Prose from Poetry Magazine

Author’s Note: On “Sheets,” after I.F. Annensky

Innokenty Annensky, who lived in Russia in the mid-nineteenth century, arose from the blurry island of figures we never hear of, calling to me one day. I became obsessed with trying to understand his poems for his sake, not for mine; and not knowing Russian, I couldn’t. 
I was told he was very difficult to understand anyway, let alone translate, though he influenced, and was loved by, the great poets of his time. He was one of Tsarskoe Selo’s “swans.” So I followed him back into the blur, composing my own poem from some of the signals he had sent out to me in strangely deformed syntax.

Among the worlds, in glimmering of stars,
The single Star is ever my attraction    ...
Not ’cause I’d so loved Her so far,
But ’cause I live with others with aversion.

And if my doubts were an awful plight,
I just from Her wait for the final answers,
Not ’cause She sends to me the saving light,
But ’cause with Her I can live and in darkness.’
 — Among the Worlds, tr. Yevgeny Bonver

To me these online renditions of the poems of Innokenty Annensky are like bottles with no messages in them — sea glass and mermaid’s tears, they are remnants of a fate. The Siberian amethyst was a favorite stone of his and appears in several of his wrecked poems. Because I love the amethyst, too, and something more blurry, I was inspired to walk with Annensky. This has continued.

Originally Published: November 3rd, 2014

Fanny Howe is the author of more than 20 books of poetry and prose. Howe grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and studied at Stanford University. “If someone is alone reading my poems, I hope it would be like reading someone’s notebook. A record. Of a place, beauty, difficulty. A familiar daily...

Appeared in Poetry Magazine This Appears In
Related Content