Poetry by Georgy Ivanov

From the book A Portrait without Resemblance

Should I tell you about all the fools of the world
Who the fate of the entire humanity hold?

Should I tell you about all scumbags, dead clowns,
Who pass into history in white crowns?

But what for?
……….It’s quiet under a Paris bridge,
I don’t care if after me there’s the deluge.


What about people? What do I need them for?
Here is a man pulling a bull,
A saleswoman with legs and breasts galore,
a kerchief, thighs round and full.

Nature? For what reason?
Snow or rain or heat is mingling
With angst in any season,
Like a mosquito’s jingling.

There are entertainments thereof:
Fear of poverty, torture of love,
A sweet lollipop of art, and besides,
There is, finally, suicide.


With this inhuman fate
How can one argue? How can one fight?
This is mirage, illusion.
Still this blue evening yet
Is my domain, possession.

And the sky is red between the trees
While it is pearly on the sides…
In lilacs the nightingale still whistles.
The ant crawls in grass between the thistles–
And someone needs it otherwise.

Someone might even think it’s fair
That I can still breathe in this air
That my old-fashioned coat
Is soaked in sunset on the right
And drowned in stars on the left side.


Georgy Ivanov

Georgy Ivanov (1894-1958), alongside his wife Irina Odoyevtseva (1895 -1990), was a member of the Russian Guild of Poets founded and led by Nikolai Gumilyov (1896-1921). A friend of the great Russian poet Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938), Ivanov emigrated to the West and settled in Paris, where he became the principal arbiter of taste of the emigrant society, forging or destroying literary reputations at will. While his earlier poetry was somewhat exuberant, in the vein of French and Russian symbolism but not alien to the French Parnussus poets and later the Acmeist movement, his later poetry was marked by a minimalist economy of means, elegance, bitter nostalgia and self-denial, and created a new image of the Russian emigrant "damned" poet deprived of his land, reader, and sense of being.

Ian Probstein

Ian Probstein is assistant professor of English at Touro College, New York and a bilingual English-Russian poet and translator of poetry. He's published seven books of poetry in Russian and one in English, and more than a dozen of books of translation. Additionally, he's compiled and/or edited more than 20 books and anthologies of poetry in translation. In all, Probstein has more than 200 publications in several languages (translated poetry from English, Spanish, Italian, and Polish into Russian and from Russian into English). Complete Poems and Selected Cantos of Ezra Pound in Russian Translation: A Bilingual Edition (St. Petersburg: Vladimir Dahl, 2003), which he compiled, edited, commented, and of which he is one of the major translators, was rated the best book of 2003 in Translation and Poetry by critics in Russia. Probstein edited, co-translated, and authored the introduction and commentary for the Russian edition of Collected Poems of T.S. Eliot (Moscow: AST, 2013).

English translation copyright (c) Ian Probstein, 2014.