And So I Write My Life

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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 (these are marked with an asterix); 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


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.


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.


A stone-throw away from where I live

There is a field a strange rarely visits.

The trenches and landmines disfigured it,

And tender scarlet flowers grow in it.

I’ve long stopped counting how rapidly the field

Expands across the ages and the limits.

Old flowers never die; and life continues:

New flower throbs with fresh red blood in it.

Were you a man or woman? Young or old?

What nation? Season? How? Who? For what?

What you believed? Who loved you? I don’t know.

Had you killed anyone before they took your breath?

They say: one death refutes another death.

And so I stand and watch the poppies grow.


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… 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.

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