Por: Andrei Khadanovich
LAKE SCHOOL OF POETRY
There was a lake,
The terminal station of suburban train.
There was a sky,
The terminal station of his flippant dreams,
Six days of travel across the rain.
And there was a sun on the seventh day,
And he saw
That the previous six were worse.
And there were sails,
Steamers and buoys
With the warning "no swimming".
And they were alone, only two of them in the world
But for natatoriums .
Gulls and school rovers.
And she was topless,
Wearing fashionable shorts,
With an apple in the pocket,
Protruding at one side,
As a tennis woman
Preparing for the first serving.
No need for the second one.
ANDREI KHADANOVICH (1973, Minsk) – Belarusan poet, translator, author of essays. An author of six books of poems (Staryja viershy, 2003; Listy z-pad koudry, 2004; Belarusan Limericks, 2005; FromBelaruswithlove, 2005; Sto li100u na tut.by, 2007; Berlibry, 2008). А translator from English, French, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian.
He is a teacher of literature in Belarusan State University and Belarusan National Liceum of Humanities. Head of Translation Workshop in Belarusan Colegium (Minsk). An organizer of Literature Contest Ya Maju Tvor for Belarusan schoolchildren. Poems by Khadanovich have been translated into English, German, Lithuanian, Polish, Ukrainian.
Here we include the essay Dealers in Air, Belarus is the draftiest country in Europe: “Dreaming about the lost motherland and eternal return home as a traveler Ulysses is in blood of Belarusians. At least those who heard of this navigator, who as we know once was one step from his Ithaca, but unfortunately fell asleep on the sack of winds. His fellow-men opened the sack and the return home was postponed for indefinite time. The same misfortune hunts Belarusian intellectuals: they dream of Belarus as a finish of their return, but under their heads the winds are blowing. //Belarusians is the nation of poets of an air element. Wasting one’s breathe or as we say at home “throwing words in the wind”, attempts to catch the wind and other vain futilities has already become if not a national sport then it is definitely a long-standing hobby. In Belarus you are more likely to meet those building castles in air than constructing any other housing property. Even professional lyric poets whose right for risky flying is not questioned are gradually becoming subjects to jokes. For instance, they say that all men are swine and poets are swine with wings. // Speaking about swine, Belarusian writers who are not very happy with present political regime have a very little choice of literature magazines at their disposal, hence readers do not have a big choice either. In this situation open air is a very important factor and live poetry readings become extremely important. Moreover these performances attract a lot of listeners. Five-six hundred people crammed in the reading hall is by no means a limit for the city of Minsk. I want to assure you that those listeners are already used and ready for many things such as listening to a reading without a single microphone, when they are missing for technical reasons. Also listening to an open air reading or singing when local officials would not allow to use the lecture room. Surprisingly even a heavy rain during an open air reading bothers neither poets nor their listeners, sometimes it can even inspire enthusiasm (it is not a naked assertion but an example from my own experience). // Such a situation also requires a different poetry –more attentive, so to say, to the element of air. The category of lightness, once glorified by Italo Calvino is the distinguishing feature of those works. Traditional versification, already archaic in Western Europe, but still absolutely natural for Belarusian poets plays an increasingly important role. A whole number of techniques that help to keep the public on the edge of their seats compensate for this traditionalism. Oral reading requires a virtuoso rhythm. Unexpected rhyme, special instruments, pun, any kind of formal inventiveness and anything that goes beyond listeners’ expectations are the qualities that are so necessary for our modern poetry; should I even say, necessary as air. // A modern poet can either be a post-modernist or not, he can either play with the work of his predecessors or play naïve (to be a so called simple soul), his texts can either produce a comic effect or not, -- but in any case a poetry cannot be deprived of a game element, it should be witty and catchy like a commercial slogan. I know one young writer who claims that the most important criterion for true lyrics is to be catchy and easily memorized, and I completely understand that. If you are not able to sound catchy in a room with bad acoustics, you might not have a second chance to be heard. // A lot of technical devices work for the poets’ advantage nowadays. A pager has become, so to say, a means of production for many young poets. Also a cell phone with its ability to send and receive messages, –poets collect those messages into more or less traditional books later on. Books that rarely get onto bookstore shelves, but are more often distributed during book presentations and poetry readings by those poets who successfully learned to deal in air. // It’s not hard to notice that it is nothing else but an advanced carrier pigeon system, that has always used the element of air to sustain human ties. A definite form of this airy element such as a verlibral conversation on your cell phone or a haiku sent by internet is a secondary thing. Its ancestral feature is a weird unit of elements that cannot be united: absolute freedom to overpass space, time or other barriers on the one hand, and on the other hand, it is strict self-discipline of a person who knows that he has to pay for each of his words. // So, poetry is wrestling among the lightest athletes, the lightest element is its material and also its legal territory. In the world of predictable adulthood, a person who writes a poem looks quite infantile. The laws of formal logics don’t work here and scientific prognoses are even less reliable than weather forecasts. A poet who is writing a new poem reminds me of a child that is flying a kite: a naïve risk of losing the ground under your feet – and later on very little depends on you. Later on there are cooperative or not air masses in which one can either get or not: something you call a miracle or inspiration. // It’s only up to you to hold to the string from one end, not being quite sure who is pulling on the other, who is the master and who is just a pet on a walk. // You are just like a character from a movie made not by you, hanging on the string ladder of a helicopter and it’s not quite clear if you’ll be able to get into it while the ground is definitely further and further. Soon the helicopter would disappear as well, and you’ll remain only on a ladder not attached to anything that will give you a ride as long as it is flying in the air". (Translated by VALZHYNA MORT).