Yevtushenko: Selected Poems (Poets S.) Mass Market Paperback – 31 May 1973
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A selection of Yevtushenko's poems translated int English with an introduction by Robin Milner-Gulland and Peter Levi.
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The other, his great masterpiece "Babiy Yar," seeks to challenge the Russian anti-Semitism. In 1941 Germans and Ukrainians murdered over 30,000 Ukrainian Jews. The poem juxtaposes the quiet grassy ravine of Babi Yar, as Yevtushenko saw it in probably 1960 or 61, with the horrors committed. Meanwhile he is also challenging the Soviet theory of Communism without prejudice. He attacks this hypocrisy with: "When the last anti-Semite on the earth/is buried forever/let the International ring out."
Also included are some of his "less important" poems. Two personal favorites of mine are included. One is "On Bicycle," where he describes a day-ride from Moscow into the countryside. The other is "Encounter" where he sees a man who looks like Hemmingway in Copenhagen - only to find out later it was Hemmingway.
Yevtushenko was one of the blue-jean rebels of the 1960s. They challenged the Soviet state, not in a political but cultural way. Unfortunately, since the thaw in Soviet/US relations in the 1970s he has been marginalized by many circles in the West. This Penguin edition has been out of print since that time. However, in August 2008, Penguin is finally going to run another print. If 20th Century poetry is your thing, Yevtuschenko's realism and witty idealism in something not to miss!
There is a nice, albeit brief, introduction to his work, written by Robin Milner-Gulland and Peter Levi. It does provide useful context for the poetry to follow. But it is the poetry that is the heart of this slim work. A few lines to illustrate his art. . . .
"As we get older we get honester,
"Telling lies to the young is wrong.
Proving to them that lies are true is wrong."
"with one sudden thought, how little I
Have done in life, how much I can do."
"And how I flattered myself
From time to time with proving to myself
Nothing in you could be unknown to me.
You don't belong to the mind's calculations,
And you disproved each of my demonstrations,
Since to be unexpected is your truth."
All in all, a nice, although brief, introduction to the poetry of Yevtushenko.