Saturday, July 26, 2008

Nika Turbina

Nika Turbina began composing poetry before she could write. When she was three she would tell poems to her grandmother who would write them down for her. "I began composing verse out loud when I was three. . . I banged my fists on the piano and composed." In fact her poems were composed so early that one of them is about learning to count, and her fear of the zero's that was making it difficult to learn to count above nine.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko pointed out one great value in her verse. "Nika's poetic diary, thanks to its vulnerable sincerity, becomes the diary of other children, those who do not write poetry."

At eight years old she was "discovered" and was soon giving readings of her poetry around the world, including a private reading for the Pope. But it is not the fame and fortune, nor the tragic turn that her life soon took, but the poems themselves that I want to share here.

See what you think.


Whose are the eyes I look through at the world
of friends and family, of trees and birds?
Whose are the lips I use to catch the dew
from a leaf that has fallen in the street?

Whose are the arms I use to hug
this helpless and precarious world?
I lose my own voice in those of forests,
fields and blizzards, heavy rain and night.

But who am I?
Where should I look for myself?
How can I answer
all these natural voices?

7 years old

We speak a different language,
you and I.
The script may be the same,
but the words are strange.
You and I
live on different
islands, even though
we are in the same apartment.

8 years old

My poems are heavy,
hauling rocks uphill.
I'll carry them to the cliff,
its sheer, blank face.
I'll fall face down into the grass,
I won't have enough tears.
I'll tear up my line-
the verse will weep.
will dig pain into my hand!
And the bitterness of the day
will all be transformed into words.

6 years old


I need your tenderness
as a dying bird
needs air.
I need the worried tremble
of your lips.
And when I feel lonely
I need the sparkling laughter in your eyes.
But they weep,
as they watch me.
Why is there so much black
pain in the world?
It must be because
you are alone.

6 years old


Down the parkway
like a crystal ball
your ringing voice
passed me.

It ran along rooftops,
it ran along leaves,
in the autumnal rustle
it captured music.

Suddenly, it stopped
near the bench,
with the smashed
lamp post.

Your crystal ball
sparkled with laughter.
And the smashed lamp post
suddenly glowed light.

6 years old


Fernando G. Toledo said...

Hi! Are you the translater of this poems? Do you know what (or who) is "Netter"?

Doug P. Baker said...

Hi, Fernando. No, I didn't translate these. The one to which you refer was translated by Antonina W. Bouis, and is included in the collection "First Draft," by Turbina.

Nettles are a weed (also good for food) that stings terribly when you touch it. It feels like you are being stung by swarms of ants.