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Russian Poet Pavlova Celebrates Desire in New Collection

December 31, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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A profile of Russian poet Vera Pavlova, who will release her first collection of poems in English, "If There is Something to Desire," next month.
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JEFFREY BROWN: Finally, another in our poetry series tonight, Vera Pavlova, a Russian whose first collection of poems in English, “If There Is Something to Desire,” will be published next month. It’s translated by her husband, Steven Seymour, who also serves as the interpreter for our profile.

VERA PAVLOVA, (through translator): My name is Vera Pavlova. I was born in Moscow. And I spent all of my life there. And my impression was that I would never leave that place.

In Moscow, I went to the Gnesin Academy of Music. Until the age of 20, I wrote music and I was going to become a composer. And, then, starting from the age of 20, I started writing poetry. Fourteen of my collections of poetry have been published up to date in Moscow. And I met Steve in Moscow, too.

Steve and I represent a kind of a rare case of cooperation. The history of poetry knows a number of examples of poets being man and wife, though those were not very happy marriages. But, unless I am mistaken, there has been no case of a wife being a poet and the husband being a translator. This gives a lot of advantages to the translator, because he gets to translate poems that we have lived through together.

“If only I knew from what tongue your ‘I love you’ has been translated, if I could find the original, consult the dictionary, to be sure the rendition is exact. The translator is not at fault.”

I started writing poetry when I was in the maternity ward. When I gave birth to my first daughter it turned out that I was also born for the first time. And, in this new life, I turned out to be a poet.

“A beast in winter, a plant in spring, an insect in summer, a bird in autumn. The rest of the time, I am a woman.”

This book is the first child of Steve’s and mine. It contains 100 poems. The only thing I hope for is that, regardless of what the outward world is for different people, different nations, I hope their internal world is similar.

And if I, hopefully, have managed to somehow describe my inner world in this book, all I count on is that it will have some resonance among the American readers, or, at the very least, the American readers will treat this book as a kind of a guidebook for my inner world, strange as it may appear.

“Against the current of blood, passion struggles to spawn. Against the current of speech, the word breaks the oar. Against the current of thought, the sails of dreams glide. Dog-paddling like a child, I swim against the current of tears.”