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Al Manac




Your work is much richer than reflections on it. This is the kind of wealth that affirms: the poet is only briefly aware of his being let loose into the world. This, it would seem, is the illusion against which the claims of poetry are shattered but not only in that brief instant when a new person is created in you. You gather matter into a tight center, giving it a name appropriate in and for that moment. The weakness and ambitions of the contemporary Russian lyric are in large measure a result of its submission to extraneous theoretical temptations: to step back, and then from another distance to step back again, the text forming a compact line of rapid evasions. This is the shamanic way: being not with the object but casting a spell over it from a distance. It thus becomes easy to get caught up in the letter and conventions of dead laws, which demand illusory judgement and even history; and you turn up in a strange environment, unconnected to you the usual case. The author fears but one thing: to approach the indubitable e reality of passing states of being, for there is nothing more unbearable than to have to limit the obviousness of the empty flux that daily forces us to get out of bed, have breakfast, speak, look, return home, go to bed. Man dies each day. The atmosphere that accompanies him to the end of this road is permeated by the currents and echoes of ephemeral experiences. However, they cannot be taken in at one fell swoop: they are more evasive and varied than any exposition of merely literary adventures. The most difficult thing of all is to grasp them within a poem, where one must remain within the limits of two or three lightning-quick decisions, describing only that which cannot be secured in action. A mood without plot it passed near us and was forgotten, only to return again sometime later; but now we are exiled and defenseless, and it is difficult for us to refuse because therein lies a choice. The point is to allow powerful meanings to pour forth while at the same time filling the outer object and the unconscious act with a breath of freedom, never for a moment letting actual reality out of sight. A slightly open spontaneity can be controlled, but only to the extent necessary so that its elementality is not encroached upon. Such meticulousness, doomed from the start to failure in creative effort, suddenly seems to be a form of madness, which it is not. It sometimes happens that an effect can be had quite cheaply: it is enough merely to name objects, anomalous by nature, taking note only of the most obvious, vectoral traits.) Thus on occasion a work is created almost instantaneously, as if dictated by the motion of the hands themselves a sudden prophetic impulse; but what is being prophesied? Simultaneously death and eternity. This in part explains the muffled aggressivity of some of our best poems. But they don't accept you. Individuals are torn apart, and the fear of arriving late falls on the heads of the innocent (you envy Robinson Jeffers, who built a house on the ocean and lived in it until a ripe old age, writing gloomy and long poems in free verse). Of course, you are a member of poetic sect; as a rule, every little group is initially defensive, arming itself with utmost rigidity and the discipline of form. Nevertheless, these days many write unclearly, making constant use of a slippery set of stylistic devices, as if they were ashamed of the subject of their verse, or else have not mastered this lack of clarity itself, confusing the texture and essence of completely opposite and vaguely sensual definitions. In truth, what they are doing is akin to using words to adorn and cover an already prepared foreground, thereby feeding the demon of deafening repetitions. They are turning language into a stone fool, an ecstatic metronome that transforms fate into philosophical Substance, thereby avoiding all practical embodiments: thus hacked into everyday numbers, into an illegible sketch, it is doubtful that the mystery can be heard. These kind of lines are reminiscent of rays of sunlight groping around an empty street, full of passers-by. Others, far away, determine plot, prosody, plan. As for us, we are left to see only long days and several duplicate faces in the slowed flow of Asian time.
Thus, as Montale wrote, "style comes to us from good manners," and the value of the poet is not in speech, quickly soldered into a lyrical yoke, but in the ability to squeeze out something like material proof of an uninhabitable wholeness, or rather to cover a painting (that's how you're caught red-handed), provided by the powers-that-be in order to resurrect the found image. A kind of internal precision of verbal experience shuns aesthetic fact, which is transformed into exaltation. Tranquillity must be ensured and constantly nursed. The pay-off is a correspondence to one's own claims. What flickers across my memory is not the linguistic phenomenon of a fading era but a wave-like signal sent, tribulation of a new world, to individual experience in the here-and-now, in defiance of the false witness of never-ending norms. Nevertheless, it is probate necessary to rely on this mythical pressure, which is ground down and contained by the tranquillity of writing and by a set of your favorite states of being, which cam charge at any time with a change of purely literary provocations: room, climate, the human figure, earth, a hot wind, light and night. An objective material ripens before our eyes, and its greater palpability is apparently a result of the ability to situate the material within a slightly aberrant context that denies neither the duration of the inspiration nor the truthfulness of authorial behavior. The ideal text is perhaps analogous to a river whose source and month cannot be encompassed by a glance what is perceived instead are scraps of the passing disorder, which the banks both conceal and goad. Striving vainly toward it, we remain unchangingly and unfortunately within the limits of our initial hopes aid conjectures. We are left with a slice of day's light on a table, and in it all the passion of the glittering world shudders. Air, burdened with longitude. An empty landscape. A final refuge. The sun.

Translated by Thomas Epstein








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HZ/ DZ, 2000-2002