A LOVE POEM: Translating Lina Kostenko

Zarina Zabrisky
Oct 13, 2016 · 4 min read

by Slava Galperin, Alex Zeyliger, The Arts Resistance

Ukrainian poet Lina Kostenko.

At the peak of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2015, Russian and Ukrainian residents of San Francisco Bay Area gathered to read their favorite works by Akhmatova, Kharms, Khodasevich, Kostenko, Mandelstam, Oliynik, Pasternak, Stus, Symonenko, Arsenij Tarkovsky, Tsvetaeva, Tychina. San Franciscan poets and actors read the English translation. Poetry reigned supreme. This was the first event of The Arts Resistance.

Below is the recording of Lina Kostenko’s poem Fate performed to music in Ukrainian, Russian and English at the event in Karo Caran’s translation.

Performance by Luda Sokolov and Gillian Eichenberger. Translation by Karo Caran. Video by Alexander Hvastovich.

In 2016, Slava Galperin continues The Arts Resistance tradition by translating an exquisite lyrical poem by Lina Kostenko into Russian and English.

* * *

Oh, stop me, come to senses, halt my dreams!
Such love descends from heaven once in never.
Over my broken life like a typhoon it screams
And leaves behind horizons in its fervor.

It tears our serenity to bits,
Its fiery lips are scorching words to ashes!
Oh, stop me, stop — and help me find my wits
Before my sanity forever crashes!

While reason holds… but no, the hope is lost.
At last my hour has come to see the dawn:
For next to you my soul will turn to frost
Or next to you I will enflame and burn.

2016 © Translation by Slava Galperin & Alex Zeyliger. Editor: Jenny Alton.

* * *

Останови меня, опомнись, отрезви!

Раз в никогда грядёт любовь такая.

Над жизнью сломанною вихрь любви

Промчится, горизонты обгоняя.

Струной взорвет покой неспешных дум,

Слова сжигая пламенным дыханьем!

Останови меня и образумь

Пока не утеряла я сознанье!

Пока… Но больше не могу… И все же

В заветный час мне ниспошли зарю:

То ли с тобою душу обморожу,

То ли с тобою пламенем сгорю.

2016©Перевод Славы Гальперина

* * *

Спини мене, отямся і отям!

Така любов буває раз в ніколи.

Вона ж промчить над зламаним життям,

За нею ж будуть бігти видноколи,

Вона ж порве нам спокій до струни,

Вона ж слова поспалює вустами!

Спини мене, спини і схамени,

Ще поки можу думати востаннє!

Ще поки можу… але вже не можу.

Настала черга й на мою зорю:

Чи біля тебе душу відморожу,

Чи біля тебе полум’ям згорю.

© Ліна Костенко

ABOUT THE POET

by Luda Sokolov

Lina Kostenko was born in Kiev on March 19, 1930. She was part of the shistdesiatnyky (The Sixtiers), the literary generation known for their liberal and anti-totalitarian views. They began to publish in the second half of the 1950s and reached their literary height in the early 1960s. Kostenko was one of the first writers of the movement. Although her first poems were published in the early 1950s, her other collections were banned for being ideologically harmful. She signed several open letters protesting the arrests and secret trials of Ukrainian intellectuals and threw flowers to some defendants during the trials in 1966.

These were heroic gestures in those days. Although she was not imprisoned (most likely due to her popularity), she was banned from publishing for 16 years. Despite the censorship and threat of imprisonment, she continued to publish some of her banned poems underground in uncensored and illegal publications known as samvydav.

In the Soviet times, Kostenko put her own freedom in peril by defending the freedom of expression and thought. In more recent times, she continued her struggle for truth by endangering her life in the radioactivity of Chernobyl. Beginning in 1994 and until at least 77 years of age, she participated in expeditions to the closed Chernobyl zone with a group of volunteers. The group, which consisted of specialists in ethnology, Ukrainian folk culture and sociology, aimed to to preserve what little spirit remained in the artifacts left behind and the people that refused to leave the land they grew up on. Through her work, Kostenko drew government’s attention to the problems of Chernobyl and encouraged the preservation of the culture for the coming generations.

Working at perilous and dramatic times in history, Kostenko embraced her fate without fear and used the gift of expressing herself lyrically with a great sense of responsibility.

Lina Kostenko.

ABOUT TRANSLATORS

Slava Galperin was born some time ago in Kiev, USSR. Since then most of the time he has spent hand-waving and pushing weak electromagnetic fields around, aka the art of software engineering. He likes dabbling in “literary quests” as a way to mix pleasure with more pleasure while bridging the gap between left and right brain hemispheres, and possibly, between different cultures. Acknowledgements: The translator would like to thank those who have inspired his efforts in various ways: L.H., O.D., I.L., S.H.-M. and many others.

Karo Caran is an educator, a poet and a writer. She holds Ph.D. in Education and Cultural Anthropology. Caran published the novel and about to release a poetry based memoir.

Zarina Zabrisky

Written by

Zarina Zabrisky is the author of IRON and CUTE TOMBSTONE, EXPLOSION, a poetry book GREEN LIONS, and a novel WE, MONSTERS. More at www.zarinazabrisky.com.

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