Straight as an avenue of poplars

Straight as an avenue of poplars

When was the last time you received – or wrote – an 18 page letter?  I think I have managed to write one or two in my life and that’s even allowing for my quite large handwriting. What was in this letter, completely covered in a tall, straight hand...
Brick-coloured sunsets

Brick-coloured sunsets

Something warming in this, until you see the context. I recall ‘brick-coloured sunsets’ tinted by a haze of pollution in Shanghai. And note the additional surprising triologism: water-melon emptiness. ‘Nowhere, never, have I felt with such force...
Flea-bitten hermits

Flea-bitten hermits

‘On the island of Sevan, which is conspicuous for two most dignified architectural monuments that date back to the seventh century, as well as for the mud huts of flea-bitten hermits only recently passed away…’ Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to...
Pink of old roses

Pink of old roses

Musty pink makes me think of an old breed of faded rose, or a soft-worn damask, or one of the thatched houses I saw in a village near Liverpool earlier this week. Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to Armenia (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011), p....
Raspberry-grey boulevards

Raspberry-grey boulevards

Trying to imagine a raspberry-grey boulevard, and can only think of the grey of the road itself combined with a pink wash from a shaft of setting sun. Other colour related triologisms to follow. ‘Pissarro’s raspberry-grey boulevards, flowing like the...
A mess of broken eggs

A mess of broken eggs

An arresting image for catastrophe – an omelette.  Too prosaic?  Smashing eggs can certainly make a hell of a mess, but I keep questioning this, somehow an omelette doesn’t equate to ‘catastrophe’. But nor can I forget it. ‘The omelette of catastrophe’ Source: Osip...
A timeless calm

A timeless calm

I loved this one.  Something about Tatar children bathing horses in Alushta that conveys a secure, happy world and an activity repeated over generations.  I hope I can be calm like those Tatar children. And how did the idea come to Mandelstam?  Did he see these...
Serenade in fur coat

Serenade in fur coat

Had to read this one a couple of times – it’s imaginative and convoluted.  First the image of ‘the body heat of your vision’ and then that tumbling phrase, ‘singing a serenade in a fur coat behind a double set of windows’.  I hope it never happens to you. ‘Standing...
Milky metaphors

Milky metaphors

Milky quietude sounds like something to be welcomed, whereas a curdling whey of silence is to be escaped.  I like this double latte metaphor, turning over two sides of quietness. ‘A milky quietude ensued.  The whey of silence curdled.’ Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey...
Time and poets

Time and poets

This summary of where Mandelstam places the poet versus the ‘man of letters’ on the time spectrum intrigues me.  Yes, there are poets who converse with readers waiting in the future: Homer and Keats come to mind.  But there are also poets who write for their own time,...
Conversation as coffee

Conversation as coffee

Likening conversation to ‘thick black coffee’ which you might have on the table in front of you, and you might stir with a small spoon while enjoying the thick black coffee of talk.  I imagine a smoke-filled waterfront café, with only the low hum of friendly exchange,...
Shell-like tenderness

Shell-like tenderness

A delicate and curious way to describe ‘tenderness’, since shells are usually formed of hard material, but their shape can be like a cupped hand, suggesting a protective curling-around. Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to Armenia (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011),...
Thick-walled word

Thick-walled word

While I like this idea, I can’t quite imagine a ‘thick-walled’ word.  Trying some free association: Glop?  Blather?  Is it to do with sound or meaning?  Send me your suggestions. Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to Armenia (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011), p....
Take a twenty-verst stroll

Take a twenty-verst stroll

A verst is an old Russian measurement for distance, a few steps more than a kilometre.  So I wish you the time, leisure and energy to enjoy some twenty-verst strolls.  I will make it a new year’s resolution to get myself into enough shape to be able to stroll that far...

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