cover image Blue Vitriol

Blue Vitriol

Alexei Parshchikov. Avec Books, $9.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-880713-02-0

During the Cold War, very little postwar Soviet poetry made it into English. Though such official poets as Yevtushenko and Brodsky found translators, they were exceptional. With perestroika, that began to change, and in the last few years a number of anthologies and selections, to which Parshchikov's Blue Vitriol is a distinguished addition, have appeared in our language. The defining feature of Parshchikov's poetry is its fantastical elaboration of metaphor, not as a decorative device or an occasion for clever display, but as a fundamental mode of apprehending and transforming the world: the poet's ``spirit is stretched taut and rings with the changing of metaphors.'' Here ``potato roots protrude from the earth like elbows from a fist fight,'' and a dying fish ``[freezes] up, like a key growing thick in a lock.'' Parshchikov's metaphors are measures of desperation in a world hopelessly blighted, where ``history is a sack, an abyss of money inside it.'' The translations are not of uniform quality-their tone unsteady, their complications possibly more of the translator's than the poet's making-and it could have been more usefully annotated. But Parshchikov's troubled and powerful imagination is clear. (Nov.)