Do You See?

One More Tsvetaeva: “Your name…a silver bell in my mouth”

It’s heartening that quite a few friends and cohorts read my blog, especially for the poetry. And they tell me about it, if not on the blog, but in emails and messages. Ever since I took down my own “unpublished poetry page” owing to some incidents of plagiarism, mainly encountered by my other poet-friends (reported with solid evidence), and discontinued the old blog, I’m coming back slowly with this new site. Still not putting up my new work. But poetry is there for all who are interested.

For one, some of the posts (and I apologise for making my reflections obscure at times…) are cross-posted by friends on their pages/forums. That makes me happy. Poetry is for sharing and taking out far and wide, not an elitist discipline to be mulled over by literary eggheads alone.

I must say though, this blog is not meant to instruct. I can’t teach poetry. I can talk poetry. Learning comes from examining poetry through different lenses, not just textbook rules of rhetoric and prosody.

Recently, my post on MARINA TSVETAEVA was cross-posted by a friend. That poem, “Where does such tenderness come from?”, has much to offer in terms of voice, structure and the arrangement of categories. Also, since I situated it in the context of a discourse aimed at another literary period, the poem strikes at the root of “imagination”, worded by the refrain (note also the use of parentheses in that poem) marked by interrogation.

So, I have another Tsvetaeva tonight:


from “Poems for Blok” BY MARINA TSVETAEVA


Your name is a—bird in my hand,
a piece of ice on my tongue.
The lips’ quick opening.
Your name—four letters.
A ball caught in flight,
a silver bell in my mouth.


A stone thrown into a silent lake
is—the sound of your name.
The light click of hooves at night
—your name.
Your name at my temple
—sharp click of a cocked gun.


Your name—impossible—
kiss on my eyes,
the chill of closed eyelids.
Your name—a kiss of snow.
Blue gulp of icy spring water.
With your name—sleep deepens.


April 15, 1916


What appeals to me in this poem how a phonetic category — the proper name — plays out in the poet’s imagination and creates further ‘phonation’. I’m quite tempted to add my “obscure personal” angle to it. But let it be this time.



I laughed out r-e-a-l-l-y loud to have received this surprise message from a young poet-translator friend who wrote: “Are you done dazzling the Scots? Come back to India soon; we miss you…”

My role as ‘madame chaperon’ to smart kids (no offence at all to their intellect) is perhaps acted out with responsibility after all!



Someone asked for my Charles Wallace reading pics. There aren’t too many, I’m afraid. And my favorite photo is a VERY blurry one. For your delight then:





Had to add this.

Suddenly I realised that both yesterday and today I’ve been wearing my clothes inside out. That’s how I went out to the department here… And no one even noticed! Indicates no one’s really watching me closely, or at least, my clothes. Well, even if anyone did, I wouldn’t know.

Honestly, something’s wrong with me. Something…!


5 comments on “One More Tsvetaeva: “Your name…a silver bell in my mouth”

  1. Mihir Vatsa
    May 31, 2012

    Well, that’s one tricky way to write poem. 😐

  2. Do You See
    June 1, 2012

    Really, Vatsa? But you’ve done tougher ones; ekphrasis, for example. This is only about a name, a proper noun, a sound… ! Try it. I agree though Aleksandr Blok lends nicely to it.

    Btw, I added a P.S. Something’s surely wrong with me …

  3. albert geiser
    June 2, 2012

    Here I am, this morning, Nabina….. Ready to explore Tsvetaeva…

  4. Do You See
    June 2, 2012

    Thanks a ton, Albert! Also, for the cross posts. Appreciate it. Would love to hear from Jillian… Meanwhile, sound any thoughts you may have on this. Have you noticed the use of “em-dash” in the lines? I suppose that’s how Tsvetaeva wrote the original Russian poem …? Reminds me of Dickinson somewhat!

  5. Do You See
    June 2, 2012

    Copy pasting a comment from Jillian Parker whom Albert had invited to look at this Tsvetaeva post:

    “Nabina, your blog is lovely, and I am a fan of Tsvetaeva. The use of the dash within the lines has a great deal to do with the way the Russian language is structured. The word, “is” is implied but not implemented; the dash is a common substitute in literature.

    Tsvetaeva has taken a verb-less approach in this poem that lends it intensity. All of the energy of the poem is concentrated in images anchored somewhere in the eternal Now. There is something about the repetition of “your name” in the poem that makes it nearly a religious litany of devotion. It is difficult for a translation to come close to the original, but I would have to agree that the English version does remind me a bit of Dickinson. : )”

    I’m really happy Jillian provided this perspective. Thanks to her and Albert.

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This entry was posted on May 31, 2012 by in Blok, Charles Wallace Fellow, MARINA TSVETAEVA, Nabina Das, poetry, Stirling.
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