V.Narbut and O.Mandel'shtam: Personal and Poetic Intersections

Ilia Pomeranzev, University of Toronto

Vladimir Narbut (1888-1938) is one of the interesting and peculiar figures in Russian poetry of the early twentieth century. Yet his works are still relatively little known, and the poet's name appears only on the margins of scholarly studies. Almost all critical judgements about Narbut's poetry are based solely on his books Alliluia and Plot'. It is now almost forgotten that before and during his Acmeist period, the poet, who was genuinely interested in folk traditions and religious issues,wrote a large number of ethnographic essays, religious and calendar (e.g. Easter and Christmas) poems, as well as nature lyrics.

The topic 'Narbut and Mandel'shtam' has never been raised, while obvious grounds for such consideration do exist. Relations between the two poets were always characterized by mutually kind feelings. This is true with regard to their Acmeist years, to the period of the 1920s, when Narbut and Mandel'shtam felt artistically estranged from the new epoch, as well as to the early 1930s. Narbut wrote one of the first reviews of Mandel'shtam's Kamen' (Novyj Zhurnal dlja Vsex 4 [1913]). He published "Utro akmeizma" when he edited the periodical Sirena (4-5 [1919]) in Voronezh.When Narbut was expelled from the Party and dismissed from his position as head of the publishing house "Zemlja i Fabrika," and Mandel'shtam suffered as a result the Gornfel'd affair, both poets combined their efforts in winter of 1929-30 and collaborated on the satirical review article "Komintern Zifovskoj periodiki" (unpublished; RGALI). Moreover, Narbut and Mandel'shtam always paid attention to each other's works. This was manifested in a number of poetic exchanges which I will trace in my presentation.

Thus, the purpose of this paper is not only to reconstruct the history of relations between Narbut and Mandel'shtam, but also to explore existing poetic parallels, as well as certain thematic likenesses, especially in the period of the 1920s and early 1930s.