Tuesday Poem: Notes From The Futurist Project

You float like a cloud in trousers
I stand with my cow in the rain

Your poems electrified Russia
Your dams were a hymn to the rain

Your empire crumbled around us
As here and as gone as the rain

The birch tree lies by the roadside
Its branches are wept by the rain

The smoke of my village drifts upwards
Its ashes retreat from the rain

Your red square has entered the market
Its cobbles are slick with the rain

The future lies inside the present
As close as a cloud and its rain.

Credit note:First published in Lynx XXI:1, Feb 2006.

Tim says: This is my one and only published attempt at a ghazal. I don’t think it’s as fleet-footed as the ghazal by Mary Cresswell I posted last week, and in fact, I’d almost forgotten I’d written it – but then poet and photographer Madeleine Slavick kindly sent me an article by John Berger about the Russian futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, which touched on Mayakovsky’s ‘frenemy’ relationship with his contemporary, the Russian peasant poet Sergei Esenin (sometimes rendered as Yesenin).

To simplify greatly, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Mayakovsky tried to build the urban future in his poetry, while Esenin tried to preserve the rural past. Neither succeeded in life, though both did in art. Both died young and by their own hand.

In this poem, Esenin is the narrator, and Mayakovsky is the “cloud in trousers”, as he once referred to himself.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog – the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week’s other poems are linked from the right-hand column.

Tuesday Poem: Now My Love Is Not The Same, by Sergei Esenin, translated by Tim Jones

Now My Love Is Not The Same

(to Kliuev)

Now my love is not the same.
Ah, I know, you grieve, you
Grieve that pools of words
Have not spilled from the moon’s broom.

Mourning and rejoicing at the star
Which settles on your brows
You sang out your heart to the izba
But failed to build a home in your heart.

And what you hoped for every night
Has passed your roof by once again.
Dear friend, for whom then did you gild
Your springs with singing speech?

You will not sing about the sun
Nor glimpse, from your window, paradise
Just as the windmill, flapping its wing
Cannot fly up from the earth.

Tim says: Sergei Alexandrovitch Esenin (or Yesenin), 1895-1925, was a Russian poet of peasant origin who lived and worked in the period before, during, and after the Russian revolution. Well-known and much-loved as a poet in Russia, his work has received less attention than it deserves in English-speaking countries, where he may be best known as the ex-husband of Isadora Duncan.

In the final year of my BA in Russian, which I completed in 1995 at Victoria University, having started it several years before at Otago, I translated 15 of Esenin’s poems into English, and wrote an essay about him, as my final-year project. The translations are still pretty rough about the edges, but I’m keen to get them out into the world: I did this a little bit last year in the Esenin Translation Project on LibraryThing, and from time to time, as I tidy them up, I will publish some of those translations here.

I’ll say a little more about Esenin, his writing, and the poetry of the time as I do so.


The “Kliuev” of the dedication refers to Esenin’s near-contemporary, poetic mentor, and (according to some biographers) lover Nikolai Kliuev (or Klyuev), one of the earliest peasant poets to gain some measure of acceptance in pre-revolutionary St Petersburg. The essay I wrote to accompany my translations notes:

Kliuev and Esenin began to perform together in public, dressing in idealised peasant style to flatter the expectations of their audience. Esenin took to accompanying himself on an accordion; although the tal’ianka and garmonika are important motifs in his poetry, his skill in playing them lagged behind his skill in writing about them.

An “izba” is a Russian peasant hut.