Osip Mandelstham (1890-1960)

  1. Gypsy Girl

Poem, 1925, 1'40". MP3
Voice – Osip Mandelstham
Recording – ca. 1927

Osip Mandelshtam (b. Warsaw/Poland 1891 - d. Vladivostok/Russia 1938) was a poet and essayist; one of the three great poets of the avant-garde Acmeist movement, which he defined as "nostalgia for a world culture". His verses have been described as showing "classical restraint, majestic conciseness, and sonority" (Dimitri Obolensky). His literary position of being "a poet against an empire" was defined in 1923 when his name was erased from the list of collaborators on all literary journals and he was forced to live from income from translation work. In November 1933 he wrote a series of verses in which he satirised Stalin: "His fat fingers seem like greasy worms / A rabble of scrawny necked chiefs surround him / inferior men with whom he has fun and plays / One whistles, another miaows, another moans / Only he prattles and passes judgement." In 1934 he was arrested for writing these verses, accused of creating counterrevolutionary works and sentenced to three years banishment. He was arrested again in 1938, sentenced to five years in a re- education camp and deported to Siberia. He died on the way there under strange circumstances. When his wife was told of his death, someone said to her: "What are you complaining about? This is the only country that respects poetry: they kill for it. That happens in no other country." In his poems, Mandelshtam used perfectly regular lines, as in symbolism, but their musicality doesn't lie in the "sonority of the words" but in the "ingenuity of the concepts". He did this using the essence of his own language, believing that writing was like sculpting in stone - taking out what is unnecessary and emphasising the revolutionary character of a pure poetry that remains always alive. He said: "Classic poetry is the poetry of the revolution".

Russian Futurists from the GLM Collection (1920-1959)
Sound Experiments in The Russian Avant-Garde (1908-1942)