A Journey in Five Postcards


Russian Poetry from the 20th Century


Academia Rossica is delighted to present A Journey in Five Postcards, the unique product of collaboration between Academia Rossica and the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s project ‘Reconfiguring the Russian Canon’, led by Professor Katharine Hodgson. We would like to extend our considerable thanks to Professor Hodgson for agreeing to be the Guest Editor of this very special edition of ROSSICA. Professor Hodgson assembled an extremely distinguished panel of experts: surely few poetry anthologies can boast such knowledgeable contributors as Ilya Kukulin, Professor Stephanie Sandler, Dr Alexandra Smith, Professor G.S. Smith, Professor Andrei Zorin and the Editor herself.


Nowhere in the world does poetry mean as much as it does in Russia. To fully understand Russia as it was, and as it is, one must realise how Russia’s view of its past and present is shaped through verse. This new anthology explores the way in which the poetry of the 20th century lives on in the 21st, gaining new significance and depth. As part of a project to re-imagine the Russian canon from this new vantage point, six leading experts on Russian poetry were asked to choose five poems that both speak to the present and speak for the recent past. These epoch-making poems are presented in English translation—many for the first time—with authoritative introductory essays by the contributors. While still including literary giants such as Brodsky, Mandelshtam and Tsvetaeva, this anthology also brings to light many less well known geniuses such as Khlebnikov, Shvarts and Rubinstein, including some who are still working today. Some of these poets were suppressed and marginalised for years, so this collection provides readers new insights into the history of 20th century poetry.


As well as uncovering forgotten gems, however, A Journey in Five Postcards shows how poetry continues to inspire, reflect and direct a changing Russia. This anthology is thus central to Academia Rossica’s ongoing mission to foster cultural understanding and co-operation between Britain and the English-speaking world. We hope you enjoy discovering these new insights into Russia’s past, present and future.


Svetlana Adjoubei,

Director, Academia Rossica 



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6 Introductory essay: ‘Poetry under Pressure’


8 About this anthology


13 About the contributors



23 Katharine Hodgson ‘A journey in five postcards’


32 Semen Gudzenko, ‘My Generation’


33 Olga Berggolts, ‘Feodosiia’


34 Aleksandr Mezhirov, ‘Loneliness hounds me...’


34 Mariia Petrovykh, ‘Love me, I am pitch black darkness...’


35 Nikolai Gumilev, ‘The Lost Tram’



37 Ilya Kukulin ‘Time’s river’


44 Velimir Khlebnikov, ‘Crimean Poem’


47 Osip Mandelshtam, ‘Ode on a Slate’


48 Aleksandr Vvedensky, ‘It’s a pity I’m not a beast...’


50   Konstantin Simonov, ‘Wait for Me’


51 Ian Satunovsky, ‘Sashka Popov, I think of you...’



53 Stephanie Sandler ‘Unexpected logic’


60 Osip Mandelshtam, ‘Tristia’


61 Joseph Brodsky, ‘Eclogue IV’


66 Olga Sedakova, ‘Five Stanzas’


68 Elena Shvarts, ‘Nursery School Thirty Years On’


69 Elizaveta Mnatsakanova ‘Lullabies for Mozart’



77 Alexandra Smith ‘The living word’


82 Aleksandr Blok, ‘Scythians’


84  Boris Pasternak, ‘Childhood’


85 Marina Tsvetaeva, ‘Wires (2)’


86 Osip Mandelshtam, ‘We live, not sensing the country beneath us…’


86 Joseph Brodsky, ‘Procession, Part 2’



89 G.S. Smith ‘My high five’


96 Vladislav Khodasevich, ‘To live, to work...’


97 Marina Tsvetaeva, ‘Mountain Poem’


100 Boris Slutsky, ‘A Soldier’s Tale’


101 Joseph Brodsky, ‘The Hawk’s Cry in Autumn’


104 Oleg Chukhontsev, ‘Ky-yo! Ky-yo!’



107 Andrei Zorin ‘The prospect of annihilation’


112 Osip Mandelshtam, ‘No, I cannot escape this grand trifle and hide…’


113 Nikolai Oleinikov, ‘The Cockroach’


114 Aleksandr Vvedensky, ‘Elegy’


115 Joseph Brodsky, ‘The End of a Beautiful Era’


117 Lev Rubinshtein, ‘Life is All Around’



123 Poets’ biographies



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