Poetry is a dangerous thing. Like a plastic bomb. Remember Pasternak? ‘The lines have blood in them. They kill. They rush all of a sudden up your throat and choke you to death’. A good many poets have suffered a defeat, or worse still a total fiasco, when they dared to make a start with a whole book of poetry instead of a few poems. The French say, ‘The words begin to fade once they are printed’. Perhaps Ivan Franko knew it because he gave his best collection of poetry the title of Faded Leaves.
The original, or I would rather say, unique character of Alexander Korotko’s poetry lies in its barely perceptible tangibility. It is like unwoven silk. Unwritten lines. Unspoken words. Words in shape of thoughts. The poet thinks and his thoughts come to you as hints, as revelation, as magic. These poems are not for reciting, they are for feasting your eyes on; then they penetrate you as pre-eternal essence, as a hope and promise, since the creation of the world is yet to come. Hence the longing for everything that has never come to be, has never come to pass, has never come to be spoken. (Particularly in the poem I’m an Enigma). Rather than help you to live through the humdrum and vanity of everyday life, these poems help you to live inside that engulfing solitude where we remain human in the supreme meaning of this word. Instead of roaring missiles, soldiers marching on military parades, officious politicians delivering long boring speeches we have the divine quietude of iconostases, synagogues and human solitude. Quietude permeates these poems as if it were a divine nectar.
“The words will blossom into your silence in my mind”. The so-called modernists think that once you remove all punctuation marks from your texts you become a modernist. In fact, instead of removing the full stops and commas, you have to remove obstacles between the poet and the reader, betwen the visual objects and the invisible essence, between the primitive tangibility of the written, the painted, the conventionally defined and the subtlest emanations of the meaning, or in Alexander Korotko’s words, “the religion of the word is born”.
Exactly so: the religion of the word. Today we need such kind of poetry that will live on even when all the libraries burn down, the poetry that could be preserved in the safest of all depositories, which is called the human memory, the human heart.
Hear the poet speak for himself in one of his most important, in my opinion, poems Symphony:
How many of us are there, living uselessly, reading in faces
by memory the incantations of ages,
and hearing the alarming anger of the wind
subordinate only to the gloomy forests,
soaring over the abyss on wings of clouds, apathetic as life?
Someone’s name is just a lullaby of the crazy fatherland,
that bitter balsam, a deadly postscript, treating
the soul from thirst of events, an udimmed dream dispersed
in the corners with icons of memories, where the angels carry out
their earthy service on the church-porches of eternity, where the word
is invaluable, where each bow is reached to by an echo in hearts that sing.
31 October 2000
Boris Pasternak. When mind police in Krushchev’s employ persecuted B. Pasternak for his novel Doctor Zhivago, he wrote in one of his letters: “Art is not valour, but shame and sin, almost excusable in their wonderful harmlessness; and so art can be restored in its dignity and justified by the magnitude of that which is sometimes acquired by this shame”. The magnitude of this very kind have I seen in Alexander Korotko’s poetry.