I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky


I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky



Arseny Alexandrovich Tarkovsky was born in the Ukrainian city of Elisavetgrad (now Kirovohrad) in 1907 and moved to Moscow in 1923, working as a newspaper journalist and publishing his first poems. By the late 1930s, he had become a noted translator of Turkmen, Georgian, Armenian, Arabic, and other Asian poets. During the Second World War, he served as a war correspondent for the Soviet Army publication Battle Alarm from 1942 to 1944, receiving the Order of the Red Star for valor. Tarkovsky’s first volume of his own poems, Before the Snow, emerged in 1962, when the poet was 55, and rapidly sold out. His fame widened when his son, the internationally-acclaimed filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, included some of his father’s poems in his films. He died in 1989, just before the Soviet Union fell.

Philip Metres is the author and translator of a number of books and chapbooks including Sand Opera (Alice James Books, 2015), Compleat Catalogue of Comedic Novelties: Poetic Texts of Lev Rubinstein (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2014), A Concordance of Leaves (Diode Press, 2013), abu ghraib arias (Flying Guillotine Press, 2011), To See the Earth (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2008), and Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront Since 1941(University of Iowa Press, 2007). His work has garnered two NEA fellowships, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, five Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Beatrice Hawley Award, two Arab American Book Awards, the Cleveland Arts Prize, the Anne Halley Prize, the PEN/Heim Translation grant, a Russian Institute for Literary Translation grant, and the Creative Workforce Fellowship. He is a professor of English at John Carroll University in Cleveland.

Dimitri Psurtsev, a Russian poet and translator of British and American authors, is a professor at Moscow State Linguistic University and lives outside Moscow with his wife Natalia and daughter Anna. His two books of poetry, Ex Roma Tertia and Tengiz Notepad, were published in 2001 by Yelena Pakhomova Press and translations of his poems were published by the Hudson Review in 2009 and 2011. In 2014 Dimitri received, along with Philip Metres, a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant for I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky.

"Tarkovsky now joins the ranks of Mandelstam, Akhmatova, and Brodksky. Philip Metres and Dimitri Psurtsev’s translations—succinct and allusive, stingingly direct and yet sweeping, mournful and celebratory—are marvels." —PEN/Heim citation

"How does one translate the work of Russian classic, Arseny Tarkovsky? Imagine trying to translate Yeats: high style rhetoric, intense emotion, local tonalities of language, complicated historical background, the old equation of poet vs. state, the tone of a tender love lyric, all meshed into one, all exquisite in its execution—and all so impossible to render again. And yet, one tries. In the case of Philip Metres and Dimitri Psurtsev, one tries brilliantly, with gusto, with passion, with attentiveness that is akin to that of a prayer, with the ear of real poets. The result? The gravity and directness of Tarkovsky’s tone is brought into English without fail, it is here, honest and pained, piercing and even shy at times, like a deer that looks straight at you before it runs. Tarkovsky’s ambition was to seek us—those who live after him—through earth, through time. He does so in this brilliant translation." —Ilya Kaminsky

"Arseny Tarkovsky was ten years old at the time of the Russian Revolution and died six months before the opening of the Berlin Wall. He spent his career as a poet creating elegant and starkly interior transfigurations of simple happiness and pure grief, triumphs of the individual self against the brutal realities of daily life in wartime and Communist Russia. Through this meticulous translation of his work, readers will encounter a metaphysical complex poetry, at once searing and brooding, very much in dialogue with such great Soviet poets as Osip Mandelstam and Anna Akhmatova. Tarkovsky writes of a country where 'we lived, once upon a time, as if in a grave, drank no tea' but still succeeded in making 'bread from weeds,' where the 'blue sky is dim' but nonetheless manages to be the 'wet-nurse of dragonflies and birds.'" —Michael Dumanis

More Information:


Poetry Foundation

Connotation Press

New England Review

Voltage Poetry



Publication Date



Cleveland State University Poetry Center





I Burned at the Feast: Selected Poems of Arseny Tarkovsky