Contemporary Russian Poetry in Translation

Brodsky in Norenskya We continue our series of contemporary Russian poetry in translation. One of the early masterpieces of Joseph Brodsky was  written in the transit prison after his infamous trial in 1964. The translation of this poem was submitted at the first  MPT Poetry Translation Competition 2011.

“Freedom”  by Joseph Brodsky

( Gripping my ration of the exile… ) 

Gripping my ration of the exile
in embrace with the rattling lock,
arriving at the places of dying,
again I turn to my native tongue.
The radiance of the Russian iambic
is more stubborn – and hotter than fire,
like the finest lamp,
in the night it illuminates me.
I can hardly raise my pen,
and my heart is fearfully beating.
But the shadow from behind my back over Russia,
like the bird in the grove, cries,
and the proud scattered echo
caught in my chest in white pallor.
Only hatred from the South to the North
hastens, overtaking the spring.
Burning up with a hacking cough,
bowing still lower in the night,
I am almost ablaze. Thereby
I obstinately keep the likeness of a candle
from dying out,  like the very last wall.
And this great flame flickers along with me.

March 25th, 1964
Arkhangelsk Transit Prison

Translated by Elena Dimov

 






About Elena Dimov

Elena Dimov holds a Ph.D. in history from the Russian Academy of Sciences. Her specialties include Russian culture and literature. She has also taught Russian Language at UVA. She is currently working on a study of Russian poetry in the late twentieth century and developing the bibliography of current Russian prose and poetry
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