Tristia

Tristia

Osip Mandelstam

Tristia is the book that firmly established Mandelstam as a major Russian poet. This first complete and bilingual edition reproduces the original Petrograd text of 1922. Tristia, his second book, marks the beginning of the poet’s maturity and the culmination of his involvement with the innovative group, the Acmeists. As translator Bruce McClelland writes in the Preface: “The poems of Tristia comprise the acme of Acmeism, which in turn became a literary philosophy whose concerns resonate with many issues in contemporary poetic discourse.” For while Mandelstam lived comfortably with “the strictness of self-imposed forms,” at the same time he certainly did not simply “adjust” to reality. Rather he invested poetry with such a high degree of substantiality that for him (and for us) it was capable of penetrating reality—breaking the glass of illusion in a way that all the theosophical incantations of the Symbolists never could. Because the Acmeists (like the American Imagists) broke with exhausted conventions and vague mysticism, Mandelstam is sometimes mistaken for a chilly realist. On the contrary, like several generations of American poets he sought to rescue the visionary in the actual, through a poetics of immediacy and the renewal of language itself. McClelland’s translations aim to show us a way into this less appreciated dimension of Mandelstam and the urge for a new poetics.