Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Osip Mandelstam!



It is sobering to pause from time to time and remember the poets who wrote out of true necessity, and at great personal risk.

Born on January 15, 1891 in Warsaw, Osip Manelstam grew up in Saint Petersburg and travelled widely as a young man. His books include Stone (1913) and Tristia (1922), a book of essays, On Poetry (1928), and his Collected Poems (1928). Among Russian poets, Mandelstam was associated with the Acmeist movment. Following the publication of poems critical of Stalin, he was arrested in 1934 and sentenced to internal exile in the Eastern Urals. After his release in 1937, he was rearrested in 1938 and sentenced to five years hard labor in Siberia. He died in a transit camp near Vladivostok on December 27, 1938.

Here's something from Number 372 of Mandelstam's Last Poems:

If our antagonists take me
And people stop talking with me;
If they confiscate the whole world--
The right to breathe & open doors
And affirm that existence will exist
And that the people, like a judge, will judge;
If they dare to keep me like an animal
And fling my food on the floor--
I won't fall silent or deaden the agony,
But will write what I am free to write,
And yoking ten oxen to my voice
Will move my hand in the darkness like a plough
And fall with the full heaviness of the harvest...

(1937)

4 Comments:

Blogger Andrew Shields said...

Greg, if you (or anyone else who reads this) can read German, get yourself a copy of Ralph Dutli's biography of Mandelstam. It's brilliant.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

I dunno if I'd write if the risk were so extreme.

Andrew makes me wish I read German.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

"Only in Russia poetry is respected - it gets people killed. Is there anywhere else where poetry is so common a motive for murder?"
-Ossip Mandelstam

11:57 PM  
Blogger Brian Campbell said...

Try Latin America.

A powerful expression of the human spirit.

11:22 PM  

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