The Writing of That Poem

The Writing of That Poem


Original Text

Surviving the Censor: The Unspoken Words of Osip Mandelstam, ed. Allan Briesmaster (Hamilton, Ontario: Seraphim Editions, 2006): 25.

2was silent. But standing next to him I could feel the
3tremors running through his body. Heat rose off his
4head and darkness filled his eyes: the poems were rising
5within him. Soon they would erupt. This was a natural
6course and I never thought of stopping it any more than
7I would have attempted to stop the coming season.
8These poems would destroy our lives. But how could I
9blame him? When a mountain explodes it does not say
10“my lava will burn the village below.” Years ago he took
12blank piece of paper. Arrest, interrogation and whatever
13followed were not his concern. And so we were villagers
14living under the volcano.We knew the power of his
15poetry, the strength of our straw huts.


1] Nadezhda: Nadezhda Khazina, wife of Osip Mandelstam.
Joseph Stalin's government arrested Mandelstam (1891-1938), a Russian poet, during the 1930s and exiled him and his wife Nadezhda to Cherdyn in the Northern Ural, in effect for daring to write a poem critical of Stalin. The "Stalin Epigram", composed in 1933, was a critique of "Kremlin mountaineer." Back to Line
11] The Divine Comedy: epic poem by Dante, grieving for his dead Beatrice, on his descent into hell and gradual ascent into Heaven. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition
Special Copyright

Copyright © Rafi Aaron 2006. Published by permission of the poet and Seraphim Editions.