANIN (1887-1941)

The Lady's Club

In my comfortable carriage, buoyed by its ellipsychic bearings,
I love to visit at golden midday the lady's club for tea time,
Where women so deliciously gossip about social trash and quarrels,
Where the foolish rightfully are unfoolish, the wise always stupid.

Oh all you fashionable subjects, from you my sorrow will unfurl.
Trembling lips with irony quiver like jelly made of wild strawberries.
"The natives look just like pineapples and pineapples resemble natives."
The Creole woman's quips are witty, recalling her exotic landscapes.

The mayor's wife begins yawning, leaning over the silent piano,
Looks out the window where fermenting July sensuously stumbles.
Around us fan the golden cobwebs, of spleen's lazy tribes a symbol.
Having thus compared myself, isn't this why I love the Lady's Club?

June 1912

NIKOLAI ASEEV (1889-1963)

To N. S. Goncharova

With the lethargy of boulevard waltzes,
having stirred the anesthetized faces,
in the electric sky a millstone rocking,
the revolutions of the sun disk;
saddened manikins their heads nodding
at their secret keepers the night guards;
walls fainted as though collapsing clouds,
stars stood, bemoaning, stained-glass windows;
above its yearning and lonely stony body,
having streak-pierced the earth's axis,
as a throughway without any off-ramps,
oblivion rattled with its cloud-cover;
beneath the horse-whips of swaying weather
stiffened the Fahrenheit sign's pale figure,
and the same demented melody was unraveled
by the improvising flute of midnight.



Roadside reverie

Hey! oak – whitely – whitely
The titanous overlordy of Heaven –
The bush of pondering-flutey
With overflowed ringing you rollick....
Leafting speckled like Dove feathers –
Sky splashed into rinse of leafs....
Hey! Oak-whiting, rustings-oaks,
Oak-limber rust-speckled flutter
Oak-writhing branchlings-ringer....
Hey! oak – whitely – whitely
The bush of roadside flutings.


Alex Cigale's poems have appeared in Colorado, Green Mountains, and St. Petersburg reviews, in Gargoyle, Hanging Loose, Many Mountains Moving, Redactions, Tar River, and 32 Poems, and online in Drunken Boat, H_ngm_n, and McSweeney's. His translations from the Russian can be found in Crossing Centuries: the New Generation in Russian Poetry, Brooklyn Rail In Translation, Modern Poetry in Translation 3/13 Transplants, and PEN America 12 Correspondences. A monthly column of his translations of Russian Silver Age poets and an anthology of Silver Age miniature poems are on-line at Danse Macabre and OffCourse, respectively. He was born in Chernovsty, Ukraine and lives in New York City.

Claudia Serea is a Romanian-born poet whose poems and translations have appeared in 5 a.m., Meridian, Harpur Palate, Word Riot, The Red Wheelbarrow, Green Mountains Review, and many others. A two-time Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, she is the author of Angels & Beasts (Phoenicia Publishing, Canada) and The System (Cold Hub Press, New Zealand). More at

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