Youthful Verses (2020)

In November 1928 Marina Tsvetaeva wrote from Paris to her dear friend Anna Teškova in Prague, asking her to do everything she could to get her hands on the typescript of an unpublished collection, Youthful Verses, written when she was still in Russia, before the 1917 year of revolutions.
Her later poetry, she said, was far too challenging to gain an easy audience, whereas the emigré press would pay to publish these earlier pieces which everyone loved.
And indeed, Youthful Verses contains some of the most immediately appealing and communicative poems Tsvetaeva ever wrote.
Gipsy passion for breaking up!
You’ve barely met – you fall apart!
Resting my head upon my hands
I stare into the night, and think:
no matter who rummages through
our letters, they won’t fully grasp
how unfaithful we were, that is,
how deeply faithful to ourselves.
October 1915
With incalculable tenderness
because I soon must bid you all farewell,
I take my time carefully to decide
who I am going to leave my wolf’s fur to,
to whom the blanket I loved snuggling under,
o whom my greyhound and my slender cane,
who’s going to get the silver bracelet, with
mber ornamentation all around…
The notebooks, and the multitude of flowers
it’s going to be impossible to keep…
For whom my last rhyme will be written – and
who’s to receive the gift of my last night!
September 22nd 1915
Youthful Verses also features the devastatingly frank account of her relationship with the older, lesbian poet Sophia Parnok, ‘With a Woman’, a sequence of seventeen poems. Three uncollected poems included as a supplement include this account of imminent break up:
The clock has finished chiming – I
don’t know the time.
In their sockets your eyes are huge,
rivulets cross the satin of
your dress. It’s hard
to make you out.
Above the porch next door the light
has been turned off.
Places exist where loving knows
no end. The outline of your face
terrifies me.
Within the twilit room night’s in-divisible.
Transfixed by moonlight, the window’s
hollowed-out cavity could be
a block of ice.
“So you give in?” I hear you ask.
“I didn’t fight.”
Your voice is frozen by the moon,
it could be reaching me across
one hundred miles!
Between us a beam lifts itself,
moves with the world.
Enraged, your hair takes on a glint
of copper, with a darkening tinge –
History’s progress is forgotten
in the progress
of a moon the mirror shatters.
Far off a horses’ hooves are heard,
a creaking cart.
On the pavement the lamp’s gone out.
Progress cut short.
Soon a rooster will proclaim the
time has come for two young women
to separate.
November 1st 1914
Christopher has so far translated three books of Tsvetaeva’s poetry for Shearsmann press, Milestones, After Russia the First Notebook and After Russia the Second Notebook. Moscow in the Plague Year, with all the shorter poems Tsvetaeva wrote between November 1918 and May 1920, was published by Archipelago Press of New York in 2013.
buy a copy
Youthful Verses

‘If I have always lived outside the riverbed of culture, that may be because it flowed THROUGH ME’.
– Marina Tsvetaeva

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