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This article is taken from PN Review 260, Volume 47 Number 6, July - August 2021.

'Sudden Ascent' Boris Dralyuk and Irina Mashinski
In the English-speaking world, the major Russian poet Arseny Tarkovsky is known, if he is known at all, as something of a bit player in the work of his far more famous son, the filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. Fans of the son’s Mirror (1975) and Stalker (1979) will have heard the father’s poems, piecing together their meaning from the subtitles, but are unlikely to have sought out better translations; and even if they had, they were unlikely to find translations as instantly enchanting, as subtle yet energetic as those gathered here.

It may be more surprising to learn, however, that a great many Russian readers also encountered Tarkovsky’s poetic voice before they were able to read his poems. The experience of Irina Mashinski, a Russian-American poet born in Moscow in the late 1950s, helps elucidate the peculiar role Tarkovsky played in Russian literature – that of a messenger from the past who, miraculously, not only survived but remained whole, untarnished, eternally fresh.

*

One time, in early spring, in one of the upper classes of secondary school, when dying of boredom during a lecture on literature, I reached over to the shelf that ran along the classroom wall and pulled down the first book my hand chanced upon – a blue-backed selection of works by the 18th-century Turkmen poet Magymguly Pyragy. I remember the warm page, brightly lit by the school-day sun, and the striking poems – not at all exotic, though ‘eastern’, masterfully built yet at the same time alive. This sensation ...


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