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Alexander Kushner
(born 1936)


      The mechanism and the engine of any poem by Kushner is the intonation, which overrides the contents, the system of images and, above all, the metre of the poem. This mechanism, or, to be more accurate, engine, isn't steam-powered or jet-driven. It is the engine of internal combustion, which is, probably, the most capacious definition of the form of the existence of the soul and which imparts to this engine the property of being eternal.

Joseph Brodsky

As at every doorstep grow rowan and maple,
So also at ours rose Rastrelli and Rossi;
As children know fir tress from pines, we were able
To distinguish Empire from Baroque without pausing.

So what, if all those pseudo-classical classics
Strike us as examples of some sort of bathos?
The toga, in dense smog and encircled by traffic,
Wraps round the great general like a sheet in a bathhouse.

We take such conventions as this one for granted;
We're used to it, for one thing. And when we were children
And saw this droll oddity, grownups explained it
To us as we came here, our small hands in their big ones.

These folds that were mightily rendered in copper
And stuck to the body - that is, to his jacket -
Arranged to appear irreproachably proper,
Give children a faith in a world where they'll make it

To similar fame. And we have to confess it's
A beauty from every angle of vision,
Especially when a stray leaf hangs, pirouetting
In air, and autumn, banner-like, stands in the distance.

      *From: Apollo in the Snow. Farrar. Straus & Jiroux.
      Translated by Paul Graves and Carrol Ueland.

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