There was quite a bit of interest in Russian poetry in the 80s. Attila had a series of Russians!!!… shock horror poems and Billy Bragg’s third album Talking With The Taxman About Poetry gets its title from a Mayakovsky poem.
Voznesensky was a 60s Soviet poet who was at times both in and out of favour with the regime. In 1963, his fame blossomed and he became “as popular as the Beatles” after Khruschev publicly and falsely branded him a pervert. He toured the world, read to huge audiences and was in England in 1965.
As ranters we didn’t know much about him, other than from books. I had the Methuen Selected Poems which was translated by Herbert Marshall. We liked the unusualness of his work. He was refreshingly modern for a Soviet writer.
We were also intrigued that in the few pictures we’d seen of him he was practically dressed as a suedehead.
In the revue
the dancer undresses, stupidity nude . . .
Do I cry? . . .
Or is it the limelight slashing my eyes?
She strips off her nylons, her bra, her everything.
As from an orange one peels off the skin.
And in her eyes such a longing, like a bird’s.
For this dance “striptease” is the word.
A terrible dance. Bar baldheads’ whistles, screeches,
Eyes of drunkards suck her
That ginger one, a splattered egg yolk yammers
And clamors, like a pneumatic hammer!
Another’s like a bedbug-
terrible and apocalyptic!
I curse your scale, O Universe,
Your bridging Martian radiance,
adoring, wondering and appealing.
As a woman dances to jazz, unpeeling! . . .
“You’re America?” like an idiot I ask her.
She sits down, grabs a gasper.
“Kiddo,” she says, “you’ve got the cutest accent!
Order me a Martini and an Absinthe.”