Saturday, January 05, 2013

If There Is Something To Desire, 100 Poems by Vera Pavlova

If There Is Something To Desire, 100 Poems
by Vera Pavlova

Translated from the Russian by Steven Seymour
“This Is A Borzoi Book” Published by Alfred A. Knopf  2012
New York NY
Translation Copyright © 2010  by Steven Seymour
106 pages, softbound, $16.95
Vera Pavlova was born in Moscow. She graduated from the Gnessin Academy, specializing in the history of music, and is the author of fourteen collections of poetry, four opera librettos, and lyrics to two cantatas. Her works have been translated into eighteen languages
Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Every so often I come across a poet – rookie or veteran – who I read for the first time and get completely turned on by the poetry.  This book is one of those.

On the book’s back cover is a partial photo of Pavlova looking perhaps whimsical, perhaps forlorn, perhaps about to smile.  Some of the poems reflect this ambiguity, while others are quite clear. None of the poems are titled, simply numbered 1 to 100. Each is very individual by an individual poet.

Poem 7 is the title poem, a view of life:

If there is something to desire,
there will be something to regret.
If there is something to regret,
there will be something to recall.
If there is something to recall,
there was nothing to regret.
If there was nothing to regret,
there was nothing to desire.

Poem 33 portrays a frustrated woman:

Lay down.
Could not decide: would I rather
sleep or sleep with him
Afterward could not decide
what it was:
was I sleeping?
Were we?
Or the one and the other?

Poem 58 is mystical:

The serenade of a car siren
under a window gone dark.
Anything but betrayal!
Let us stop ears with was,
tie the daredevil to the woman
as to a mast . . . The sleep,
restless and moist.
The arm goes numb.

Many of Pavlova’s poems are sexually themed, but not in the American way, these are Russian poems of cold love, snow covered hearts, occasional melting.  It is a Russia that has not changed hearts much from the Czar to Stalin to Putin.  From Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Mandlestam, to Pavlova, who has inherited the mantle as one of the greatest Russia’s great, most popular poets.

In Poem 67 she presents some of this view:

Eyes of mine,
why so sad?
Am I not cheerful?
Word of mine,
why so rough?
Am I not gentle”
Deed of mine,
why so silly?
Am I not wise?
Friends of mine,
why so dead?
Am I not strong?

Pavlova’s poems are short, terse, to the point or ambiguous. If happiness is sadness and sadness is happiness than Pavlova has written a book for both sides of an ice wall and a wonderful read.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Street Press)
Author,  Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva Press)
Author, Fire Tongue (forthcoming, Cervena Barva Press)
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7

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