Osip Mandelstam survived Soviet ideological conformity, imprisonment, labor camps, poor health, and madness long enough to write some of the most lovely and haunting lyrics of this century. To say he died from the poems he wrote would be part truth, part melodrama. Spontaneous and well-made lyrics invite us into the private, interior space that was Mandelstam's life for his final years. One might expect that place to be dark and foreboding -- instead, it opens up, the vaulting structure of a cathedral, a testament to human strength and resilience. And the goldfinch still finds his perch, still gowned in red, green, and gold.
An Eighth Day View:
Osip Mandelstam is a central figure not only in modern Russian but in world poetry, the author of some of the most haunting and memorable poems of the twentieth century. A contemporary of Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetayeva, and Boris Pasternak, a touchstone for later masters such as Paul Celan and Robert Lowell, Mandelstam was a crucial instigator of the "revolution of the word" that took place in St. Petersburg, only to be crushed by the Bolshevik Revolution. Mandelstam's last poems, written in the interval between his exile to the provinces by Stalin and his death in the Gulag, are an extraordinary testament to the endurance of art in the presence of terror.
This book represents a collaboration between the scholar Clarence Brown and W. S. Merwin, one of contemporary America's finest poets and translators. It also includes Mandelstam's "Conversation on Dante," an uncategorizable work of genius containing the poet's deepest reflections on the nature of the poetic process.