Reaching back as far as medieval Rus' and as far forward as metrical and linguistic innovation permit, Sosnora has written with a voice unique and wide-ranging. Historical allusion, conscious anachronism, humor, and intensity of word play dominate by turns his range of verse.
When Sosnora was a year and a half, in 1938, he was confined to a clinic for three years with osteotuberculosis, and doctors almost had to amputate his arm and leg. When World War II broke out, Sosnora spent a year under the blockade of Leningrad before being evacuated to a region in the south of the Soviet Union. Soon after he arrived, the Germans overran the region. Sosnora was captured three times by the Gestapo, but because of his youth he was released each time. His grandmother decided that it would be safer for him to live with the partisan detachment led by his uncle, but the Germans captured and executed the partisans, and Sosnora survived only by pretending to be dead after a bullet had grazed his skull. It was shortly after this incident that Sosnora began to write, using a twig to etch his poems on the clay paths, which were washed smooth each time it rained.
Here comes my life, like an Estonian woman,—
like a sly-tailed lake sprat,
like the age of sheep, an ant or vermouth,
a whisper-fern in amber,
an echo of the sun, sickle in copses,
like drops of air on sparrows' wings,
or a vermicelli-like birch in a marsh,
transparent farmstead in January.
Here comes my life, like a Polish woman,—
in halos of nightingales' hair,
like an ox, straw, a donkey and Maria,
like a slush of words and mazurka-snowstorm,
like a confederate's saber, a robust race horse,
which smashes lilies with its red hoof,
like beaks of glory, an eagle of Krakow,
or a cathedral cross, rebellion.
Here comes my life, like a Jewish woman,—
like a Ruth-violin, era of Eclecticism,
like an urn-measure for golden-yellowish stars,
the cult beyond electric thorns,
like Job's iodine and a surgeon's temple,
like a deci-fingered ring of Moses' revenge,
like the number of the Beast for a forefather's truth,
we are used for gold, harps, the knout!
Viktor Sosnora was born in 1936 in the Crimea. He is known as one of the most consistently experimental of Russian poets, and one of the foremost translators, into Russian, of Catullus, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, and Allen Ginsberg.
Mark Halperin teaches at Central Washington University. His latest book of poems, The Measure of Islands, was published by Wesleyan University Press.
Dinara Georgeoliani is a linguist and Assistant Professor of Russian at Central Washington University.
A Million Premonitions, by Viktor Sosnora
A Million Premonitions
from Russian by Dinara Georgeoliani
and Mark Halperin
ISBN 0-939010-76-3 (paper)
5¼ x 7½
144 pages [Bilingual Russian/English]