May 26, 2011

Summer Chtenia: Sneak peek at Voloshin

Summer Chtenia: Sneak peek at Voloshin

The summer issue of Chtenia is about to go to print, and, yet again, it has shaped up into an eclectic and yet harmonious collection of excellent writing.  One of the poets we're including in this issue is Maximilian Voloshin, the free spirit extraordinaire, a painter and a mythologue. 

I was privileged to serve as a sounding board for Lydia Razran Stone who tackled the translation, and in the course of discussing the poem and Voloshin's aesthetics with her I came to realize how little known this artist is and how interesting. Voloshin, to me, has come to seem almost like Walt Whitman's long-lost cousin--same passion, same love of life, same sense of cosmic proportion, only with more disciplined rhyme and meter. Voloshin was also a painter--some of his paintings can be seen in his old home, now museum in Koktebel (Gurzuf, actually). Voloshin's imagination was captivated by the ancient, mythical past of Crimea -- whose shores make appearances in Ancient Greek myths, and later were home to nomadic tribes. Remember Conan the Barbarian? Well, as originally conceived by Robert E. Howard, Conan was a Cimmerian, i.e. a guy from Cimmeria, or Cymmeria as it's sometimes spelled -- an ancient historical name for Crimea (if I have it straight, the Cimmerians were pushed out by the Scythians... or maybe the other way around).

The landscapes Voloshin painted of Crimea could very well serve as settings for Conan's adventures -- here's a wild, mysterious land that holds memories of many vanished tribes, its hills like the many-colored hides of their horses.

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