To my family and my friends,
with love and gratitude
Моей семье и моим друзьям,
с любовью и благодарностью
It is perhaps unusual to write a preface to a short collection of poems. However, having decided to publish my English poems in a book, I thought some pre-emption was necessary.
The poems presented here explore the themes that concern us all, regardless of age and country. Love, the meaning of life, faith, Time, our relations with other people… I certainly regard poetry as a philosophical inquiry into one’s life. This inquiry, however, is of artistic nature, as we do not merely lay out our emotions and ideas, but we present them as an image, an allegory, which the reader has to decipher in order to comprehend and show empathy. Having been influenced by surrealism, as a poet I often exhibit the metaphysical outlook typical of Giorgio de Chirico, which manifests itself even better in my Russian poems. In fact, some of the poems in this collection have been translated from Russian; some were inspired by paintings, others by music.
As for the reason why one may feel the urge to compose poems in a foreign language, in my case this is not a demonstration of my linguistic prowess. All my life I have been living in a bilingual world, hence it was natural to express myself in any language that felt the most appropriate. And sometimes it was appropriate to use the English language. My poems usually come in toto, so if it begins in English, it gets finished in English, too.
In spite of having a few publications under the belt, I was conscious of delivering a collection in English, so I asked my friends to be the readers. Hence it is with their approval that I now happily give this book away to the world. My heartfelt thanks go to Marco Brambilla and Ardian Slatcher, who kindly agreed to be the first readers and gave some valuable comments.
I dedicate this collection to them and to my family that has always been very supportive of my goals and aspirations.
Julia Shuvalova, Moscow, 2018
THE WORD*Poems marked with * have been translated from Russian by the author
I want to love you, but I know not, how;
To call your name — but is there such a name
That may become you? To the spheres above
I now entrust the knowledge of the same.
I barely hope and yet I almost fear
They will have found the word, and then (alas!)
I will gain power over you to bear,
the power that no mortal ever has.
AT THE MIRROR*Inspired by: George de la Tour, The Repentant Magdalen (Magdalena Fabius) (1635—40)
You look into the mirror, and you see
The darkness underneath your loosened hair.
“What am I to myself?” — again you hear
Yourself repeating. All succumbed to sleep,
The elements and beasts. The moon was lit
In the black sky. To your endless steer
No healing to be ever found here.
Oh why have you been left alone with it?!
You tread in sadness on the dingy walk,
Not having found the meaning in the stock.
What is the truth? The truth, indeed, is silence.
For, having seen itself, it’s fallen mute.
And such is now the end of your dispute,
Reflected in the mirror’s sad radiance.
When you possess that which you would refuse
And never have the given-up bemoaned;
Or when you mourn the loss of what you used
To think was yours but hardly never owned —
All this is vain, if, like Pygmalion,
Spending your days with the adored creation,
You wait to see how light ignites the stone —
But no god can liven your possession.
PAROLES, PAROLES*The title references the French version of the song Parole, Parole by G. Ferrio, L. Chiosso, G. Del Re
Paroles, paroles… Is there a price to words,
Or their value is indeed invented
When scales are used to measure their worth
To give to someone as a gift or credit,
To which the weights are always other words?
Paroles, paroles… From underneath their face
A subject lurks, occasional and silent,
Escaping to the infinitives’ maze,
Abandoning the predicate’s confinement,
Confusing all superlatives in haste.
Paroles, paroles… My life is made of words
But now, taking off my famous smile,
I think: do you have really any worth,
So usual, wise, eternal, versatile,
Or are you always words, but mere words?
How can you prove that you’re not someone’s shade,
And all you have is no-one’s but yours,
That this past day has not been lived in vain,
And everything you’ve done has got some worth?
Alas to you, alas! The world is hard to please:
It checks forever if you’re really new.