A Stanford story (and winner!) behind this year’s Compass Translation Awards in NYC

Bella Akhmadulina

Akhmadulina: Singing in another language.

Last Saturday, Stanford’s Glen Worthey spent an unusual evening in Manhattan: he was at the Poets House accepting a Compass Translation Awared Second Prize for his translation of a Bella Akhmadulina poem from the original Russian.

Stepanova @Stanford

She’ll help next time. Maria Stepanova at Stanford Libraries, photographed by C. Haven.

The poet for next year’s translation competition is another friend: one of Russia’s leading poets (and a recent Stanford visitor) Maria Stepanova, and the first-ever living poet to be featured for a Compass competitions.  Maria has offered to consult on her poetry with any translators who may desire it, “which sounds both fun and daunting,” said Glen.

In addition to loads of new impressions and new friends, Glen returned with a small stack of sample journal issues for himself and the Stanford Libraries, as well as signed copies of Irina’s latest book, and some catalogs of the archive of Mark Khedekel’s fascinating father, Lazar Khedekel, a Suprematist architect-philosopher who was a contemporary and collaborator with Malevich and El Lissitzky in the Vitebsk Art Institute.

Oh, and the poem. Read Glen’s translation below, or listen to Akhmadulina read the poem in the youtube video he made at the bottom of this post:


Oh, Runner, Run!

Behold the man, whose race was first begun
So long ago, when light first lit creation;
One cannot count the centuries he’s run:
Run high, run far, toward some consecration,
Some blessed goal.  What triumph might it be
That beckons him to run, to conquer distance?
Behold the man — oh, look at him! and see
Through fogs of time his face’s fine persistence.
Egyptian deserts held him as a slave,
A swarthy outcast, breathless in his fleeing,
Whom death awaited should he cease to crave
To win this race: the essence of his being.
Around him all is motionless and dead.
But he: alive with passion, flexed emotion,
His golden muscles’ movements all embed
Humanity’s own most perfected motion.
Oh, runner, run!  Run, brother; run, my friend!
By force of will your final lap completed,
You run one more, your victory to extend,
To nobly face a future undefeated.
Oh, runner, run!

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