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Friday, November 04, 2016

Poetry Friday--Russian Poetry

I am listening to an audiobook that I am absolutely adoring. The funny thing is, though, the book doesn't have much of a plot! So, what is it that I find so wonderful? The main character, Alexander Rostov, a man of infinite charm and social skill. The book is A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles [F TOW, AB/CD TOW, eBook, eAudio] and here is how the publisher summarizes it:
A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
What this summary leaves out is that although he had no 9 to 5 employment, Rostov had gained some renown as a poet in his early life. Since I'm immersed in this story of a Russian poet, I decided to look for a Russian poem for today. I found one in Contemporary Russian Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology (selected and translated by Gerald S. Smith) [RUSSIAN 891.71 CON].

The Raven
by Elena Shvarts

An old Raven asked for my heart
To take away to its baby ravens,
"Or else they'll bury you in the ground,
And I won't be able to scratch you up."
"Evil bird," I replied to him,
"You fed Elijah and the saints,
But me you yourself are ready to eat up,
Although, of course, I'm no match for them."
The bird replied, "Everything around is frozen.
It's cold, and I have to get warm.
I'll take your heart away to my icy home,
Let my freezing offspring peck it,
No joke--three sons and a daughter..."
I threw a stick at him, "Away!"
That night I woke up from a pain in the chest,
Oh, what pain, a pain in the heart!
The Raven hopped off the bed, onto the table, toward the door--
From its beak blood drips onto the floor.

It's not a poem such as I imagine Count Rostov writing, but it has a nice Halloween-season vibe to it.

Laura at Writing the World for Kids is this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up host. Be sure to stop by!

Photo by Doug Brown.


  1. Wow! That ending! That unrepentant, matter-of-fact Raven kinda gives me the creeps. Thanks for introducing me to a new-to-me poet/poem.

    1. A raven's got to be a raven...

  2. Replies
    1. Yet, it makes you stop and think, doesn't it?

  3. What a poem! So very Russian - dark, but with a strange sense of humour to it as well, which they do so very well. Perfect for the season.

  4. Scary!! I would be afraid to go asleep with a raven like that around.

  5. EEEK! What people don't come up with when they're not concerned with niceties. It also has an Aesop's Fable feel.