Igor Pomeranzev

Igor Pomeranzev

Igor Pomeranzev was born in 1948, on the Volga River, the longest river in Europe. His early years were spent in the Far East of Russia near Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world. He was taken by his parents to the Soviet Ukraine, to Czernovitz—the former Austro-Hungarian cultural oasis of the German-speaking world—where he was a representative of the Russian minority and where he learned the most imperial language of modern times which unconsciously catapulted his person in 1979 to London—working for the BBC’s Russian Service at Bush House.

“I have no interest in describing culture. But to create and blow culture like glass is thrilling.”

Igor Pomeranzev’s works include: Aubades and Serenades, Luxury Items, Wind Instruments, Dry Red, Family Status, Rado “S” and Radio Lyrics recently published in Moscow.

“The people are dead, but their voices are fresh, juicy. I slip them into repeats. They need the exercise.”

Igor Pomeranzev lives in Prague, where he broadcasts for Radio Liberty.

Verses from a Taverna in Uranopol


To sit on a verandah with a view
of ultramarine
drink brandy made from local vineyard pulp
breathe in
the smell of roasting calf – infection –
and write of all this too?

But from a London shop
Italian, Turkish, Cypriot, whatever
but London anyway, a shop of broken English
where even Russians are compatriots
and the shopkeeper, asking
‘How’s life?’
can guess the answer.

If I’m asked, what’s the story about: it’s
about how the story climbs,
how it clambers up ridges, mountains:
in Chapter one, through beechwoods
then higher, in Chapter two
through spruce and silver fir
and – out of breath by now –
still higher, to Chapter three
where broadleaf and conifer mix:
to juniper, wind-thrown pine
and thickets of grey dwarf willow
till at the very top –
the epilogue now –
patches of moss and lichen on the summit –
our tale stops short: face to face
with Gorynych, the Russian dragon –
‘Ugh, stench of your Russian bones!’

Warmth, first
even ardour:
the very same books on the shelves
same view from the window
same failings
(leaving one’s wife to
pick up the telephone)
and the wives themselves
parts of the equation –
and even the girls on the horizon
are from the same countries.
And then comes fear:
we’re identical.
Then warmth again,
even ardour.

Between Larissa and Katerini
one feels ashamed
to cover the mouth
with palm
recalling the city of yawns
the pub on Shirland Road, where
you toss between
ales: dark ale, light ale, dark.

Wherever you look:
men in white
are rolling black balls
across a green lawn.
Order. Logic. Mystery.
Runs. Throws. Gestures.
Some secret alliance. A plot.
Must be a hospital garden.
What kind of hospital?
Ah, come on, what kind…

Hide behind a fir tree
stubbly cheek to bark
out of pounce
as the devil’s scuttles past
But no! The gluey resin’s
stuck my finger past…
Scrunch goes the knife
and the deed is done.
But who’ll wed me now
with my ring-finger gone?
Grieve not
fair youth
we’ll find you a bride:
teeth on the stove and
titties on the hook
snot across the hedgerow
and a muscly rump
a comely cunt
a comely, soapy cunt.

Maybe this
what people mean
when they talk of maturity
being like autumn:
when the windows within you
turn brittle
and the wind starts to whistle
from somewhere inside you
and people can see right through you, but you
feel uneasy
even in the mirror
catching yourself
and from deep in your throat, a dog
strains at the leash
what else could they mean but this?

I’ll hide her safe
in the vineyard
later forget
where it was I left her
but come grape-treading time
I’ll go back and grope
among the vineleaves, burst
upon a breast.

One wall: a common seascape
the other: a pack of ‘Ararat’ –
cigarette vignette –
together: the Peloponnese.
And him in the middle. Sitting.
Listening to the match he taped
last week on
Radio Moscow.
Several time rewinding
back to ‘Go-o-oal!’
Look at his face:
he’s happy.
The tale he tells:
‘I helped myself morally.’
Schizophrenia migrantium?

With suntanned girls it’s simpler
to reach an understanding
why should they want more sunning?
And simpler to part:
once the tan wears off
they themselves, ashamed
slip off.

Is it I who refuse to be an Aegean poet?
To answer to ‘Konstantinos’ or ‘Odysseus’?
With fig-sticky fingers to smear
a sun-tan on passing Inges?
But who’ll keep company with next-door Linda?
Dragging her father home
(why ever did he leave Belfast?)
With the air
that even ultramarine turns grey
with the cobwebs you whisk from your face as if
coming down from the attic
or leaving the lumber room?
With the pub where men from the council flats
Speak a language you’ll never master?

Talking of the pub
I noticed a gentleman there the other day
Holding a page of type-script.
‘Verse?’ I asked him.
‘Yes. A list of clients,’ he replied.

Igor Pomeranzev
© translated by Sally Laird

photo by: Milena Findeis
Published with the permission of Igor Pomeranzev