Poetry – is just a tool of comprehension of the Divine

Irina Gedrich 

Last hot summer in New York took place an annual international book exhibition “Book-Expo”.  The attention of visitors attracted to one of the exhibits – a collection of selected poetry and poems of the famous Russian poet from Kiev, Ukraine, Alexander Korotko “There are birds of separation of love” – the novelty of the American publishing house “Liberty.”  Alexander Korotko is “an innovator, impressionist in poetry”, as he called by Andrei Voznesensky; A. Korotko – the poet-philosopher, his work is addressed to the intellectual elite.  He is the author of more than twenty books of poetry and prose, his works are included in poetic anthologies, almanacs, magazines of Ukraine, Russia, America, Israel. The verses at different times were translated into Hebrew, English, French, German, Polish, Greek, Croatian and Ukrainian. And it is not surprising that the book lovers were interested not only in the beautiful design and unusual format of the new edition, but also in a rare opportunity to talk with the author. It was then, thanks to the President of the publishing house “Liberty” Ilya Levkov, my acquaintance with an amazing, talented poet – Alexander Shimonovich Kortko. I asked him: “How do you position yourself?” And received an answer, which initiated our mutual understanding and friendship. Alexander responded succinctly, simply and sincerely: “As a poet, for which the poetry is not primary, but is only an instrument for comprehending the Divine, because faith underlies everything.” 


Я не Адам, и я не Каин, я никого не убивал, я в этот мир
пришёл с окраин тех будней, где человек ничтожно мал.
Я не Адам, нет, я – как Авель, чья кровь доныне вопиёт из недр земли,
я порожденье вашей травли, немой вопрос: как вы могли?


In the March issue, Alexander Korotko made his debut in “Krugozor”, presenting a new cycle of poems to the court of the readers. And in this, May issue, he is his Guest. Previously, the poet refused to talk about the terrible situation in Ukraine: he said, I do not like politics … And the recent tragic events in Odessa became for him, as for many of us, the Rubicon, which you cannot keep silent. When the editorial staff was preparing to send the current issue of Krugozor to the release, a short but meaningful message from Alexander Shimonovich, entitled “The Road to Hell” came from Kiev. 


He writes: “The spiritually violent militant materialists do not want to stop, generating more and more statements, equivalent to atrocities and murders.” This is not a road to hell, it is hell. To say: let’s come to your senses is like saying nothing. It only gives rise to hatred; do you think it’s not too late? Alas, it’s too late, it’s still too late. Only films about destructive wars and their consequences are perhaps the only thing that arrived on time, without delay. 

What is the Budapest Memorandum? What are the sanctions? Whom do you laugh? We were not late with you; we just did not arrive on time. Rather, we came to the city and settled in a common hotel called “Death”, forgetting the house luggage named “Do not kill.”


Today, all politicians of the world must give up primarily their own ambitions and power, unnecessary and decrepit, like the dilapidated wealth of Plyushkin. All has long rotted. There are only two values, but they, as it turned out, are far away from our consciousness. This is humility and kindness. If they are not there, then it is as useless to go in search as everything else that we did before. But there is no time. Time today is a mine, but not a delayed action, and the bill goes for hours, not today but tomorrow it will break, and there will be no trace of peaceful life and former prosperity. 

Stop, recover and take in hand not weapons, but head, and even better – your own soul, until it flew to its permanent residence, and ask it – what to do? And it will answer. It is important only to hear. And this can be done only in complete silence. To do this, stop killing each other and take advantage of its advice.


Alexander Korotko, May 4, 2014 “.


 Alexander Shimonovich, you are a vivid representative of postmodernism in modern poetry. You need to be able to read, you make the reader think nontrivially. What for you personally is the primary in the creative process? 

–  The primary in the creative process, of course, is creativity itself (I apologize for the tautology). Creativity fills life with completely different colors, and not necessarily bright. In you music always sounds, and a gamut of amazing feelings overwhelms your soul. I did not accidentally mention the music. Poetry, whoever that says, is, of course, a word, but a word without music will never become poetry.



Спелые вишни с цикадами звёзд пляшут на клавишах
ночи, белым наливом музыка льётся, стекает дождями
по стёклам рассвета, кровь будоражит грамотой нотной,
скрипичным концертом, зелёным напевом улиток беспечных
в наивном стремлении жизнь охватить дыханием тёплым.
Ютятся сомненья на поприще славы в забвении рампы,
уставшей от света, под гнётом запястий, на склонах весны.
У музыки робкой глаза с поволокой, туманы с вуалью на
бледном лице, ветра томленье, дыханье органа, клавиров
постскриптум. А где-то Иосиф, топорщатся тени, нас все
предают, но есть возрожденье, дай музыке слово, и царство
симфоний добром отзовётся, и сердце Египта прощенья
попросит. Так наши тревоги выходят из плена и обретают
священную землю великих созвучий под сводом небес.



Poetry opens new meanings, new worlds not only for its admirers, but also for the poet himself. Over any creativity there is a mystery, and this Divine mystery is incomprehensible, unsolved. And it was and always will be. Creativity is love. With each new text you comprehend not only the world around you, but entire worlds that live in your soul and outside the universe. Personally for me, creativity without faith is meaningless; creativity is only one of the tools for comprehending the Divine, a timid touch to the Creator.


Certainly, the Creator is the only One. In Hebrew this is Ehad, and how to explain why He chose you? This question makes each writer vulnerable. You never know if you can write a new poem, will He give you such an opportunity. Speaking of the poetic gift given by the Almighty, one cannot help but mention the energy that lives in every text written according to the laws of the Divine. This energy is life not only in the material, but primarily in the spiritual sphere. Pushkin wrote about this many times. Creativity is always fenced off from material life, although it is present in it and reflects its lofty aspiration and desperation. Tsvetaeva said that the Lord taught us to write poetry, but did not teach us how to live. More precisely, you will not say. Perhaps the most difficult task is to connect the spiritual principle with the material one. And it is subject only to faith. If it is not in the poet’s soul or is not enough, the fate of such a person becomes tragic. There are not tens, but hundreds and even thousands of examples in history. 

A few words about postmodernism. I personally oppose any “isms.” This is the lot of critics, literary critics, and culturologists. Poetry or is, or it is not, it either cares, or does not care. Real poetry will never let you go, it’s a magnet, it is magic, and it is power, but only of a higher spiritual order. 



 Are you inclined to self-criticism, are you inherently doubtful, insecure?



–  The poet spends most of his life inside his own world. His dwelling is a word. It is absolutely airtight and resembles a cochlea, which after the rain peeps out of its shell, and the rain, as we know, does not go every day. The poet is absolutely encapsulated. He, as a modern medicine: swallow – and do not feel any bitterness, because it is in the shell. The poet is full of emotions, suffering, pain permeates him, and his life is devoid of external effects. The whole tragedy of existence, of living is beyond the reach of the outside world. Life inside life is not subject to even an attentive eye. Of course, this is a very fine line between rational and irrational, conscious and unconscious. And if so, then doubts, and uncertainty, and self-criticism, or rather self-eating – reliable and faithful friends of the poet. It is impossible to stay without them. The poet does not so much as commensurate himself with the Creator, he even of his messengers, angels, is afraid that he trembles at every new encounter with them. The poet in his view seems to himself much less then ant, bugs. It is no accident that the genius Kafka has a short story where a person turns into a small insect, and none of the surrounding people notices this, except for himself. 



 Is it interesting for the poet Alexander Korotko to be alone with himself?



–  The poet is always alone. Loneliness is his personal planet. He is alone, next to no one. The question may arise: where does the reader live, on what planet does he live? The poet and the reader live in different worlds. The poet never looks for his reader, everything is exactly the opposite.


Loneliness is a test for the self-sufficiency of any spiritual person. The poet always conducts a dialogue with himself, and only sometimes, if the Almighty allows, asks God. But this is a monologue, and dialogue is the lot of our teacher Moses (Moshe). At us, at simple mortals, all differently.


What is loneliness for a poet? It’s silence, it’s the whisper of foliage, it’s you, detached from your own ego, you sit in an imaginary auditorium and you look at your life called theater. Loneliness has no coast, you always do not have time for yourself. You experience an eternal hunger for understatement, you want to speak out, talk, but life invades and takes you away from you, and this is going on for years. Surprisingly, loneliness gives you the right to comprehend yourself to the end, to the roots of your hair, to know all your fears and doubts, attachments and love. Always want to return to yourself, and you come back and plunge into the pool of loneliness. And it will always be this way, as long as we live here, but as it will be there, time will tell. 



 One of your favorite poets, you call Joseph Brodsky, emphasizing at the same time that as an essayist he interests you more. Why? 


–  About 25-30 years ago I was carried away by the poetry of Joseph Brodsky, after visiting his grave on an island in Venice, I even wrote a rather good poem dedicated to the memory of the poet. 


На остров. Неужто так просто? Пронзительно тихо, 
ночь мышью летучей вонзилась в луну, и стих Твой
стал страхом, неистовой тучей, что тянет и небо и
вечность ко дну. Земля Тебе пухом, нет, прахом, по
слухам, Ты пишешь, смешной небожитель, зеркальную
правду балетной страны. Вершитель не судеб, а снов
поимённых, Ты слышишь, Ты видишь, как слабые
волны всё же приносят с другой стороны, строчку за
строчкой, фискальные даты жизни непрочной как
оправдание нашей вины.



I want to make it clear right away that Brodsky is not my favorite poet today. But this does not diminish in my eyes and my soul the significance of this person. He is undoubtedly a great creative unit, but, in my opinion, there is as yet no objective assessment of his creativity and, first of all, his poetic heritage. Maybe it’s not time, and maybe, there is no need to do it. For this, there are readers. In order not to be verbose, I will list a few poems that, like before, I really like: “Leave, go, go …”, “Christmas romance”, “I am like Ulysses”, “Stansy of the city”, “From the suburbs to the center” , “On the death of Robert Frost,” “New stanzas to Augusta,” “To the death of TS Eliot,” and of course, “In the village, God does not live in corners.” Undoubtedly, not a complete list is given, I could supplement it with dozens of poems, it’s a lot to say that Brodsky is a great poet, but how much, it’s not for me to judge. 

The only thing I’m sure of is that he is the best of all his Russian-speaking contemporaries. 

Now a few words about the Brodsky essayist. Here is an essay “On one poem”, dedicated to Marina Tsvetaeva’s elegy “New Year’s” for Rilke’s death. Such a subtle comprehension of her poetry Russian literature did not know. Brodsky brilliantly analyzed this work and introduced the “New Year’s” as one of the tops of Russian literature, he deciphered the code of Tsvetaeva’s poetry, showed with amazing accuracy all of its power and genius and, in confirmation, provided unique evidence that Tsvetaeva is one of the greatest names in the world literature. In the genre of the essay, it seems to me that Brodsky surpassed himself. 



 Your poetry is multifaceted and complex, it closely interwoven with philosophy and lyrics, tragedy and dramatic events. In prose, you act as an analyst, allowing yourself to gamble on notes of humor and irony, and sometimes sharp satire. How do you manage to combine so many new ideas, forms, elements in your work? 


–  For a creative person, his texts are a mirror image of the soul, comprehension of the incomprehensible, macro- and microcosm, but above all, it is his defensive reaction, his catharsis. For me, the most important thing is to avoid blunting the acuity of perception, which arises from monotony. To prevent this, I switch from one literary form to another. From poetry – to the essay, from short stories – to poetic treatises, from plays – to one line poems and miniatures. Miniatures – my favorite genre, they are like a shot, at the same time it is necessary to get into the top ten. Remember, we were shooting at a shooting gallery at a target in childhood? So, all these literary forms in my work – this is the moving target in the shooting gallery. Thus, I realize myself and continue to fly on a balloon, periodically dropping excess cargo in the form of written works. So I continue to switch from one genre to another, which means that the flight continues. 



 The poem “Abraham and Yitzhak” brought you wide popularity. Now you are working on a new major epic work. Please tell us about it. 


–  I do not know what kind of fame you are talking about. But the poem “Abraham and Yitzhak” really turned out and surprisingly not that it was held, but that it was written in a flash, I would even dare say, according to God’s inspiration. The poem “Abraham and Isaac” was published in Israel in Russian and Hebrew, then it appeared in Ukraine, in Kiev, with an audio version in the form of an attachment to the SD (at one time the recording in the author’s reading was done on the radio “Raka” in Jerusalem), ше continues to live, and thank God. After the poem “Abraham and Yitzhak” I worked on the poem “Jerusalem”, which is almost finished, now is “under steam” – it settles down and waits for its hour. I do not really like to part with my work (by parting, I understand the publication). 

As for the plans, I can only say that both the poems – as “Abraham and Isaac” as “Jerusalem” – are a preparation for the main product of my life, but I do not want to call it, since the spoken word is already a lie. 



 How do you feel about your fame? What is creativity for you?



–  I think you are confusing me with someone. I have nothing to do with fame, which I am immensely pleased. I say this absolutely sincerely, because when fame begins, creativity ends, you cease to belong to yourself, and fame, except disappointment, does not bring anything. I am convinced that the ability to avoid fame is a chance to preserve intimacy, the right to personal privacy, and most importantly – the freedom of the spirit, so necessary for each of us. 



 Alexander Shimonovich, what is your own recipe for “unbreakable love”? 

The recipe for “unbroken love” is faith in love. Only faith in it keeps and protects love.