Here is an extraordinary poem written by Osip Mandelstam, a Russian Soviet poet. He was arrested during the repression of the 1930s and sent into internal exile with his wife. Given a reprieve of sorts, they moved to Voroneth in southwestern Russia. In 1938 Mandelstam was arrested again and sentenced to five years in a corrective-labour camp. He died that year at a transit camp near Vladivostok. This poem, And I was Alive is believed to be the final poem he wrote, days before he died. I am deeply moved by the sort of radiant, rapturous devastation of this poem, read beautifully by its translator Christian Wiman. Love Susie. x
And I Was Alive
And I was alive in the blizzard of the blossoming pear,
Myself I stood in the storm of the bird–cherry tree.
It was all leaflife and starshower, unerring, self–shattering power,
And it was all aimed at me.
What is this dire delight flowering fleeing always earth?
What is being? What is truth?
Blossoms rupture and rapture the air,
All hover and hammer,
Time intensified and time intolerable, sweetness ravelling rot.
It is now. It is not.
by Osip Mandelstam
Translated and read by Christian Wiman
(May 4, 1937)