Leonid Aronzon

Life of a Butterfly: Collected Poems (2011)


Translated by Richard McKane

Leonid Aronzon encourages rhapsodic responses to his poems, and rightly so. He is the poet who does precisely what a poet should do, by avoiding literal-ness in favour of portraying feelings. To this end he emulates the French Symbolist poet, Stéphane Mallarmé, who believed that if poems named an object they necessarily took away its mystery; poems Mallarmé suggested, should recognise the absolute presence of what apparently is not present. Like all very considerable poets, Aronzon ignored the easy habits that pass for poetry by perpetuating the beat of the heart and the life of the soul in poems which lay claim to having traced the greatness of the human spirit. …

ISBN: ISBN 978-1-906742-42-3 Categories: ,

Praise and Poems

It is these virtues which instantly appealed to an English academic Caroline Clark, then living in Moscow, when she first read an Aronzon poem in a 1970’s anthology compiled by the leading Russian poet Olga Sedakova:

The clear April morning as if it is the playing of a harp.
The sun is hot on my back, and the trees in every square
blue-bearded like Jewish elders
in the first days of Easter must now be beautiful.
Light shines on the walls, on a table with papers on it:
light is a shadow that an angel gives us.
Everything else came afterwards: the dragonflies in the garden, fame;
the domes of the church had to be serene while guttering
into this clear morning, going on into midday,
like a harp, and something else I do not remember.

Caroline Clark commented: ‘And with this first line I entered a still world of contemplation, was held there and came out feeling as though I had been in a place of bright sunlight. It was a place I wanted to return to, one which I had the feeling of a place I had known in my childhood as siesta: inside, the cool white walls, a lull descends and finally a stillness, outside the sunparched earth, dust, stark shadows of light, no people. The moment of stilled life. I felt in reading this poem of Aronzon a free poetry, free of narrative movement, free from the rigour of verbs. But it isn’t static, it is rather a stilled life, distilled even, pure life’ … Now more than 40 years later, we have the chance to read the collected poems of Aronzon, made available in translation for the very first time.

from the Introduction by Geoffrey Godbert

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