Russian poet Sergey Gandlevsky presented his works at a poetry reading in the O’Dea room on Friday, Nov. 13. Phillip Metres, an English professor at John Carroll University, translated Gandlevsky’s poems from Russian to English.
Metres and Gandlevsky have been friends since 1993. Metres spent one year in Russia where he studied the native poetry and culture. Metres stated that he truly appreciates Gandlevsky’s skilled poetry. “During that incredible year that I spent in Russia, I got a chance to meet a number of Russian poets,” he said. “Sergey Gandlevsky was one of the most generous, intelligent and fascinating people that I met.”
Born in 1952, the poet attended a philology institute, where he studied the development of language. There, he met other language students who shaped his poetry and began writing poems regularly at the age of seventeen. Russian poet Alexander Pushkin also influenced his poetry.
Gandlevsky’s poems are biographical and reflect his life and experiences. His poems also aim to mirror the feeling of Russia at the time that they were written. Gandlevsky used a mix of tenderness and coarseness to convey the sense of degraded masculinity during that time. Besides telling his own story, he captured feelings of disappointment due to the crumbling of the Soviet Union’s political and economic structures.
According to Gandlevsky, poetry is best only when it is written for its own sake. He never writes his poems for fame or wealth, but for his own pleasure and the pleasure of those who read his poems. He believes that when poetry is written for pure reasons, it helps reveal truth in people’s lives and the world around them. Aside from poetry’s ability to disclose truth, Gandlevsky also believes it can bring members of different countries together during times of conflict.
Metres translated for Gandlevsky, “Poetry is the expression of personal and private life. The personal lives of people are the same throughout the world. When you see another person, even if they are an enemy, you see their humanity. There is an element of humanity to poetry, which is the most intimate art.”
Gandlevsky’s writing process does not include pen and paper; he composes the verses in his mind.
First, he listens for intonation, which is the rise and fall in someone’s voice when one speaks. Second, Gandlevsky chooses poetic material, such as words and metaphors. When this is completed, he begins to put verses together.
Gandlevsky mostly wrote during the 1970s and 1980s, including his collection titled Trepanation of the Skull. However, currently, he writes about two to three poems annually. Throughout his life, Gandlevsky estimated that he has written nearly 350 poems.
Gandlevsky has been praised in Russia for his poetry for many years. In the 1970s, Gandlevsky was a member of a group of Russian poets called Moscow Time.
He also won the 1996 anti-Booker Award for his poem titled Holiday. Lastly, several years ago, Gandlevsky was named the “Most Important Living Russian Poet” by a poll of Russian critics.