“Oh, tiles that ring the air…” – A. Lozina-Lozinsky

Russian Silver Age poetry translation series, 46/?
Alexei Lozina-Lozinsky (lo-ZEEN-uh-lo-ZEEN-ski) (1886-1916) was a man with a deeply unfortunate life. The critic M. L. Gasparov described him as “someone who was less well-remembered by his contemporaries for his poetry than for his likeness and for his death, and was cleanly forgotten by their descendants. He worked out his original style, with its grim-disjoined bravado, only in the last years of his short life.”
Descended from the nobility of the Podolsky governorate, Alexei’s full legal surname was not just double-barrelled but quadruple-barrelled: Lubich-Yarmolovich-Lozina-Lozinsky. His mother died of typhus when he was two. At the age of nineteen, he lost his leg: while hunting, he carelessly tossed his loaded gun into a boat, and it discharged into his knee, destroying it and  leading to amputation. He was a student rebel who took part in revolutionary movements and was arrested three times. But he also struggled with depression, and twice attempted suicide by shooting himself in the chest.
His third suicide attempt, on November 5, 1916, was successful. He gave himself a fatal dose of morphine, and, accompanied by a volume of Paul Verlaine’s poetry, he took notes on his sensations until the very end. He was not yet thirty years old.
Probably due to the efforts of his brother Vladimir, a high-ranking priest (protoiereus) in the Russian Orthodox Church, who would later be canonized as a saint, he did receive a Christian burial. 
This short poem, written less than a year before his death, speaks of his depression, but also of the power of music. I took the liberty of using an eye-rhyme rather than a true rhyme in the last verse. 
* * *
Oh, tiles that ring the air
In that long moonlit hall!
I lay down dying there,
In a silent broken fall,
Severe so were the sounds
The darkened organ played,
So many the old wounds
I had as there I lay.
Alexei Lozina-Lozinsky, December 1915; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, September 9, 2019.

“We proudly despise those around…” – V. Bryusov

Russian Silver Age poetry translation series, 45/?
This is a short poem by Valery Bryusov, not included in any collection. I find the meter of the original a little off: seemingly amphibrachic trimeter, it faults that meter in the second, sixth and seventh lines. I have no idea whether this was intentional (as Bryusov was a good enough poet to be aware of it) or if this was a hastily written poem Bryusov meant to polish later, and did not.
I like its observations on human nature, though.
We proudly despise those around,
Our wishes are law on our side,
And we suffer torment without bound,
But love our torment in our pride
And if sacred urges beguile
Our heart to take part in their ploy,
We’re boundlessly joyful a while
And we feel ashamed of this joy.
Valery Bryusov, August 13, 1897; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, September 9, 2019.

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. (https://vardomskaya.com/2016/08/04/some-wait-for-joy-some-seek-ovations-m-lokhvitskaya/ ) 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.