JOhn farndon

Poetry translations

By Lydia Grigorieva

Shards from the Polar Ice

(translated by John Farndon with Olga Nakston)



“It would be hard to imagine Russian poetry in the last half century without Lydia Grigorieva,” writes eminent Russian poet and critic Konstantin Kedrov. Grigorieva is a uniquely individual voice, bucking the trends of modernist poetry to create her own distinctive and beguiling body of poetry. Her work draws on her own remarkable life to create startlingly arresting images and metaphors, from her series from her Arctic childhood, to the troubles that beset Ukraine.

This translation was nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize, The Warwick Poetry Prize for Women in Translation, The Best Translated Book Award and The Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize and other awards.


Pity Beethoven

Pity Beethoven – as he, grim-faced,

Through the vile and dark night raced.

Heedless of the waters’ roar,

Through Carlsbad’s sleeping streets he tore.


His speech was slurred and not quite sane.

He sped on through the gloom. In vain,

He clutched the air and clenched his fist

To crush to nought the damp night mist.

The awful storm brooks no escape.

The lightning twists into the shape

Of a vast tornado’s maw –

No mortal can pass through this war.

Cold rain rams his massive brow.

Balls of lightning hunt him now.

Sharp whips of wind about him lay.

Fate drives him on; he must obey.

His green frock-coat is soaking wet.

But he cannot hear it yet!

The crash, the floods, land going under…

And then the booming claps of thunder.

Oh yes, wake up, and clap the sight:

Beethoven striding through the night!

A Dream in the Garden

Oh yes, I will tell you – and I know you will me hear me –

Of a dream in the garden beneath the old pear tree

Beneath the white apple in light gold and hazy,

Beneath the blue lilac, the air sweet and lazy.

In the bright moonlit garden, in honeyed grass sunken

You in my dream – young, moody and drunken

With unquenchable passion, and love fierce and true,

Beneath hoarfrosted cherries, plums wet with dew.

There in my dream, it’s all so much clearer:

The almond bloom’s gone, apricot’s time is nearer

And on your damp chest, it’s not moths that are quivering

But soft blushing petals, fallen and shivering.

Every leaf, every bloom, exhales fragrance so forcefully

That to dream of the garden is no longer enough for me

I long to wake up, with you at my side;

I must catch and hold on to that illusory tide.

And bright breeze-blown blossom whirls pink in the air

As we love in reality and you are right there

As the petals of love heavenwards stream

And once more I dream of a dream of a dream…

By galym mutanov

The Shining Light

(translated by John Farndon with Olga Nakston)



Poetry has always been in the Kazakh blood, and Galym Mutanov is one of the newly independent nation’s leading poets, a shining light in the Kazakh literary world. In the range of his poetry, Mutanov truly captures the essence of the Kazakh spirit – from the tough and ageless traditions of the wild steppe to moments of tender intimacy. The measured Islamic wisdom and deep sense of morality so intrinsic to Kazakh life of old shines through.


“The Shining Light is a noteworthy literary achievement. Galym Mutanov’s voice is both deeply Kazakh and deeply human, with his poems standing alongside Abai’s as profound and moving expressions of both Kazakh culture and universal themes of human experience and longing.”
Professor James Petrik
“Kazakh poet Galymkair Mutanov is…a very original, distinctive philosopher. ;His poems are heartfelt, extraordinary and modest.”
Sergey Dzuba

Uzbek poems

Chol’pon – The Devil’s Party


I buried inside me the spark of love,

Deep in the canyons of my brain.

Yet the spark burned fiercely on

And brought me endless pain.

When I heard ‘Be happy’ in calls to prayer

It struck me as an evil lure.

So I told the angel my personal myths;

They seemed to me more pure.

But playing with her hair, the angel said:

“Your legends are needed no more!”

Her words buzzed noisily in my ears:

“You’re swimming in blood and gore.”

The king of lies urged me on:

“Your fortune waits for you.”

But my soul,  arrayed in funeral black,

Already waits there too.

Leave now, Satan; I am afraid.

Go! My sword’s smashed, my shield holed.

Can’t you see I’m lying underneath

A mountain of troubles, crushed and cold?

Oh angel, one last breath, the last of all:

One last look, then may the skies fall!

You killed my soul – Nodira


Oh heaven, you killed my very soul, you did.

You made me weak by leaving me, you did.

My cries are deadly arrows, each one –

You turned my body to a bow, you did.

Heaven has not been loyal to you, my soul –

Though you tried and questioned it, you did.

You stained with tears each inch of my cheeks.

You whitened my face with grief, you did,

You turned a tryst into a parting, oh heaven.

You made spring die into autumn, you did.

You have suffered so in secret, Nodira.

Your lonely heart from strangers, you hid.

Lost – Hamid Ismailov


In trodden mud the horse leaves behind,

In marks on grass you sometimes find,

In the darkness of words to which I’m blind –

There is nothing more than chance.

Substance and nothingness made and remade,

The shade of a tree and a sketch of the shade,

An image’s reflection, a reflection displayed –

Are just coincidence’s dance.

Strange relics from a Stone Age site,

Moths scattered by the light,

Signs in the stars in the black of night –

Are false spirits that lead us on.

Cast off, we seek your name in all –

In drops of rain or how crumbs fall

Or a wandering dervish’s death call.

Flawed when found; the flawless has gone.

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