Russian clay semaphore

Sources are elusive, not so pin-pointable.  I do know the Burago/Monas translation of Osip Mandelstam's collected poems, published by SUNY Press in the 1970s, was a model for Stubborn style.  Mandelstam was transmorphed into colloquial American - almost too breezy & familiar.  But I knew in the beginning that if I was going to write an "epic" I had to open up, let fly.  The Monas/Burago version gave me a clue.

Which reminds me of another facet.  You may have noticed the emphasis on "clay" and "earth" in these opening salvos.  This of course has something to do with gravity, Orpheus, & going down in order to come back up... but a deeper signal came from Mandelstam's late Voronezh poems, which are suffused with a very tender, empathetic & telepathic transmission of Russian "black earth".

(Locals may notice a reference to the "Waterfire" summer night festivals, which were starting to rev up in downtown Providence in the late '90s.)

from Shakespeare's Head

The little town hovered over the partying rivers, 
dangled fishline and docks, the harbor boats. 
Buildings rose and were gnomon routes
for the hobo sun; goldminers, pearldivers

all sent what they had for the jewelry works
and the rings glistened and glowed at the wedding. 
And if you were Hamlet, you'd perch on the pier – sling 
arrows toward the industrial pinnacle – until sparks

catch fire, all over that flagrant ingle.
All over the river, drums boom midsummer.
Bells tingle, feet slide across clay to the tambor 
shakes. . . Unmourned, you're heading for the jungle.

Boat landing near Point St. Bridge, Providence River

Osip Mandelstam

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