THOUGHTS ON POETRY OF OSIP MANDELSTAM

 

   Whenever you think about Russian poetry, you get this strange feeling: why one is called Golden Age and another is Silver. Gold is obviously more expensive, and it means that poets like Pushkin, Lermontov and Blok, who are considered by literary critics to be a part of Golden age, are also more valuable than the poets of the 20th century.
      Why is it not the same with European Art? Why impressionists, who created their art at the end of 19th- beginning of 20th centuries, are valued just as highly as painters of the Middle age era, and very often the prices for impressionist paintings are higher than the prices of painting from 15th-16th century. Masterpieces of art and literature from all centuries and all directions are fruits of the same Green Tree of Life, and to belittle the value of something just because it was created in one century and not in another is completely erroneous.
     Pushkins merit is not in the way he was able to create an unreachable form of poetry, but his greatness is in his ability to transform the literary Russian into the normal human speech, which we are able to use even in the modern times now.
     In 20th century, it was not enough to just paint with oil on canvas and to remain clear and realistic - all of that was done in the past and more than once. We would need different paint, another stroke in art and poetry, and the poets of 20th century typically used a full color palette. Expressionism of Marina Tsvetaeva, Impressionism of Nikolay Zabolotsky and Arseny Tarkovsky And further the form of poems and images become even more complicated, and by now we have Joseph Brodsky and there is no end to the process of creativity.
     When I started to carefully reread works of O. Mandelstam, I could not believe that every single poem was a masterpiece in its own way. And we are talking about a poet of Silver age. In another words, a poet who is less valuable than any poet of the Golden age. As someone noted, Mandelstam is the only Russian poet who never had any apprenticeship, all of his works were full of maturity from the beginning of his career. (Blok, Tsvetaeva Gumilyov - had some of it but Mandelstam had none of them at all). Tsvetaeva used to call Mandelstam the First poet of the century. And we can only repeat those words. As a famous writer Varlam Shalamov said: Mandelstam is the poet-impressionist. One critic also mentioned, that poems of O. Mandelstam remind him of the painting made of separate stroke and colorful spots But Mandelstam did not just write landscapes, his romantic lyrics are the very top of Russian poetry.
      Mandelstam as a poet never cheated on his Muse. All of his poems from the very first book Stone until the last genius poem Verses on the Unknown Solder are the real Poetry. But once he committed a sin and he was weak to temptation and shortly before he wrote his genius poetry dedicated to Maria Petrovykh, he wrote his famous lines:
        We live, not sensing our own country beneath us
         This poem could be written by poets such as Demyan Bedny or Lebedev-Kumach (and these poets would never do it). But Mandelstam was so sick of all of the Soviet activity, that he forgot that he is a real poet, and wrote these honest brave lines, and once he wrote it he started to brag about it to everybody. This is not poetry it as a suicidal act. Pasternak told him when Mandelstam read these lines to him.
      Unfortunately, after this poem, the poet went through a dark period of his life, which ended with his tragic death. He was sent to Cherdin, and then to Voronezh, he was trying to enter into the Sovier reality and even wrote his famous Ode, which was dedicated to Stalin, about which Joseph Brodsky said that this poem of Mandelstam is both Ode and Satire at the same time. It is a fantastic work of art.
      Stalin, who apparently understood something about poetry and who even wrote poems when he was young, realized it and was not able to forgive the poet for his poem, and if after the first epigram, he sent him to fairly soft and not the worst exile then in 1937 he decided to destroy the poet.
        On that line, I am going to make a stop - it is impossible to write shortly about poetry of Mandelstam, it is a very long journey, and I am only in the beginning of it, and I would need to reread many more times the works of this great Poet.

        Translated by Lina Donskaya

 

                                                 

                                              

     

   
       

 

 

 

 

 

:

 

 

 

 

 , ,