Meta-Post: Recommended Russian Poetic Translation Resources

A Russian student of mine asked me about online resources on Russian poetic translations, as she was interested in reading Russian poetry with the help of a translation, so I’m going to toss this up here in case other people care as well: – Nikolai Gumilev’s online fan site has a collection of translations of his poetry. If I dare say so, many of the ones in English are not very good (I wouldn’t do my own if I believed there were already much better ones) but they are resources, and they link to the original so someone with, say, second-year Russian can puzzle out what is going on.

There’s a collection of Pushkin translations here:…/pushkin/pushkin_ind.html

I’ve said my opinion of the most frequently cited translator of Akhmatova (in short: no rhyme = half the soul); but Akhmatova’s main site in Russian is here, and someone with, say, second-year Russian can read the simpler poems and work them out. That site, though, does not have a database of translations of Akhmatova, although it does have a database of translations she’d done, and I didn’t know she translated from Chinese, Korean, Tatar, Yiddish and Kabardian!:

Here is an index of translations of Akhmatova’s work:…/akhmat…/akhmatova_ind.html

I REALLY admire A. Z. Foreman, who posts his translations, including from Russian, here:…His Russian translations are not faithful to the rhythm and metre, but are really good. I briefly corresponded with him online back when he was a UChicago student*, and offered to set one of his original poems (which are also excellent) to music,** but I didn’t secure permission, so alas, although my music setting exists, it won’t see the light of day.

*that was years before I even imagined my fate joining with that of this august institution.

**I am not a composer, but I do have a sense of what kind of melody I want for pretty much any poetry I read (if you’ve ever heard me read things out loud, you won’t find this surprising), and given a guitar, I can find chords to match it. I was surprised myself the other day when discussing poetics with the linguist Haj Ross. He showed me e. e. cummings’s “In Just-spring” and I started singing it. “I didn’t know there was a musical setting,” he said. “Oh, I think I made this one up,” I replied, but my mind now admits no other.