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Contributor Spotlight on Titsian Tabidze

by Dan Froid

It seems like a safe bet to say that, for the most part, the writers who appear in our issues are living when their work is published. That’s not the case, however, for one of the poets who appears in our Spring 2015 issue. The presence of Titsian Tabidze brings a bit of history to the pages of Prairie Schooner. Tabidze was a Georgian poet who was executed in 1937 in one of a series of “purges” in the Soviet Union. These purges, accomplished under Joseph Stalin’s direction, eliminated political opponents and dissidents—which often included writers and artists like Tabidze.

His poem “Tbilisi Evening” appears in the issue in Rebecca Gould’s translation from the Georgian:

Tbilisi evening almost died
of crying with the music’s voice.
The strings carried the heart’s sorrows
from the river’s left bank.

That’s how the raft man sang,
his pine logs bound with swans,
his sudden refrain reduced
to new hopes’ ashes.

My still heart keens with
what I have or what I had,
what was cast into the fire
as I stand naked on the black mountain.

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Rebecca Gould has also conducted an interview with Tabidze’s daughter and granddaughter. As she explains, Tabidze and his contemporaries were inspired by the literary modernist movements occurring all over the world in the early twentieth century: “Titsian played a leading role in making the ambition of the Georgian avant-garde to transform the poetics and politics of their time appear within reach.” The interview discusses the aftermath of his death and his legacy.

For more about Georgian poetry, a long article on CityLore discusses some of its major figures and includes both readings of selected poems and a series of translations—including of Tabidze’s work—of Georgian poetry from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first.