Timmy's Reviews > Selected Poems

Selected Poems by Marina Tsvetaeva
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Oct 18, 09

bookshelves: poetry, russian-ukranian
Read in October, 2009


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message 1: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins I'd like to hear more about these 2 stars. It's shameful, but I haven't read much of her or Akhmatova. What I have read hasn't resonated too much, though I consider it a failing on my part.


message 2: by Timmy (last edited Oct 27, 2009 07:01PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Timmy Nice.

You are almost Christ-like in your ability not to negatively judge! Most intriguing.

I'll give you some random, disorganized comments about these poems.
I flirted with 3 stars. Keep in mind, my 3 means I liked it and even a 2 means I enjoyed some aspect of it. A 2 is not banishing the work to the scrap heap.
Apparently, Tsvetaeva's poetry loses a lot in translation, particularly with form, meter, etc., but there is nothing I can do about that until learning Russian in retirement.
You probably won't be surprised that I'm not too interested or impressionable when it comes to form, meter, etc. anyway. What I look for is emotion, power of wording, passion....
There were a few poems that I enjoyed in this collection such as We Shall not Escape Hell, Some Ancestor of Mine, Praise to the Rich, and perhaps a few others.
Of the rest, I didn't dislike them, but I just didn't find I was grabbed by the majority. A few were perhaps too domestic/mundane for my liking.
Example:
In A World:
In a world where most people
are hunched and sweaty
I know only one person
equal to me in strength

In a world where there is
so much want
I know only one person
equal to me in power

In a world where mould
and ivy cover everything
I know only one person---you---
who equals me in spirit

I don't know, I just don't see much in a poem like that, so altogether I found the collection mediocre.




message 3: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins Yeah... I don't know what it is. I really dislike Tom Robbins, so maybe he's my scapegoat, making him, what?, the Christ figure in my personal world, absorbing all my sins and judgments, stretched out on the cross of my critical mind.

I admit to being reluctant to negatively judge. I read for my own pleasure, but the biggest part of that pleasure is getting inside another's mind and catching glimpses of their world, so that's where I begin - with the assumption that there is a world to glimpse, and if I can't see it then I must be lacking in my abilities to read. Of course there are some who don't even inspire that assumption, and those I basically erase from my mind.

But what do you do with a poem like that. Talk about flat! Though if one were to read up on her life, and find the context of the writing of it, etc. then it probably would open up and come to life from all its latent passions. Lots of people love her. I'm sure there's something there.


Timmy I hope you don't misunderstand my observation as a criticism. I certainly applaud your consistency and genuineness in appreciating what you read! Awesome! Of course, my attempt to describe your reading philosophy as being very non-judgmental, even though I mean that with respect and without criticism, is just coming through my own lens. It strikes me as unique and rare, but actually there is really no reason why one shouldn't be accustomed to your perspective on reading. Maybe I just learned all too well at church that some are saved and others should be banished to hell because I'm often accused of being too judgmental! Ha! Well, really I would argue in my defense that it's more about passion than just "sticking it to someone." (guess that goes beyond literature as well!) Sometimes I feel envious of your mode, as I describe it, of not judging too harshly what you read, and other times I am mildly annoyed because the yin makes the yang more powerful sometimes, but I understand where you're coming from and appreciate that uniqueness and vantage point.
That said, this poem that we both agree is flat is an interesting example to further this discussion.
I think I would argue that, no matter how fascinating her life may have been, the context wouldn't make up for that poem which could have been written by any of 132 million people who also have/had interesting contexts and lives. Why? Because somehow, somewhere that context of living needs to shine through in the poem itself, allow it to stand on its own at least a little bit. Beyond knowing the context and understanding more of where she is coming from by reading her letters, biography, etc., I guess I judge her poetry, to some extent, on how it stands aside from her life story. The two are connected, of course, but I could be moved by her life while her writing could be immature babble---or vice versa. She may have a grand world of her own in her mind, actions, soul, etc., but the writing is not revealing it as such (by my estimation of course).
I realize this may be opening one of those barrel of worms conversations, so we can hold it over until pizza!
But again, that's just one of the poems that I selected randomly. Indeed, there is something positive in some of the other poems, but overall I found them to be up and down.


message 5: by Eddie (last edited Oct 28, 2009 04:27AM) (new)

Eddie Watkins Oh no I didn't read it as a criticism, I just wanted to divert attention from myself while giving an example of my being judgmental. Even part of my non-judgment is self-serving, as it allows me more open-ended possibilities because it's so hard for me to write anyone off; there's always someone there for me to discover! I also understand your fluctuations between envy and annoyance; that's good, it's like a little motor that keeps things going.

Yeah, this poem taken as it is, bare on the page void of context, could have been written by any one of millions of people, at least in its translated version. I think there's a bit of collective cultural guilt or something in the US in regard to Soviet arts.

[I'll have to continue this once I get to work and can have some relative quiet. Twyla's just woken up and is screaming her head off.:]


message 6: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins Not guilt exactly, but something, like we overcompensate and give certain Soviet artists more credit than they deserve, like Shostakovich - I love his music but still I think it's overrated by many.

Anyway, I agree about works needing to stand on their own, out of context, almost in a void, and then only later should cultural and biographical factors come into play; but sometimes it's virtually impossible to process any work of art that way.


Timmy I'm with you on all fronts regarding messages 5 and 6.

The translation angle means it is impossible to say whether or not that particular poem might have more merit in its own language---although frankly I sometimes get annoyed with that angle because it seems to be used as an easy out at times.

Ah...the Soviets. They can sometimes seem very cardboard-ish generally speaking (mirroring their own political and cultural situations), but then again, even that can be fascinating at times! (Especially visiting Soviet towns! Travel is one of the high arts for me, you know!)

I am very much about contextualizing a writer's work to get more out of that work----we agree. On the other hand, I think that, to some extent, writing can't rely solely on those contexts to create its value. We agree again, I believe.


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