Osip Mandelstam

Osip Mandelstam

Osip Mandelstam (1891–1938) was born in Warsaw and grew up in a Jewish family in St. Petersburg. He was a member of the Acmeist group. After a nomadic life, he was arrested, sentenced to hard labor, and died in eastern Siberia.

Black Earth

Poetry by Osip Mandelstam

Translated from the Russian by Peter France

Osip Mandelstam has become an almost mythical figure of modern Russian poetry, his work treasured all over the world for its lyrical beauty and innovative, revolutionary engagement with the dark times of the Stalinist era. While he was exiled in the city of Voronezh, the black earth region of Russia, his work, as Joseph Brodsky wrote, developed into “a poetry of high velocity and exposed nerves, becoming more a song than ever before, not a bardlike but a birdlike song … something like a goldfinch tremolo.…
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It seems almost impossible to pay adequate homage to the poetic genius and personal courage of Osip Mandelstam, manifested during a time in the Soviet Union of tyrannical repression and terror. These spirited and meticulous versions drawn from his poetry and prose, however, by the masterful translator Peter France, bring us considerably closer to achieving that goal. They attest to the extraordinary range and depth of Mandelstam’s complex artistic sensibility and intellect. Let us, simply enough, gratefully welcome them.
—Michael Palmer
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