Alexander Korotko. The applause of dead hands.

Pavlo Zagrebelny, a famous Ukrainian writer. Essay. Kiev, Konche Ozernaya, January 2000

Even paying tribute to the graphic significance (hands – hands) of the title, I do not consider it successful. This title is more likely for an American thriller than for a book of poems. Moreover, this is a real book and real poetry. And not quite ordinary.

These verses cannot be retold, they cannot be analyzed, described, evaluated – they should simply be read, slowly and carefully entering their complex and somewhat mysterious world, I would even replace the word “enter” with a more precise “wander”.

The Pentateuch of Moses is recorded in the synagogue Torah in the form of a scroll – there are no punctuation marks or gaps between the words (solid text, as in the old Russian chronicles), the lines are arranged one below the other, so that you can read horizontally, vertically, diagonally and even in square blocks. This gives the sacred text an additional dimension and increases the inexhaustibility of its meanings to infinity.

Naturally, the most highly organized (talent is implied) poetic text cannot be compared with the Book of Books. But … there is a principle, and it is difficult for a talented artist to resist the temptation to use this principle.

At one time, Mallarmé made an attempt (to which he dedicated the last ten years of his life) to create a Book (with a capital letter) with exactly that sense, which is in continuous motion, like “moving snake rings”, so that the reader by not reading  straight through, could simultaneously read from the beginning, from the end or from the middle – the pages of the book could freely change places, so that new combinations and mixes of meanings would constantly appear, creating a peculiar hermeneutic spiral.

It seemed to me that Korotko’s book is constructed on precisely this principle. Here the word “time” is most often found (the one-line verse “Приходит время, и всё теряет смысл”, p. 29). The poet rebels against Moloch as time, which devours our history and ourselves:
Напрасно время заковало в цепи,
в свой бессознательный приют,
блистательное прошлое, его великолепье,
и ныне нам империи поют.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Отдай блаженному рассудку край надежды.
свершилось. Ты услышал зов.
Будь терпелив. Пришла пора, но прежде
сорви с неверия блуждающий покров.
(р. 54)

But he understands that we are forced to accept the imminence and inevitability of time:

…И когда слово прикоснулось
к своей сути и зазвонил колокол,
совершенно опустошённое время
вернулось из будущего и поселилось
на окраине памяти.
(p. 167).

This whole book, to my mind, is la kind of invisible maze of time. This is a cyclical text going around in a circle that has no beginning and no end and can last as long as you like. A Borges Garden of Diverging Trails, a patterned canvas of the times that draw together, branch, intersect, creating innumerable variations of meaning and a range of moods that is completely unimaginable in its richness and variety. This poetry frees us from the banality of ordinary time, returning to the biblical solitude of the prodigal son, who has no hope of return.

Only wayfaring, wanderings in a labyrinth without a centre, for the centre is the lack of play and variety, the death of inspiration, and the inspiration for our poet is the “religion of the word” (p. 84), this is the silence of geniuses and celestial spheres, as in the stunning poem to Stravinsky (p. 79).

The unusual character of this book lies also in its style, in the unexpectedness of the language itself. The poet explicitly states:

И на паперти
старых изношенных слов
не ищи себе места…
(p. 107).

An original indicator of the richness and depth of a literary text can very often be its translation (of course, felicitous!) into another language.

This can easily be seen in the examples of translations into Russian of Baudelaire’s “The Flowers of Evil” (various poets offer their own interpretation of the most famous poems), poetry by T. S. Eliot in the translations of Andrey Sergeyev or Don Quixote of Cervantes, presented to the Ukrainian reader by Mikola Lukash.

I becamefamiliar with a number of poems by A. Korotko in Ukrainian. The impression is overwhelming. It would seem that for me there are no secrets in my native language, I know its possibilities, its riches are open to me. And suddenly I am presented with completely new locutions, new words, relaxed expressions, bizarre arabesques of thought.

Such an unexpected alchemy of the word is possible only when the language of poetry is in contact with something special in another language. In this case, this happened while trying to convey the poetic text of A.Korotko in my native language (B. Chip’s translation).

I read A. Korotko’s poetry at the end of summer, as it slowly entered autumn and winter. The poems too entered me slowly and mysteriously, like Zen poetry.

Tanned summer.

Good and tranquil memories.

Why I now have so much air and light in me …