Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dmitry Alexandrovich Prigov, Soviet-Era Avant-Garde Poet and Artist, Rest in Peace

Eugene Ostashevsky sent me an email yesterday with news of the passing of a great poet, artist, and cultural laborer, Dmitry Prigov. One of the great innovators and tireless experimenters of his generation, Prigov's massive poetic and artistic output (he once promised to write 25,000 poems) has yet to receive full acknowledgement or readership in the United States. As far as I know, the only full-length collection of his poems to appear in English has been Fifty Drops of Blood, translated by Cris Mattison and published by Ugly Duckling Presse. In honor of his life and work, I'm posting a few Prigov poems I translated a few years back. Tomorrow, I'll post an interview of Prigov that I did in 1996, versions of which appeared in COMBO. He was electrifyingly intelligent, hilariously gesticulating, and humanely generous to me, a young American stuttering his Russian and misunderstanding the scope of his project.

Some Prigov poems:


In Japan I would be Catullus
And in Rome I would be Hokusai
And in Russia I am the same guy
Who would have been
Catallus in Japan
And in Rome, Hokusai.


The plumber goes into the winter yard
He looks: and the yard is already spring.
It's the same way as with him now--
He was a schoolboy, and now he's a plumber.

And the farther the more--farther is death,
And before that ripe old age
And before that, and before that,
And before that--as is now, a plumber.


In the cafe of the house of Literators
Poliseman drinks beer
Drinks in his usual manner,
Not even seeing the literary workers

But they all look at him.
Around him it is light and empty
And all of their different arts
In his presence don't mean anything

He represents life,
Appearing in the form of Duty.
Life is short, but Art is long.
And in the battle Life wins


Here is the Poliseman standing in place
Watching everything, remembering
Everything around and here is his pride
The ambulance dressed all in white flies up to him
Raises a fan of spring splashes
Hands entwined they're walking together
The heavens above them melt
The ground disappears in this place.


It's not important the recorded milk production
Cannot be compared to the real milk production
Everything that's recorded is recorded in the heavens
And if it will come to be not in two or three days
Nevertheless it's really important when it will
And in some high sense it's already come true
And in some low sense everything will be forgotten
And it's nearly been forgotten already


Unknown said...

Tell his wife to stay.
Going would be of no good.
Her years of light would fade
with her soul descending to an abyss.

Anonymous said...

- Prigov in action. Three years he passed away, an extraodinary artist and philosopher.