Sabbath Day – Russia III
As promised yesterday, I took a few Sabbath hours today to make up for the five spent in my office yesterday. The coming few days will be non-stop activity, and everyone around me seems to be getting sick. Self-care is highly important and, frankly, a responsibility.
Most of my free hours were spent in the park – it was a beautiful day today – or on my balcony. I continued reading Russian poets today as part of my reading multi-national literature. (I include this link every week and no one ever seems to click it!)
I took my morning coffee with Boris Pasternak (Nobel Prize in Literature, 1958, declined). Known primarily for his novel Doctor Zhivago, he is one of the few poets I read today who were not jailed, exiled, or had family jailed, exiled or murdered by Soviet police or secret service. (This continuing my present arc of reading world prison literature). Yesterday I read Anna Akhmatova who had one husband killed and a second husband and a son jailed in the Gulag. Today brought Osip Mandelstam, arrested in 1934 for reciting a denunciation of Stalin to his friends: he spent five years in a labor camp and died in the Gulag.
I read Marina Tsvetaeva, who hung herself after her husband and daughter were sent to the Gulag. Vladimir Mayakovsky developed his, poetic craft and art in prison – he committed suicide in 1930. Irina Ratushinskaya was imprisoned for her dissident activities and exiled in 1986. According to wikipedia, “her new works that were written in prison, which were written on soap until memorized and then washed away, number some 250.” Imagine.
There is constant fear and uncertainty in these poems: “Our lives no longer feel the ground under them,” writes Mandelstam. And anger: “They took – suddenly – and took – openly – took mountains – and took their entrails, they took coal and took steel, from us, lead they took – and crystal … but we’re not done for – as long as their is spit in our mouths!” writes Tsvetaeva. There is little hope, but much determination.
Poems for hard times.