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“To Elena / To see a Lilium for the tribe Lileae…”

by Mikhail Eremin (Yeryomin)
Translated from Russian by
Alex Cigale
Issue 26 Online Exclusive

To Elena

To see a Lilium of the tribe Lileae
As a lily in the unwoven, from among the treasure hordes
Preceding King Solomon, not made by human hands, finery
And to find oneself (Respected in proportion to one’s arrogance)
Immersed in the unity of creation,
Among the mighty and multifarious,
Illusions and substances, events and galaxies—in this revealed
That other lily, immaterial.


Mikhail Eremin (Yeryomin) (b. 1936, in the Caucasus) participated in one of the first unofficial post-war Russian poetry groups, the so-called “philological school” of the late 1950s. His books, Poems (1–6), have been published by Pushkinskii Fond. A close friend and associate of Joseph Brodsky’s before his exile, Yeryomin is a playwright and a translator (of T. S. Eliot, Hart Crane, W. B. Yeats, M. Ikbal, and Khushkhal-khan Khattak, among others) who saw few of his poems published in his homeland during the Soviet period. Instead, his work appeared in émigré journals like Kontinent and Ekho. Brodsky wrote this of him: “Eremin is an unreconstructed minimalist. Poetry in essence consists precisely in the concentration of language: a small quantity of lines surrounded by a mass of empty space. Eremin elevates this concentration to a principle: as though it is not simply language but poetry itself that crystallizes into verse….”  
Alex Cigales own poems have appeared in Colorado ReviewThe Common Online, and The Literary Review, and his translations in Harvard Review OnlineKenyon Review Online, New England Review, PEN America, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. From 2011 until 2013, he was Assistant Professor at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and he is currently a Lecturer in Russian Literature at CUNY-Queens College. A 2015 NEA Literary Translation Fellow for his work on Mikhail Eremin, he edited the Spring 2015 Russia Issue of Atlanta Review. His first book, Russian Absurd: Daniil Kharms, Selected Writings is just out in Northwestern University Press’s World Classics series (February 2017).