Magazine article Russian Life

Yulia Skorodumova's Ageless Muse

Magazine article Russian Life

Yulia Skorodumova's Ageless Muse

Article excerpt

Soviet editors were never terribly fond of poetry like Yulia Skorodumova's. And not because it contained anything particularly subversive. In fact, there is nothing whatsoever of a seditious nature in Skorodumova's verses, for her muse is supremely indifferent to whatever millennium it might be in the outside world or to what is going on within the Motherland's boundless expanses.

But as it happened, this transcendentalism was in itself a great heresy. And it was the editors and censors, more often intuitively than in any comprehending way, who would determine to what degree these poems were capable of bringing harm to society. After all, dissent may be understood, following repentance, and forgiven. But to show such indifference toward social issues, to gaze through them as if through empty space?

The poets of Skorodumova's generation are now in their thirties. When they were starting out, they represented a new phenomenon, and the machinery of power, represented in part by the literary bureaucrats, was at a complete loss as to how to deal with them. For their part, the critics and literary scholars were quite incapable of understanding that these poets, rather than being some kind of aberration, were striving to penetrate to the essence of poetic language.

The new generation of poets understood that the poetic language they had inherited was a fine fabric, woven of reflections on the various evils of tyranny (which at the time was well on its way to decrepitude). And they realized that in time this fabric would begin to look absurd, and therefore soiled and anti-aesthetic, as does the work of Yuri Kublanovsky, Yevgeni Yevtushenko, Yunna Morits, and other poets of the sixties. The poets of the sixties failed to make this breakthrough. So too did those of the seventies, despite the modest achievements in the "quiet lyricism" so widely proclaimed by them in their own time. The poets who are now in their forties could drag only one leg from this swamp of socialized poetry -- they hadn't the strength to free the other leg. But the young men and women who are now thirtyish in age succeeded where the preceding generation could not -- they simply avoided the swamp. They preferred inner freedom to all others.

Yulia Skorodumova is a case in point. In her external biography, extraordinary events are few and far between. She was born and still lives in Moscow. She graduated from the philological department of Moscow State University, something quite characteristic of the new poetic generation. The poet joined the Union of Russian Writers only after it had been "de-stigmatized," that is, after the union had been purged of KGB cronies. She was often published in periodical form and released two booklets of verse -- Whence the Mouse Comes and Finger Reading. This was at her own expense, of course, since the state continues to publish mainly the poets of the sixties.

Skorodumova loves traveling, often frequents poetry festivals outside Moscow, and enjoys driving. And although it is nearly impossible in today's Russia, she makes a living of sorts from her literary work. In other words, she barely makes ends meet.

The poet's internal biography is a contrast to her rather unremarkable curriculum vitae. She has constructed a world that lives according to the laws of authorial arbitrariness. …

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