Understanding Familiarity and Distance: Gleb Shulpyakov and Symmetry

Gleb Shulpyakov
© Nina Ai-Artyan


A Fireproof Box

A Fireproof Box
BY Gleb Shulpyakov
TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN
BY Christopher Mattison
(Canarium Books, 2011)

Introduction

The impetus for beginning work on Gleb Shulpyakov’s poetry centered on his neo-formalism and the thematic concerns that seemed, at least on the surface, to be a completely other pursuit when compared to the experimental Third Wave poets I had been translating — protean wits like Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov. Shulpyakov’s writing seemed to require a different form of attention, navigating more traditional literary references and metrical patterns. I say “seemed,” because after living with his writing for a while, I began to note certain similarities between Shulpyakov and members of the Third Wave in terms of the depth of their observations, along with an encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of both the canon and contemporary colleagues. Issues of form and style that initially appeared problematical, eventually gave way to slant rhymes and patterns roughly symmetrical in English with how I had come to understand the poetry.

Shulpyakov’s writing seemed to require a different form of attention, navigating more traditional literary references and metrical patterns.

Our formal introduction took place at the 2000 London Book Fair. Shulpyakov had flown in to report on the event, and to continue an interview with the poet and translator Daniel Weissbort, which was linked to a larger project concerned with Joseph Brodsky as an author and translator. Over the past decade I’ve completed two collections of his poetry. The first of these, A Fireproof Box (Canarium Press, 2012), was shortlisted for the Three Percent Translation Award. A second bilingual volume, tentatively titled Letters to Yakub, will be released in early 2014, again through Canarium, and funded in part by an award from the Russian Federal Agency for the Press and Mass Communications and the Institute of Translation based in Moscow.


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