Real poetry doesn't say anything, it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through anyone that suits you. That's why poetry appeals to me so much - because it's eternal. As long as there are people, they can remember words and combinations of words. Nothing else can survive a holocaust but poetry and songs. No one can remember an entire novel. No one can describe a film, a piece of sculpture, a painting, but so long as there are human beings, songs and poetry can continue...
"My mother was an extremely wise woman," my granddad Mark used to say. "She pronounced not more than 20 words a day."
In my childhood I was very much surprised to hear that - back then I didn't know anything about the vow of silence and, frankly speaking, did not perceive that kind of wisdom as wisdom.
In summer when I woke up at our dacha in the morning I tried to be like that - not more than twenty words a day. But after a couple of hours devoted to verbal chastity I gave way to loquacity, at least inside myself. Otherwise how could I have become a poet and a translator?
Different rhymes have been whirling in my mind since my childhood.
Starry cancer crawled his track.
That was a riddle. And the solution is "Night".
However when I chatted with the girls in the yard of our apartment house in Moscow I always felt a necessity to keep silent after that - to purify myself. Thanks goodness, I had to play the piano - those hours of practice were the blissful pauses of silence.
Poetry is a huge part of my heart and life. When I was in my twenties I was already wading through love poetry, but if somebody had asked me back then whether I wanted to be a poet I might have answered something like this: "A poet? What for? I wanna make a professional translator." So I did, but poetry was following me really closely.
Poetry is something that comes from Up There and nobody asks you whether you want it or not. Of course, my education has played a certain role - I was trained first as a pianist and then as a linguist, but that wouldn't be enough without this special gift, which I treasure as my Alter Ego.
While I lived in this little room
Facing the sea,
Having no walls -
Only windows and windows and windows...
I woke up with the dawn,
Saw the acacia's feathers -
One day it blossomed.
Its flowers in marvelous grapes
Reached for the Sun and the sky -
How could I miss that at all?
And the sky had been living its secret celestial life,
That one of height and of space,
Wading in spheres of God,
Giving its eyes to the sea
And the sea gave its eyes to the sky.
Both did not know that my month
Against all expectations
gone into the memory,
The majolica formed...
It's the same with long life on Earth:
You won't notice - your soul has blossomed,
You won't believe it - your time is gone.
At the age of twenty nine I gave the Lord a vow of chastity. After that poetry gushed down at me as an avalanche - I have written 4, 000 poems for the past 14 years.
"You have chosen the most difficult path - to be a nun in the world," a priest said to me during one of my confessions. Did I choose? No. It was the Lord who made His choice for me. It was the Lord who put my 3 main talents into me - that of a musician, a poet and an artist. It was the Lord who wrenched me out of sensual love and called to work for Him and the Art. I just accepted His choice.
Everyone has to choose,
Everyone has to lose.
I'm choosing poetry.
I'm choosing poverty.
Everything is a pretext for poetry - a gush of fresh wind taking your breath away or a pensive lily pond or the Spirit opening your mind for the Other Worlds or the story of your own soul through your previous lives (I have written a cycle called "Memory Traveling").
Your bird-headed soul has taken wing to Eternity
And now your spirit struggles across the River of the Dead,
Trying to reach to fields of happiness Ialu -
To come back through the wide-open eyes of your sarcophagus
And feed its KA.
This poem is called "Reminiscences Of My Death in Ancient Egypt" and is part of "The Oriental Cycle".
Stylistically my poetry is all about blank verse with an occasional rhyme - a strange phenomenon for Russian poetry. I actually started to write in English. That was easy - I was a student of English and English was my inspired lover engulfing all my thoughts.
Oh, don't you love your take!
Blue clouds over the light-blue hills
stepping a little back,
hovering over the world...
Well, this is Koktebel,
The valley of blue rocks and hills,
my tremulous and ardent love.
The clouds have played a wistful saga
turning from Angels into miraculous birds
up in the sleepy sky,
ready to have the night...
It's cold, it's very cold...
I am alone in this mysterious set
and my enormous feeling,
as rhythmic as the waves,
will never tide...
Russian was just a relative that I was using. I had to go to England to appreciate my own native language, its riches and sophistications.
In May 1994 I sent some of my poems to Joseph Brodsky in New York. I did not know him personally, but he had a huge influence on my poetic life at the end of the 1980s. I was amazed at his audacity - both human and poetic. He answered me. No one could believe it. I could.
The first published book of mine started in the UNESCO. The UNESCO showed my poems to publishers and one of them decided to get them published. The idea was to publish 200 copies and send them around 200 Russian libraries. When the book was almost ready the 1998 default came about. My publisher got broke and couldn't afford making such expensive presents to the Russian culture as 200 copies of my book. Since all my friends were waiting for this first book of mine I decided to pay myself. When the second version of the book was completed it turned out to be inartistic: the layout was unprofessional and the color tones of my photos - a far cry from the original. Then I made up my mind to rewrite the book by hand - it was both easy and pleasant - and glue my original photos into each copy.
Thus a unique edition was born through an obstacle. "Blessed are the obstacles, through you do we grow," wrote Yelena Rorich.
My book called "There Is A Way Of The Earth And A Way Of The Wings" participated in the International Conference "Book as an Object Of Art" attended by 11 art museums of the world and was bought by the Museum Of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Victoria and Albert in London. Two copies went to the Book Museum at the State Russian Library, two copies - to the Room of Arts at the Library of Foreign Literature. Each of the two libraries did my solo photo shows.
Other copies went to private collections of outstanding personalities or organizations, such as: the collection of the French President Jacques Chirac, the collection of the General Council of the United States Thomas R. Hutson, the Gallery of Modern Art in New York (Mr. Ronald Feldman), the collection of the President of the Eugene O'Neil Theatre Center Mr. George White, the collection of the Indian Prince His Majesty Arvind Singh Mewar, the collection of a famous Swedish actor Thomas von Bromssen who also turned out to be my relative in the German line going back to the 12thc., the American-Soviet Theatre Initiative etc.
As for poetry itself and its place in the contemporary world I'm happy that my book costs 200 dollars already and its value will only increase with the years.
Once P.B. Shelly wrote an essay "Defense Of Poetry". As a matter of fact poetry does not need to be defended. It lives in the lofty spheres like air, snow or wind - things of the Invisible World (air and wind are partly things of the visible world, because we don't see them, but only their work on the incarnated things of the visible world - trees, water and the like). The same is true of the Spirits or poetry. We can't see poetry, but only its revelations through the incarnated phenomena of the material world, i.e. through the souls of poets.
Through them it comes to the Earth in a more or less slanted form, but if it's not needed here it does not get hurt, but goes back - Up Home, like Lofty Spirits - they can go down to the level of lower spirits and Up again while the lower spirits can only live in the valley and there is no way for them to the Height.
In general, poetry is a way of hardships, not necessarily material, but rather internal ones. Good poetry is usually brought about by a huge stress or hypersensitive joy - religious ecstasy, for example. It's also brought about by vows given to the Lord. Poetry is "a creative despair". That's how Herman Finsterlin, an artist and architect, called the architectural creations of Antonio Gaudi. I love Gaudi not only because he was a genius, but also because he was a monk, a monk in the world, an inspired saint.
It was this creative despair that Picasso meant when he said "poetry is damn expensive". Ann Stevenson meant the same: "... but love knows death, therefore tears, therefore poems, therefore the long stone sobs of cathedrals..."
Joseph Brodsky ends up his Noble lecture by saying: "Poetry is a colossal buster of the mind, the thinking and contemplation of the world. Having experienced this once one cannot deny himself repeating this experience, he falls into dependency of the process the way one falls into dependency of drugs or alcohol. A person dependant on the language in this way is called a poet, I surmise."
Very true. Moreover, poetry is a reflection of the spiritual climbing of the soul, lonely in this world - its only happiness is being under this spiritual shower, which I would not trade for anything else.