Sea Roses – K. Balmont

Russian Silver Age poetry translation series, 44/?

I have just been picking poems by browsing through the Wikisource list of eight-line Russian poems, and stopping at ones that I both like and see a way into translating. (I admit that this is a creative outlet I can do in downtime at work when I am bored.) However, people will doubtless point out to me that the this is the third one in a row to mention or feature storms, on sea or land, and my subconscious is trying to tell me something.

I am not sure what. I do like Konstantin Balmont a lot, and I liked the central image of this poem.

Sea Roses

Sea roses are the whitest roses.
When gales toss the sea, they bloom
When furious breakers in opposing
Torture the turquoise with their boom

And beat and fling it up in rumbling,
Upset it with the thunder’s roars,
And with dead laughter, for a flash they bring
The splendour of a full white rose.

Konstantin Balmont, 1908; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, September 6, 2019

“Thunder coming…” – M. Lokhvitskaya

Russian Silver Age poetry translation series, 43/?

I was looking through short poems on Wikisource today, and stumbled upon this one by Mirra Lokhvitskaya, whom I had translated before. ( ) Again, this is quick and sensual, but I love the details she describes, that a hundred and twenty years later still occur before summer storms.


Thunder coming soon! I know it
In the poplars’ quivering tight,
In the alleys’ stifling gloam,
In the heavy wet half-light,
In the strength of white-hot glows
Clouds conceal in the skies,
In the weary dragging closed
Of your so-beloved eyes.

1896-1898; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, September 5, 2019

Morning – A. Bely

Russian Silver Age poetry translation series, 42/?

I am resuming this, because I was reading Andrei Bely this morning, and wanted to translate one of his shorter works.

This requires a great many interpretation decisions on my part, as Russian can omit possessives when they are of inalienable possessions like body parts or relatives. So in English, I have to make clear that the narrator is talking about his own body and that he is the object of the verbs in the last line, something that most interpreters of this poem agree is the case — that it narrates a subjective experience of fever or madness — but it is not actually in the Russian words. I also added some internal rhymes to try to preserve at least some of the internal rhymes in the original.


Flashes swarming. It’s morning: again I am free and at will.
Open the curtains: in diamonds, in amber, in fire
Are crossed steeples uphill. Am I ill? Oh no, I am not ill.
All silvered my hands from death-bed rising mountains higher.

Yonder purple the dawns, there are storms, there is purple-born storming.
See me, catch this: I’m risen, see, risen I am from the dead.
My coffin will float away, gold in the gold-azure dawning…

They caught me, brought me down, and laid a cold cloth on my head.

Andrei Bely, 1907; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, September 3, 2019.

Readercon 2017

I have made it to be a panellist at Readercon, in my third year of trying. My thanks to those who recommended me.

Thursday July 13
9:00 PM 6 A Hero by Any Other Name. Randee Dawn, Greer Gilman, Elaine Isaak, Kenneth Schneyer (leader), Tamara Vardomskaya. Would Maleficent be less terrifying if her name were Suzy? Would Arthur Dent and Zaphod Beeblebrox have been able to have each other’s adventures? In literature, names can serve as shorthand to imply a character’s age, ethnicity, time or place of origin, and emotional and psychological makeup. This panel will explore the art and psychology of character names.

(That was the panel description for which I went grabity-grabity-give-them-me, and I’m very glad I got it as a newbie Readerconner. I can have more panels as I grow up.)

Friday July 14
3:00 PM BH Classic YA Book Club: The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper. Victoria Janssen (leader), Sandra Kasturi, Miriam Newman, Sonya Taaffe, Tamara Vardomskaya. Will Stanton discovers on his 11th birthday that he is no mere boy. He is the Sign-Seeker, last of the immortal Old Ones, destined to battle the powers of evil that trouble the land. His task is monumental: he must find and guard the six great Signs of the Light, which, when joined, will create a force strong enough to match and perhaps overcome that of the Dark. Embarking on this endeavor is dangerous as well as deeply rewarding, Will must work within a continuum of time and space much broader than he ever imagined. Susan Cooper creates a world where the conflict between good and evil reaches epic proportions. She ranks with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien in her ability to deliver a moral vision in the context of breathtaking adventure. We are especially interested in discussing this book in conjunction with the recent YA book club selection, The Raven Boys.

I realized as I settled down to re-reading it that mine was among the last cohorts to come through tween-hood without knowing Harry Potter. I first heard of Harry Potter in grade eight, first through a newspaper article about the first three books starting to gather steam as a publishing phenomenon, then through my friends mentioning it. But in grade six, I had read The Dark Is Rising. My, the landscape, but particularly the marketing of children’s books was different then.

“It’s not your love I’m asking for…” – A. Akhmatova

Russian Silver Age poetry translation series, 41/?
I am not so satisfied with this one, but today was a day I felt I had to get something done, and didn’t have the energy to do anything else I had planned, so I finished the partial translation I had sitting in my drafts folder for months.
Anna Akhmatova being spiteful.
It’s not your love I’m asking for.
It’s now locked up for safekeeping.
Believe that letters jealous, weeping,
I do not send to your bride’s door.
But take some wise advice of mine:
Let her read all my poetry;
Let her preserve portraits of me —
New bridegrooms are all so kind!
While those fool girls would rather claim
A full victorious sensation,
Than friendship’s sunlit conversations
Or memory of first tender days.
Then when you spend the farthing’s worth
Of joy given with your little dear
And to a soul once filled with mirth
Suddenly all so dull appears —
Then don’t come to my festive night.
I know not you nor your appeal.
How could I help, in any right?
Of happiness, I do not heal.
Anna Akhmatova, 1914; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, 2016-January 2017.

2016 Award Eligibility Post

Apparently every writer these days does them, and I do find them convenient to check whether a story I liked is actually eligible for awards in a given year.

I have two works published in 2016, which word of mouth is telling me some people liked, and these are the categories they are eligible in:

Novelette by the Hugo/Nebula definition (Novella by the World Fantasy definition):

Polyglossia” March 2016 issue of GigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith. A man who has lost his birth language, a woman with many languages, and a song that neither of them understand.

Listed on the Nebula Recommended Reading List, thank you to whoever put in a voice for me there. Also reviewed with approval by the Language Hat blog as “one of the most remarkable linguistics-oriented stories I’ve read.”

Short Story:

The Three Dancers of Gizari”. Issue #192 (February 2016) of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews. A poor financial manager longs for a mind-altering sculpture that her boss, the world’s richest woman, is buying — but the sculptor will not sell.

Listed on Tangent Online’s 2016 Recommended Reading List.

I am in my second year of eligibility for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. As a Canadian citizen, I am also eligible for the Prix Aurora Awards.


Bespin Ballads

Silly Verse Series, 8/?

I’ll include one more from the Star War Poems series, this one in pastiche of Rudyard Kipling’s “Danny Deever” (1890).

Bespin Ballads

“Why was Lord Vader running by?” the Stormtroopers all said.
“To pay me now, to pay me now,” said Bounty Hunter Fett.
“What makes you look so smug, so smug?” the Stormtroopers all said.
“I’ve got my job and my revenge,” said Bounty Hunter Fett.
For they’re carboniting Solo, you can hear John Williams play,
Up in Bespin’s Cloud City they are freezing him today.
He has made our good Hutt Jabba mad as ev’n Huttese can’t say,
So they’re carboniting Solo in the morning.

— Tamara Vardomskaya, 2015.

Space Fever

Silly Verse Series, 7/?
And to continue the Star Wars theme, because I’m actually watching the new film today, here is another pastiche from the Star War Poems series from Ecdysis Vol. 6, 2015, whose first appearance some of you may recall. John Masefield gets my apologies.

Space Fever

I must go out to space again, to the space where I feel alive.
And all I need is a fast ship, and a working hyperdrive,
And a blaster on my hip before, and a Wookiee friend beside me,
And secret compartments beneath the floor, for when the Imperials chide me.

I must go out to space again, for the sight when stars turn to lines
Is the loveliest sight in the Galaxy (and many of them were mine).
And all I need is a fair game, and a good straight fight,
And a reputation to match my name, and no carbonite.

I must go out to space again, to the life that is bold and free,
Where no one cares for the Empire, and the Empire knows not me.
And all I need is an asteroid where Destroyers dare not go,
And someone to tell me that they love me, and I will reply, “I know.”

— Tamara Vardomskaya, 2015.

An Imperial Stormtrooper Foresees His Death

Silly Verse Series, 6/?

In honour of the Star Wars movie coming out today, here is a pastiche from my Star War Poems series that appeared in Ecdysis in 2015.  This one is, of course, making W. B. Yeats roll in his grave.

An Imperial Stormtrooper Foresees His Death

I know that I shall meet my fate
Beyond the Galaxy above.
Rebels I fight, I do not hate,
Empire I guard, I do not love.
My planet is Mos Eisley Cross,
My folk its scum and villainy.
No likely end can bring them loss
Or make them happier or more free.
No law nor duty bade me fight,
Not Vader, nor Coruscant yon;
A lonely impulse of delight
Led me to put white armour on.
I balanced all, brought all to mind:
A waste of breath seemed future’s course,
A waste of breath the years behind,
And there’s no balance to the Force.

— Tamara Vardomskaya, 2015.

Orchestral Jabberwocky

Silly Verse Series, 5/?

At the beginning of undergrad, I came across a website of parodies of “Jabberwocky,” and promptly decided to do one of my own. This one came out as a homage to my experience in high school orchestra and string ensemble. Particularly in its only slightly anonymized portrayal of our music teacher and conductor Ms. Trudy Bradley, who was famed for (a) making food metaphors at every rehearsal; (b) associating people’s faces with instrument, position, and many details of personal life but never their names; (c) making the orchestra a chocolate sheet cake with Smarties (Canadian Smarties candy, which are very much like M&Ms) after successful performances. The quotations are directly taken from life. I hope she is enjoying her retirement.

Orchestral Jabberwocky

‘Twas pre-performance, and the clarinets
Were squeaking like banshees out of hell;
The trumpets were out-shouting the cornets
And the piano was flat as well.

“Beware Mozart’s 40th, concertmaster!
The notes are easy, the expression tough!
Some parts you rush faster and faster;
Some parts you don’t go fast enough.”

He put the chinrest ‘neath his chin
And everyone tuned to his A;
So rested he with his violin
And waited for the violas to play.

And as the conductor moved her stick
The violas came in, right on time.
They weren’t too slow, they weren’t too quick;
They were, in fact, sublime.

And on they played; they never strayed
From the baton’s one two three four.
The audience began to dance
And called for an encore.

“Did you hear THAT? Wasn’t that great?
Hurray for, um, violin boy!
We’ll have to bake a chocolate cake!”
The conductor cried for joy.

‘Twas post-performance, and the clarinets
Squeaked again like banshees out of hell;
The trumpets were out-shouting the cornets
And the piano was flat as well.

— Tamara Vardomskaya, 2003