Inna Kabysh

Translator’s Note on Inna Kabysh’s Work:

With the exception of several short poems published in anthologies of contemporary Russian writing, almost none of poet Inna Kabysh’s work has been translated into English—this despite national and international acclaim for her work.  What draws me to Kabysh is the breadth of her vision: she’s equally at home doing the laundry, depicting an orphanage for the souls of aborted children, or talking shop with Dante.  This translation appears in a dual-language edition of Kabysh’s poetry for the iPad that includes text and audio versions of the poems in both Russian and English, as well as video interpretations of the poems. 


Inna Kabysh (b. 1963) is the author of six books of poetry: Lichnye trudnosti (1994), Detskiy mir(1996), Mesto vstrechi (2000), Detstvo, otrochestvo, detstvo (2003), Nevesta bez mesta (2008), and Mama myla ramu (2013).  In 1996 Kabysh was awarded Russia’s Pushkin Prize.  She is also an awardee of the Alfred Toepfer Fund (Hamburg, Germany) and winner of the Anton Delwig Prize (2005). 


Katherine E. Young’s (translator) translations of Russian poet Inna Kabysh were awarded a share of the 2011 Joseph Brodsky-Stephen Spender Prize and commended by the judges of the 2012 Brodsky-Spender Prize: a dual-language edition of Kabysh’s poetry for the iPad is forthcoming from Artist’s Proof Press.  Young’s translations of Vladimir Kornilov appear in Russian Poetry from Pushkin to Brodsky (Penguin Classics, forthcoming).  Day of the Border Guards, a book of Young’s original poems, was recently published as part of the 2014 University of Arkansas Miller Williams Prize series.



…When Jesus said
Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone,
she, taken in adultery,
narrowed her eyes –
and there and then felt
a stone hitting her head.
She opened her eyes
and saw
not a soul around:
the people
who’d demanded to stone her according to the laws of Moses
had dispersed, having heeded their conscience;
Jesus, saying Go and sin no more,
had turned to the people waiting for him;
and she herself threw that stone
because sin – it’s a stone
thrown at the sky,
and it falls on one’s head
not according to the laws of Moses
but according to the laws of Newton.

If Christ had been asked to fill out a questionnaire,
then in the profession column
he’d have written: man of letters.
Jesus spoke in parables,
that is, he was aware
not everyone understood him,
but he couldn’t do otherwise:
like a true man of letters
he spoke as he heard,
not following the opinion of the crowd.
He wasn’t even a man of letters
but a philologist,
not even a philologist
but a word:
he was both singer and song –
one person with two faces.
…Why do we mourn the death of the Singer,
when he left us his songs?
But that’s just the point, we love
the singer – all of him.

Literature – it’s the personal body of the writer.

If Jesus were human to the same degree
as he’s God,
then he’d in full measure have been a man.
But insofar as women are prone to idealize,
they all followed him exclusively
               as God.
All except Magdalene.
to fill the emptiness
arising after Jesus expelled seven devils
           from her,
needed something from Him that,
entering into her and instantly filling her,
would afterwards grow day by day.
And that,
as she knew from experience,
could only follow a sexual path.
She followed Jesus
on a path
that was different
from the rest of the women:
she wanted him.
But the body
she never received,
even approaching the grave.
Because that would have been happiness for her.
And Jesus, like an honest person,
never promised anyone happiness –

he promised bliss.



Kabysh poem

One thought on “Inna Kabysh”

  1. This is a profound poem that makes one reconsider the desire for happiness. Now the question is how does one define bliss?? It’s not serenity, could be part joy, but in the end, (for me) it’s (in human terms) Bach. This is where this poem took me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *