Russian Verse Libre: Three Poems by Ilya Semenenko-Basin


Ilya BasinAbout the Author

Ilya  Semenenko-Basin was born in 1966 in Moscow. He graduated from Moscow State University and has a Ph.D. in History and Religious Studies. Currently, he is a professor at the Center of Religious Studies at the University of Humanities and a prominent scholar in the field of history of the Russian Orthodox Church. He began writing poetry very early in his adolescent years, but his first book of poetry, By the Streams of Silver, was published only in 2012. It was shortlisted for the Russian Gulliver’s Poetry Prize in 2014.

While trying to define the modern poetic process in Russia, it is obvious that traditional forms and methods of versification have increasingly given way to more innovative forms, operating in a broad range of language registers, following the western pattern of free verses. Using the ability of free versification, new generations of Russian poets have created brilliant poetic works where reality and fantasy come together, and meanings and symbols evolve into more complex forms outside the formal patterns.

Literary critics continue to discuss the nature of this genre and the line between free verse and short prose – free verses with their lack of formal structure and shifting rhythmic effects continue to be a controversial subject. But the latest developments demonstrate that this genre flourishes and gradually has become one of the leading tendencies in Russian poetry today. It apparently answers the inner logic of the development of poetic language as well as having the ability to reproduce what American poet-imagist Amy Lowell, in the 1920s, called the “power of variation,”

We will continue to introduce the poetry of contemporary Russian poets to readers. Among them are remarkable poems by Ilya Semenenko-Basin, a poet writing in the genre of verse libre.

* * *

“Torcido, desigual, blando y sonoro …”

It’s not the poetry that is impossible – but the creek
a disorderly silence

of a marshy
and nameless region near Moscow
struggling after the bulldozer’s assault,
by the highway, such overwhelming air – from above
and eroded by moisture – from the side
………………..and below,
in velvet silence
still confidently blooming,
the four-sided rotten root
in front of the watching eyes of nettles from the depths of the pit
in the tranquil


* * *


Why do I want your love so much?
So you can sit in the train and read,
Horace for example, translated into English,
simple. And I’d bring you food.
Or we would ponder that love means nothing to us.
What a topic for us lovers,
slowly walking around Sivtsev Vrazhek street.
Let’s try being still,
just get lost in each other’s eyes while our hands
feel the warmth on our cheeks.
Your love to discover
my ability to forget.
And there are so many other reasons.
We could pick them out and put them back together
before they lose shape, bumps, grooves –
from the wind.

* * *

Summer variation

Once by noon I had already come
Returning at sunset –
to the virgin-river to listen to the talking,
the splash of speech, the babbling of the brook.
But you don’t hear me.
Not murmuring, but talking to yourself – about yourself,
and within yourself:
that being a maiden is like trying to rest in a fast-moving stream.
To love someone is incomprehensible,
and cannot be learnt.
There is silence at noon,
In the darkness there is indistinct chatter,
barely audible sounds
in a shadowy valley.

Translated by Elena Dimov

Copyrights to original works belong to Ilya Semenenko-Basin

Featured picture by Alexander Borisenko

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