Expansive Poetics – 81 (Anna Akhmatova – 2)


(Anna Akhmatova’s “Requiem”) was never actually published in Russia complete, (and) the manuscript was passed to Sir Isaiah Berlin, an English Russophile, scholar, specialist, (who) managed to visit her just after the war, when the war was won. There was a little period of confusion when people could go in and out and see each other, and so Isaiah Berlin went and had a long conversation with her, as if it (he) were a visitor from another world, or “a visitor from the future”, as she later called it, and brought back manuscripts, (or brought back her manuscripts), … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 80 (Anna Akhmatova – 1)

Anna Akhmatova in 1924, photo by Moisey Nappelbaum Moscow House of Photography

[Anna Akhmatova (1889-1996) in 1924 – Photograph by Moisei Nappelbaum]

AG: (Now) I wanted to move on to Anna Akhmatova, who lived… (Sergei) Esenin died 1925, (Vladimir) Mayakovsky (allegedly) committed suicide 1930, (Nikolay) Gumilev was shot 1923, (Velimir) Khlebnikov starved to death in 1923, (Osip) Mandelstam died of cold and starvation in a work camp in Siberia somewhere between 1937 and 1940, although nobody knows exactly when. Esenin’s friend, (Nikolay) Klyuev…what year did he die? Peter Orlovsky: (19)35. AG: (19)35, coming back from six years exile in Siberia, with a suitcase full of … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 79 (Sergei Esenin – 4)

[Sergei Esenin on his death bed]

from August 6 1981 at Naropa and Allen’s on-going Expansive Poetics (Russian Poetry) class AG: (So, I’ll continue with Sergei Esenin) today and go on to Anna Akhmatova, and then, I think, leave Russian poetry and then go on to French Surrealists, and some Spanish..  In 1922, by Esenin  [editorial note – 1921, actually]”I’m not crying, I’m not calling, I’m not complaining. Everything passes. White smoke from apple trees stricken by the golden dust of fading. I’ll no longer be young, it seems. So you shall no longer beat and tremble, my … Read More

Knitting Factory Kaddish

A couple of weekends ago, we featured Allen’s 1995 rendition of “Howl” (recorded at the Knitting Factory in New York) as part of an intensive week of performance (it was Allen’s intention to read comprehensively through his entire corpus). Today, we feature another reading from that engagement – a reading of his other (“Contest of Bards”, notwithstanding) major epic poem –  Kaddish.  Once again we are indebted to the extraordinary Ubuweb Allen’s introduction to Kaddish on that occasion is here

“So this is an extensive poem. I’m not sure about the time, probably about half an hour – … Read More

July 4th and America

. أمريكا لقد منحتك كل شيء وها أنا الآن لا شيء
أمريكا، دولارين وسبعة وعشرين سنتيمات،
سبعة عشر ينايرألف وتسع مائة وست وخمسين
. أنا لا أستطيع أن أحافظ على رأيي الخاص
أمريكا متى سننهي الحرب على الإنسانية؟
انكحي نفسك بقنبلتك الذرية!
أنا لا أشعر أنني بحالة جيدة
. لا تزعجني
. لن أكتب قصيدتي حتى يستقيم رأي
أمريكا متى ستصبحين بريئة؟
متى ستخلعين ملابسك؟
متى ستنظرين إلى نفسك من خلال اللحد؟
متى ستكونين جديرة بالمليون تروتسكي الذين يسكنون أرضك ؟
أمريكا لماذا تمتلئ مكتباتك بالدموع؟
أمريكا متى سترسلين بيضك إلى الهند؟
.لقدسئمت من رغباتك المخبولة
متى يمكنني … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 78 (Sergei Esenin – 3)

Sergei Yesenin

[Sergei Esenin (1895-1925)]

AG: First thing we ought to do is get to some of his (Sergei Esenin‘s) texts, some of the poetry, before we get onto the gossip (which is kind of poetically interesting (too), I think) – “Letter To His Mother”  He’d abandoned not only the village, he’d gone out to Moscow, and (Nikolay) Klyuev got really mad because he was wandering around now in delicate shoes and top hats and evening clothes, and looking like a dandy, and collecting clothes. Then he married Isadora Duncan and collected vast wardrobes in Paris and Berlin and … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 77 (Sergei Esenin – 2)

[Sergei Esenin (1895-1925)]

.. So, Esenin broke loose from (Nikolay) Klyuev, who was very demanding (sexually, I imagine, as well as morally). He didn’t want Esenin to be running around Russia as a big intelligent poet, handsome, on his own, making out with everybody else. So there is another poetic cafe that’s described in (Gordon) McVay’s biography of Esenin – (an interesting book – Esenin – A  Life by Gordon McVay, also Ardis, Ann Arbor).
Student: Let me see the photographs. Can I see?
AG: Well, there’s lots of photographs of Esenin. I think you’ve seen some
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Expansive Poetics – 76 (Sergei Esenin – 1)

AG: I  think, first of all, to get now into (Sergei) Esenin, (we should) hear his voice. I played it last term. There’s a record I brought back from Prague, given to me by Esenin’s Czech translator in 1965. Could we hear that? The most powerful voice of all the Russians, I think, physically.


[Sergei Esenin reading from “Confession of A Hooligan”]

Не каждый умеет петь, Не каждому дано яблоком Падать к чужим ногам. Сие есть самая великая исповедь, Которой исповедуется хулиган. Я нарочно иду нечёсаным, С головой, как керосиновая лампа, на плечах. Ваших душ безлиственную
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