Katherine E. Young

Three Translations of Poems About Moscow

20th Anniversary Reflections

Katherine E. Young’s work has been featured in five issues of Beltway Poetry Journal: The Evolving City Issue (Fall 2007, Volume 8:4, guest edited by Teri Ellen Cross Davis with Kim Roberts); the Museum Issue (Winter 2009, Volume 10:1, guest edited by Maureen Thorson with Kim Roberts); the Sonnet Issue (Winter 2015, Volume 16:1, guest edited by Michael Gushue with Kim Roberts); the First Books Issue (Spring 2015, Volume 16:2); and the Sterling A. Brown Tribute Issue (Fall 2017, Volume 18:4). She co-edited the Poetry in Translation Issue (Summer 2015, Volume 16:3) with Nancy Naomi Carlson and Suzanne Zweizig.

Young writes, “Unlike my co-editors Nancy Naomi Carlson and Suzanne Zweizig, I came to the editing process for the Beltway Poetry Quarterly Translation Issue without significant experience editing translations; I learned a great deal from my co-editors and from all the 25 translators with whom we worked. Our many hours of editorial discussions about what constitutes a ‘good’ translation (and by extension, what constitutes a ‘good’ poem) are distilled in the introduction we wrote to the issue. The notion that a translation, like the poem from which it is created, is a work of art simultaneously tethered to a specific time and place and yet in some essential way universal in its reach continues to challenge and inform the way I write and translate to this day.”


Three Poems About Moscow Translated from Russian to English

“Moscow” by Vyacheslav Ivanov

Lingering in azure, the clouds
Grow heavy with languid moisture.
The drooping birches show white,
And the river trails along below.

Encircled by a reflecting arc,
The City-Mirage, far off, has lit
The candles of a hundred cupolas –
A hundred fiery banners of sun.

The green shadow of late light
Plays with liquid gold; and the City,
All lit up, flickering in scarlet
Bursts – light-struck – doesn’t burn out.

And with its tight cluster of turrets
Looms like a fairy encampment
Between the gloom of darkened glades
And far-away dim-blue; as if,

Keeper of earthly miracles,
It had locked up from opposing hosts
With a whole columned fortress of oaths
Some talisman of the heavens.




Влачась в лазури, облака
Истомой влаги тяжелеют.
Березы никлые белеют,
И низом стелется река.

И Город-марево, далече
Дугой зеркальной обойден, –
Как солнца зарных ста знамен –
Ста жарких глав затеплил свечи.

Зеленой тенью поздний свет
Текучим золотом играет;
А Град горит и не сгорает,
Червонный зыбля пересвет,

И башен тесною толпою
Маячит, как волшебный стан,
Меж мглой померкнувших полян
И далью тускло-голубою:

Как бы, ключарь мирских чудес,
Всей столпной крепостью заклятий
Замкнул от супротивных ратей
Он некий талисман небес.


Untitled poem by Marina Tsvetayeva

Moscow’s emblem: hero pierces lizard.
Dragon – bloody. Hero – lit up. As it

Should be. In the name of God and the living soul
Come down from the gates, Divine Sentinal!

Give us back our freedom, Warrior – give them
Their lives. Patron of fateful Moscow – come down

From the gates! And show the people and the dragon
That men lie sleeping – war’s being waged by icons.


[April 26, 1918]


* * *

Московский герб: герой пронзает гада.
Дракон в крови. Герой в луче. – Так надо.

Во имя Бога и души живой
Сойди с ворот, Господень часовой!

Верни нам вольность, Воин, им – живот.
Страж роковой Москвы – сойди с ворот!

И докажи – народу и дракону –
Что спят мужи – сражаются иконы.


“This is Radio Moscow” by Ilya Ehrenburg

A tribune on a stand won’t quench a madman’s
Thirst. Swallows won’t call among leaves of stone.
And suddenly, like the vague hum of the surf,
You catch the breath of far-off, living Moscow.
Known to all the earth’s stepchildren, vicariously
Dear (they admire the light stitches of streets) –
For me, the city was tender childhood, its Garden
Ring, its first light snows. Buildings move. You leave
In the morning and Tverskaya has already
Turned the corner. The running leap of bridges.
On the river they launch tall boats and burn
Snow, like corpses, at night. I walk along
The streets, and don’t regret the past. I recognize
Neither contemporaries nor squares. I only
Hear that Moscow speech, born of the streets. And smile
At a long-resident sparrow. Hearts at a boil:
The city’s been blown up, cut open, dug up.
And fate spills out through your fingers, like sand.
And, hearing that noise, the night of Europe obediently
Lets fall the golden skein of wool from her hands.



«Говорит Москва»

Трибун на цоколе безумца не напоит.
Не крикнут ласточки средь каменной листвы.
И вдруг доносится, как смутный гул прибоя,
Дыхание далекой и живой Москвы.
Всем пасынкам земли знаком и вчуже дорог
(Любуются на улиц легкие стежки) –
Он для меня был нежным детством, этот город,
Его Садовые и первые снежки.
Дома кочуют. Выйдешь утром, а Тверская
Свернула за угол. Мостов к прыжку разбег.
На реку корабли высокие спускают,
И, как покойника, сжигают ночью снег.
Иду по улицам, и прошлого не жалко.
Ни сверстников, ни площади не узнаю.
Вот только слушаю все ту же речь с развалкой
И улыбаюсь старожилу-воробью.
Сердец кипенье: город взрезан, взорван, вскопан,
А судьбы сыплются меж пальцев, как песок.
И, слыша этот шум, покорно ночь Европы
Из рук роняет шерсти золотой моток.


Poems first appeared in 100 Poems About Moscow: An Anthology, ed. Artyom Skvortsov, 2016. Reprinted with permission of the translator. The following short bios also come from that book.
Vyacheslav Ivánov (1866-1949) was a Russian poet, philosopher, translator, playwright, literary critic, and doctor of philology. He was a vivid representative of the Silver Age, a Symbolist, and an ideologist of all things “Dionysian.” His ideas had a significant impact on the majority of his contemporaries who worked within the modernist aesthetic. Ivanov the thinker is more influential then Ivanov the poet.
Marina Tsvetayeva (1892-1941) was a poet, prose writer, critic, and translator. One of the greatest Russian poets of the twentieth century, Tsvetayeva wrote in a markedly tragic, neo-Romantic vein. Her work innovatively combines daring verse experimentation with a foundation in Russian folklore and a deep knowledge of the European poetic tradition.
Ilya Ehrenburg (1891-1967) was a Russian and Soviet writer, poet, public figure, publicist, translator, and photographer. At one time he was an influential and popular figure, playing the permitted role of the “Westerner” in Soviet literature. Out of all his extensive literary oeuvre, it is his memoirs and certain individual poems that deserve the most attention.



Katherine E. Young is the author of Day of the Border Guards (University of Arkansas, 2014), a finalist for the Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize, and two chapbooks: Van Gogh in Moscow (Pudding House Press, 2008), and Gentling the Bones (Finishing Line Press, 2007). Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, and Subtropics. Young is also the translator of Farewell, Aylis by Azerbaijani political prisoner Akram Aylisli (Academic Studies Press, 2018), named one of 2018's "Eleven Groundbreaking Works" by Words Without Borders; as well as Blue Birds and Red Horses (Toad Press, 2018), and Two Poems (Artist's Proof Editions, 2014), both by Inna Kabysh. Her translations of Russian-language authors have appeared in Asymptote, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry, Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine, and 100 Poems About Moscow: An Anthology, winner of the 2017 Books of Russia Award in Poetry; several of her translations have been made into short films. Young was named a 2015 Hawthornden Fellow (Scotland), a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellow, and a 2020 Arlington (VA) Individual Artist Grant awardee. From 2016 - 2018 she served as the inaugural Poet Laureate for Arlington, Virginia http://katherine-young-poet.com/ To read more by this author: Evolving City Issue, and Museum Issue