Poetry Month #20: Osip Mandelstam

This was originally curated by Michaela Kahn–glad to reblog–

Osip Mandelstam, 15 January 1891 to 27 December 1938, was a Russian poet and member of the Acmeist School of poets. He was arrested and exiled by Stalin’s repressive government in the 1930’s and sent to Voronezh in Southwestern Russia. In 1938 he was again arrested and sent to be interned in a Siberian work camp. He died that year. He said, “Only in Russia is poetry respected, it gets people killed. Is there anywhere else where poetry is so common a motive for murder?”

This is a poem from his Voronezh notebooks in a new translation by Andrew Davies.


When the goldfinch, in his airy confection,
Suddenly gets angry, begins to quake,
His spite sets off his scholar’s robes,
Shows to advantage his cute black cap.

And he slanders the hundred bars,
Curses the sticks and perches of his prison—
And the world’s turned completely inside out,
And surely there’s a forest Salamanca
For birds so smart, so disobedient.

–December 1936.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Miriam Sagan. Bookmark the permalink.

About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well (https://miriamswell.wordpress.com). The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

One thought on “Poetry Month #20: Osip Mandelstam

  1. I read Mandelstam so many years ago and love this translation and look forward to returning to his work. Wonderful thank you.

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