slow literature





Two Poems by Inna Kabyish, Translated from the Russian by Katherine E. Young


The American poet Katherine E. Young also translates Russian poets. For Artist’s Proof Editions, she has selected two poems by the highly regarded Moscow poet Inna Kabysh for an EB, an extended book. We’ve made a video-performance poem of Kabysh’s glorious, startling “Yuri Gagarin Was a Great Russian Poet” as a montage of the music of Inna Kabysh’s words spoken amid the play of image and sound. Katherine Young’s translation conveys vividly Inna Kabysh’s exaltation of the poet’s gift of language with a foreshadowing of the poet’s fated early death. In Gagarin’s voyage into space, “as if into exile,” Kabysh calls forth the great nineteenth-century poet Mikhail Lermontov, for a time exiled to the Caucasus, who also died young, having foretold his own fate in the poem “Alone, I set out on the road,” known to every Russian reader.


Yuri Gagarin Was a Great Russian Poet

by Inna Kabysh

Yuri Gagarin was a great Russian poet;

Russia shoved him out of herself into the sky,

as if into exile,

as if to the Caucasus,

and he boarded a carriage, that is, a rocket –

for the path of rockets, that’s the path of poets – said: Let’s go!

and smiled his Gagarin smile.

And in that smile was the whole Earth,

the very best that’s here,

Earth in blue radiance,

news to the sky from humanity –

because the poet’s the one who speaks with the sky,

overcoming gravity

as if it were the language barrier.

-tr. by Katherine E. Young


Gagarin title page

Credits for the video poem “Yuri Gagarin Was A Great Russian Poet”:

“Юрий Гагарин был великий русский поэт” is reproduced by kind permission of Inna Kabysh.

Katherine E. Young’s translation and commentary appeared on the page of the 2011 Stephen Spender-Joseph Brodsky Prize.

The Russian reader is Natalia Romanova, PhD, a researcher in second language acquisition, a language teacher, a poet, and a translator. She currently teaches English for Academic Purposes at the George Washington University.

M. Tsarev reads the great line from Lermontov, “Выхожу один я на дорогу….”.

Recordings of Natalia Romanova and Katherine Young and sound design of the video poems were done by Forrest Marquisee at Forest Floor Studios.

Images are widely distributed on the World Wide Web and/or from Wikipedia Commons.

Produced by Katherine McNamara for Artist’s Proof Editions.

Return to Two Poems by Inna Kabysh.