Tag Archives: Anastasia Afanasieva

Anastasia Afanasieva

Translators’ Note:

Context is helpful in reading the poem. This poem refer to the war currently taking place in the Donbass region of Ukraine. Thousands of people have been killed, displaced and otherwise traumatized by the armed conflict, as Russia prefers to call it, between pro-Russian separatists, who are backed by Russian troops and the Ukrainian armed forces. Russia denies its involvement in the war.

 

Born in 1982, Anastasia Afanasieva (author) lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and writes poetry and prose in Russian. She is the author of six books and the winner of numerous major literary awards and prizes, including the Debut Prize and the Russian Award. Her poetry has been translated into English, German, Italian, Ukrainian and Belarusian. In the US, her poems in translation have appeared in Cimarron Review, Jacket Magazine and Blue Lyra Review. She is the translator of Ilya Kaminsky’s book Music of the Wind (Ayluros, 2012). Afanasieva’s poem “Untitled,” in English translation by Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky, won First Place in the 2014 Joseph Brodsky / Stephen Spender Prize Competition.

 

Olga Livshin (co-translator) holds a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literature and taught Russian at the University of Alaska Anchorage and Boston University. Her poetry and translations are published in Mad Hatters’ Review, Jacket Magazine and Breakwater Review, among other journals. They are included in Contemporary Russian Poetry: An Anthology, The Anthology of Chicago and the Persian World Anthology of Poetry (in Persian translation). She lives in Philadelphia.

 

Andrew Janco (co-translator) is a Digital Scholarship Librarian at Haverford College. He holds a PhD in History from the University of Chicago. With Olga Livshin, he has translated a number of Russian poets. His translations are published in Contemporary Russian Poetry: An Anthology and several journals.

 

She Speaks

1.

I’m fed up with my own fear
Tired of living in a pigsty
Garbage trucks don’t come anymore
They fear gunfire
So much trash
It’s just not right
Rusty cans
Brown rusty cans on white
Snow

Who will take them away if not us?
Are we supposed to live in a landfill?
We walk across the field like living targets
Picking up cans,
Putting them in trash bags,
Rusty cans
Wedding bands
Vests
Boxes
The crows’ black bodies
These bodies our own
Scattered remains

Fed up with my own fear
Fear also reaches some kind of limit
After which something begins
It’s something else
Dances with rusty cans in a white field
Housecleaning
Laundry
Snuggling in our sleep
Up to a certain moment
When time flares up like paper
Then crumbles into bits of ash
But there’s no more fear
Never again will there be
Fear

 

2.

She speaks, lit by winter sunshine,
The picture smears, disappears
Now only static remains,
Her words peck me like crows,
Peck at my heart, fed up with my own fear
Fed up with my own fear
Fed up with my own fear,

In a field
Half-eaten
By shell craters
As if by smallpox

She stands
With a shovel
And a bag
Full of trash

An interview
A blue microphone

Fed up with my own fear

Life beyond fear
Fearlessness on the verge of death

 

 

“I Used to Like…”

I used to like
the way time holds a note,
the way leaves play adagio,
the tired way a man unbuttons his shirt,
his hands seem to plod through the sluggish air.

I used to like
imaginary camel caravans trekking sleepily,
yellow like sand, endless,
like the desert.

I used to like
how gradually morning develops,
how new light, seemingly a new chance,
rises above the horizon,
I used to think,

next time
I’ll be adagio too
I’ll be holding a note

next time I, too,
will be without error
like the perfect mechanisms
of sand and leaves
and everything else

next time,
next
new
chance

Anastasiya Afanasieva

A Note On Anastasiya Afanasieva’s Work

Anastasiya Afanasieva is a brilliant contemporary poet writing in the Russian language who lives in the Ukraine. Living in one country, writing in a language of another, in a time of difficult historical transition, writing in free verse in a culture that is very oriented towards more formal verse structures, writing in a very young literature but being influenced by poets (such as Paul Celan) of quite different traditions, writing in a language whose speakers still associate poets with bards, while being a professional psychiatrist by trade, all of this gives Afanasieva’s voice a sense of dislocation, of strangeness that characterizes the work of many great poets. She posseses both strangeness and a sense of clarity of view which is unmistakable. Already recognized as one of the best Russian poets writing outside of the borders of Russia proper, this poet has a great deal to bring to her native traditions, and to those of other languages. — Katie Farris & Ilya Kaminsky

 

Katie Farris (translator) is the author of BOYSGIRLS (Marick Press) and her work has appeared in many literary journals including Virginia Quarterly Review, The Literary Review, Indiana Review, Verse, and numerous others. She teaches literature and creative writing at San Diego State University.


Ilya Kaminsky (translator) is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press) and co-editor of Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (Harper Collins).

 

From “Cold” 

by Anastasiya Afanasieva (tr. Ilya Kaminsky and Katie Farris) 

And a neighbor-lady the other day lost her glorious dog, Tita.
And now she stands and chews
a clump of snow in her palm.
And a hand without a glove
is red as a shame.
And this I saw, in the morning, walking out of my window.

Walk, hug my torso, as if I know your torso.
Walk as if a hand can console a human torso.

(Step a way from me, you idiot, my neighbor-lady yells.)

*

I am unaware of the concept of neighbors
Their faces, strange,
I see in backyards, on the morning walk to work
on the evening walk from work
I see their faces.

(And my body to their eyes, my body, is snow)

Momentary beings, lungs
in snow
who can console snow, lungs?

*

To winter’s narrow splinter
Of s street, to an idiot neighbor
And her idiot dog
We will now announce:

glory.

To quiet and naked branches of poplars
To faces  also quiet
In winter’s splinter
Of a wind, say:

glory.

To a voice you don’t hear
The real
Voice, cold, cut from stone in
a bone:

glory.

To no one, unknown
One blue on white
And quiet that splinters
the winter:

glory.

 

The Plain Sense of Things 

by Anastasiya Afanasieva (tr. Ilya Kaminsky and Katie Farris)

1
Of simple things – whisper, whisper – not
touching the ear of another –
believe – in another’s – eardrum.
So February opens, opens-
The time
whistles in a straw
as if a child sips from a glass of sparkling water.
Mouth opens, opens
before each word.
And the “o” of the mouth
is quiet
with want. Wide, and restrained, want.

3
And the snow comes as if no one knows about us
and no one needs us
and there was no
breath, no failure
and no earth that takes us inside.

9
Of simple things – in whisper, whisper.
So gives us to our bodies, time.
So the hands are held in hands, the bodies
drop into us.
So, the flame —
which comes from this evening
which is in our stomachs.
Our stomach, a city where we
are not yet persons. And no longer a breath, us.
And we — we want to go back to that breath, us.
We remember, us. 

12
Of simple things whisper, whisper.
Whisper us. Us, time.