Born in Leningrad in 1965, Aleksandr Skidan is one of Russia's most important contemporary poets and cultural critics. With language that is at once literary, cinematic, philosophical, journalistic, his innovative writing calls into question the distinction between poetry and philosophy. Skidan blurs and shifts the boundaries between the two as literary genres and as modes of discourse. His poetry is both lyrical and disjointed, addressing unflinchingly the literary and historical condition of post-Soviet Russia, engaging in continuous discourse with what Walter Benjamin would call the origins of the present crisis. His poetry collections in Russia include Delirium, In the Re-Reading, and Red Shift. A selection of his poetry in English translation appears in Red Shifting from Ugly Duckling Presse, 2008. He is also the author of two books of essays: Critical Mass and The Resistance to/of Poetry. His poetry has been translated into English, Estonian, Finish, French, Hebrew, Italian and Swedish. His many translations include books by authors such as Paul Bowles as well as various short stories, poems, and criticism. Skidan is the recipient of the prestigious Andrei Bely Prize. He lives in St. Petersburg.

Red Shifting

Selection from Red Shifting by Aleksandr Skidan

Red bridge. The sun
falls into China.
On the cliff’s brow the eczema of stifling flowers.
For others this will be, somehow, Scotland.
(Every traveler has his own
mythology of death.)

In the cement tunnel children’s voices.

A Japanese man shoots a Japanese woman
with a video camera; she
is slightly embarrassed, only to the extent that she knows
someone else encroaches on the intimate scene.
                                             Someone? Something.

The shadows in the abandoned bunker squat
on their haunches; cigarettes, barrels toward the ceiling, the lines
of watchtower platforms.

Linger among these pines, here is the hand, here
the nameless song of alien fingers.
The motorcyclist (helmet, black jacket like a spiny musical
fish), dismounting, clinks and tinkles.

Unpeeling from the darkness,
a leper,
he moves from the observation deck
down toward the Pacific waters.

You’ve been there before. What did you see,
gulping down emptiness
by the mouthful?
                      The Golden Gate Bridge,
redness, the city
glistening in the darkness like an open mollusk.
Hills. The pearl strand of automobile lights; the mirror ball of the sun.

The okeanos.



[Translation by Genya Turovskaya]