N.I. Bukharin: Poetry, Poetics and the Problems of Poetry in the U.S.S.R.


4. Our Contemporaries

The development of Soviet poetry has already revealed aspects in itself which cannot but be considered as great achievements of our era. Against the background of capitalist decrepitude, hypertrophied and morbid eroticism, pessimistic licence and cynicism, or the sordid lucubrations of the poetic "race theorists" à la Horst Wessel, our poetry stands out as a poetry of gladness, profoundly buoyant and optimistic, essentially linked with the triumphant march of the millions and reflecting the tremendous creative impulses, the struggle, the building of a new world. Here we find no fog of mysticism, no poetry of the blind, no tragic loneliness of a lost personality, no inconsolable grief of individualism nor its aimless anarchistic mutiny. This is not the restful repose of well-fed respectability, passing its manicured hands caressingly over things and people, the elegant bric-à-brac of the boudoir or the drawing-room. Nor do we find the unbridled passions of a zoological chauvinism, rabid hymns of subjugation or odes to the golden calf. Our Soviet poetry has its own heroes, its own themes. It has already become the ideological reflex of a different world, which is marching forward - through the triumphant Civil War, through mighty class battles, through a tremendous labour intensity of numberless muscles and nerves, minds, feelings and passionsto ever more clear-cut forms of the new socialist culture.

It need hardly be said that the genesis of new themes, of new forms and methods of poetic craftsmanship, which attended the taking shape of poetry in our country, was not by any means a painless process. The class struggle, developing in the most diverse forms, found its expression in this sphere as well, and the clash of swords was accompanied by a clash of ideas. The numerous literary groupings, which were striving to gain sanction and acknowledgment, had their equivalents in society as a whole. Here, however, the connection between form and content is inevitably much more intricate, because the new class and the new period, while turning the former social pyramid upside down, do not destroy the old language or the laws of its development. The process of change in this case cannot, by its very nature, be as radical as the process of change in production relations or in the political superstructure. Hence, changes in the elements of content (subject matter) in art are not and cannot be in exact proportion to changes in the elements of artistic form.

It would be historically unjust to ignore those first proletarian poets who, leaving grown up in the atmosphere of gathering storm that preceded the revolution, were the first to make a name for themselves in our literature. That was a time of declaratory poetical heroics - heroics in the abstract, if one can speak at all of abstraction in art. It must he said, however, that the notes of Kirillov's "Iron Messiah" still resound today, perhaps even more loudly than they did in the turbulent spring years of the revolution. The poets of the "Smithy" group cannot be slighted "as Mendelssohn slighted Spinoza" (Marx), even if they were no Spinozas in the domain of poetry. Ideologically, theirs was already the real voice of the revolution - a voice, moreover, which attained a certain level in respect of technique. It sang of an almost cosmic overturn, it universalized the revolution, but in this historically one-sided form it expressed the mighty explosion of the revolution.

A whole galaxy of "Komsomol1) poets" has grown up, all of them strongly influenced by Mayakovsky. Among the most prominent of these is Alexander Bezymensky. This poet's popularity, especially among the youth, is not in any way a matter of chance. Bezymensky found vivid subjectmatter: he depicted the new man of his era ("Peter Smorodin") ; he sometimes rose to considerable heights of generalization ("Komsomoldom") ; he took the unexpected and new and turned it into poetry ("The Party Card"). His imagery was in sharp contrast to that of the traditionally tuneful chamber-lyric style. From Mayakovsky he had' learned to refashion prosaic details of the revolution, and even of the working day, into poetic song. He was undoubtedly the poetic mouthpiece of the new generation of the Komsomol, and gave expression to the still unsifted elemental forces of the Communist youth of that time, with their militant fervour. He is the poet, primarily, of the "light cavalry" in struggle and labour. He began to .give place, however, when the heavy artillery of the literary front had to be called on, when life grew more intricate, when a more intensive survey, greater depth, greater variety, complexity and mastery of poetic expression were needed. Something similar to what happened to Demyan Bedny happened also to him: unable to divert his attention to the more complex problems, he became elementary, began to get "antiquated," and he was directly faced with the danger of simply repeating the slogan of the day in rhyme and thus losing the poetic zest of his work.

Fresher and more profound proved Eduard Bagritsky, who died such an untimely death. Ideologically, he went considerably astray at times:

We are rusty leaves
On rusty oak trees....
The youthful trumpeters trample upon us,
The strange star-clusters circle above us -
Strange banners wave and belly above us....

But this is not typical of him. He wins one over by the breadth of his themes, by the ardour of his poetry, combined with a certain cultural romanticism, by a depth of feeling in which there is much thought, vividness and imagery, by the resonance of his verse.

The heroics of the Civil War lent themselves well to the treatment of this great romanticist, and it is greatly to be regretted that our literary critics of that time should have attemped to muffle the poet's notes on this chord. His "Ballad of Opanas" will live long. It is keen - this ballad; its tense drama, its imagefulness and the beautiful simplicity of the verse weld it into a great artistic whole.

Mikhail Svetlov is also primarily a romanticist of the Civil War. At the beginning of the period of the New Economic Policy, he experienced a great spiritual and ideological crisis, which laid its stamp on his work ("To Nikolai Kuznetsov," "Kolka"), but he overcame it later and even acquired a bit too much self-assurance, considering himself on a par withyes, yes - Pushkin and Tolstoy ("You and I are tired, dear, it seems"). Typical of Svetlov's poetry is "The Twain"

Beside the watch-fire, still as stone,
They lay outstretched together,
And the bullet that pierced the temple of one
Had embedded itself in the other.

Their hands still fastened like a vice
On the Hotchkiss gun, as though welded;
Nor blizzard nor snow, congealed to ice,
Could loosen the grip that held it....

Up strode to them an officer
And roughly seized by the shoulder;
With a glance at the sights, he ordered them
The Hotchkiss gun to surrender.

But the face of the dead did not twitch with fear,
And bliss had lulled their pain;
And a shudder passed through the officer
At the grisly joy of the Twain.

Most popular of Svetlov's works is his "Granada," dealing with a somewhat artificial subject. Svetlov's work clearly reflects the influence of Heine, both in his ironical and, romantic aspects. This is of course an entirely insufficient reason for putting Svetlov on a par with the "last king of romanticism," as some of our more incontinently enthusiastic critics have done. Like many of our poets, he is still provincial. The breadth of - his mental horizons and the fineness of his craftsmanship will not bear any comparison with those of the poet who created The Book of Songs. Nevertheless, he is a good Soviet romantic poet, who can achieve much if he will work.

Here I want to make a brief digression of the following kind. I have heard that many comrades, including Comrade Svetlov, are not - to put it mildly - particularly well satisfied with such restrained appreciation. But I must say that in my opinion the standards which we customarily apply have already become out of date. I consider that Svetlov is one of our very best Soviet poets, but it must be argued that now, in the period of reconstruction, when we are triumphantly carrying out the Second Five-Year Plan and setting ourselves tasks of .gigantic scope, it is no good at all trying to measure poetry by the standards employed, let us say, somewhere in the provinces of our country, or by those in use among apothecaries. We must take world standards.

This, then, is what I wanted to say in regard to Svetlov. Svetlov is a very good Soviet poet, but can one compare him with Heine? Take Heine and weigh him in the balance. What does he represent in the sphere of philosophy? Take his well-known essays on the history of German philosophy, which won him tremendous fame in France. Take his Lutetia. Consider his stupendous knowledge of the culture of his time, and his extraordinary penetrating insight into a whole series of historical periods, in almost every direction - Greece, Rome, the East. What a tremendous wealth of ideas, what a wealth of imagery, subject-matter and so forthl And compare Svetlov with him. Can one find in Svetlov's works such things as Lutetia, the history of German philosophy, etc.?

I do not say this in order to lower Svetlov's level but in order to raise him higher, because my whole report calls for altered standards. The day is past when we could say: "A poor thing but mine own." We must apply world scales of measurement. And I measure all by other scales. This may give rise to a certain difference in the appraisals made. But it is my fervent wish that our poetry as a whole and each one of our poets in particular pass more quickly into the next class, when we shall be able to say: Not only in our subject-matter, purpose, platform, etc., but also in respect of craftsmanship, we may serve as a model to all. Such is the standard by which I want to measure everything. I beg that this basic principle of mine be borne in mind, so as to avoid misunderstandings in the future.

The trio of "lyricists" of the same generation - Zharov, Utkin, Ushakov - differ among themselves considerably, although they are often spoken of together. The one who, in all respects, has the greatest command of culture among them is in our opinion Ushakov, and he is also the most talented. This is a poet of fine nuances; he feels and thinks profoundly, and his imagery is delicately subtle. Even when handling industrial, mechanical, "gasoline" themes, he weaves into his subject a multitude of associations, which do not violate the inner logic of the theme, and do not dumbfound the reader with paradoxical comparisons and metaphors.

The hedgerows glimmering,
The robins chirping in the prime -
Over the garden fences peals
The cherry petals' rosy chime.
But in this dream-blue,
And in this blue dream,
And caressing apple-blossom snow,
     Who can conceive
            of gasoline
     Not as a friend
            but as a foe.

Zharov and Utkin, regrettably, suffer from inordinate self-admiration and from an extreme poetical levity, verging on the frivolous. Zharov is not ungifted, but his work does not show signs of adequate labour, by which simplicity is finally attained as the complex result of a creative process. This not infrequently gives rise to mere rant. Hence also a certain slogan-like elementariness, very little relieved by poetic imagery:

With steadfastness
Full armed
In pit and factory yard;
Like soldiers,
Always must
Stand guard!

It would, however, be wrong to "negate" this "Komsomol" poet. He was one of the first to put forward the problem of lyrics. In regard to subject matter, he has broken away from the constricted circle of puritanic ideas, and a sunny joy of life, the song of revolutionary youthfulness, the unresting turbulence of spring blood, the warble of the revolutionary accordion in the village and the suburbs, the singing lilt of his poetic speech - these are all great assets, which should grow.

If Zharov represents the gay outskirts of Soviet poetry, languid Joseph Utkin represents not the accordion but the guitar. His is an artificial gesture, due perhaps to a certain inner strain, which has even, by some link or other, attached him to Yessenin. Utkin is more reflective, less simple than Zharov. He labours more over his image, his poetical speech is more melodious and his poetry breathes a certain sadness. But he, too, gives evidence of naive simplification and superficiality of both form and content. Is it not naïve to address such sententious stuff to a "beautiful woman" as:

Languishing with tenderness,
Not the rich and not the beauteous
Choose to joy with your embrace,
But the man of labour duteous.

Where does such a "philosophy" come from? Why are all those "not rich" ugly? How can one influence a "beautiful woman" with such arguments? Who is this beauty in reality? Why must labour and beauty lead a separate existence? And so forth.

Or take the form:

Years fly by like cold-shy titmice,
As a horse flies under the lash....

Why are titmice "cold-shy," when as a matter of fact they can stand almost any degree of frost? Why does a titmouse fly like a "horse under the lash," when it really flutters about in small spaces? The simile is obviously worthless, not properly thought out, made "to scan." Such unfortunate poetic "misprints," slips of the poetic tongue, can be found in quite large numbers in the works of this poet, from whom, as also from Zharov, one can with especial propriety demand a higher standard of poetic culture.

Among young "Komsomol" poets, Boris Kornilov deserves special mention. He has a strong grasp of poetic image and rhythm, a firm poetic tread, vivid and pregnant metaphors, and genuine passion. The class hatred generated in the grandchild of the poor peasant, who had to crawl like a dog before the "pot-bellied rosy - cheeked squire," has settled like a rich decoction in his verse:

This spite of the grandchild,
This wolfish hatred
My grandsire in my blood did saw,
Crawling on empty belly before a scoundrel
"God's pity on a dog I beg you show..."
I'll pour it forth in terrible song,
Thick upon the sodden fields,
Into the black bread and kvass,
That from his knees may rise up,
All covered with dust,
My slovenly grandsire,
Kornilov, Tarass.

He has a well-knit world - philosophy and a rock - like assurance of victory. The "ego," disappearing as such, finds its "continuation of life" ("Life Continued") in a new cycle of men and deeds. The tramp of iron steps is caught in the piled up strata of word-masses.

Kornilov is especially successful in portraying the negative types of the kulak, in describing the bestial fury of the enemy; here his palette is vivid and multi-coloured, his brush is broad and sure, the images sculpture - like and deeply expressive ("Family Council," "Murderer"). His "Three-Fields" rises at times to great power. For example, the description of the kulak's son loading rifles:

His cap over one ear cocking,
Canny and deft and easy,
He swung aloft an armful
Of rifles oiled and greasy.

Or the kulak "god" portrayed "at home":

Crunching sugar, swizzling
Tea in sweat anal heat,
Goose's rump a-guzzling,
Golden-brown and sizzling,
Succulent with fat.

Or the flames of civil war in the Russian village:

In Three-Fields now the flames were crackling,
On the roof-trees high the "red cocks" cackling;
Old folks crawled off like worms in a trench,
Into the hay,
Sneezing aloud from the musty stench.

There is a profusion of such colourful passages in this poem, whose rhythm passes from heavy strophes to light cavalry racing verse, with a ring of hoofs and a dashing melodious whistle, as in Bagritsky and Selvinsky.

The poets named in this section roughly represent the stream of poetic activity which flows from the Komsomol and Party circles and is intimately linked up with the life of the masses. But in their methods of poetic craftsmanship these authors are closely allied to several poets of a very high calibre, who exercise a decisive influence over them. We refer to Boris Pasternak, Nikolai Tikhonov, Ilya Selvinsky and, in some degree, to N. A. Aseyev. Not in vain did Bagritsky write about himself:

Matches and tobacco
In my haversack -
With Tikhonov,

These are all remarkable poetic personalities, and each one of them must be dealt with separately.

Boris Pasternak is a poet most remote from current affairs, even in the broadest sense of the term. This poet is a singer of the old intelligentsia, which has now become a Soviet intelligentsia. He unquestionably accepts the revolution, but he is far removed from the peculiar technicism of the period, from the din of battle, from the passions of the struggle. As early as at the time of the imperialist war, he had intellectually broken away from the old world (or, to speak more precisely, had begun to sever connections with it) and had consciously risen "above the barriers." The bloody hash, the huckstering barter of the bourgeois world were profoundly loathsome to him, and he "seceded," retired from the world, shut himself up in the mother-of-pearl shell of individual experiences, delicate and subtle, of the frail trepidations of a wounded and easily vulnerable soul. He is the embodiment of chaste but self-absorbed laboratory craftsmanship, persistent and painstaking labour over verbal form, the material for which is afforded by the precious things of the "heritage of the past," by profoundly personal - and hence, of necessity, constricted - associations, interwoven with inward stirrings of the mind.

In muffler wrapt, I peep through the pane,
With palm outstretched my eyes to screen:
"Say, youngsters, playing there in the rain,
What century are we living in?

Who wore that path to the wicketgate,
To the slop-hole where the nettles grow,
While I with Byron smoking sat,
And drank with Edgar Allan Poe?"

Pasternak also tries to give a theoretical justification of such poetry. Take, for instance, his "Definition of Poetry":

It is a jet of vibrant sound,
It is the crackle of crushed ice,
It is the night that nips the leaves,
It is a duel of two nightingales.

Or take his lines "To Bryussov," or the poem "To a Friend"

'Twere vain, in days when councils great convene,
When highest passions run in flooding tide,
A place to seek for poets on the scene:
'Tis dangerous, if not unoccupied.

This is hardly the place to argue against such a conception. What would have become of the great Greek tragedians without "highest passions"? What would have become of Aristophanes? How would Shakespeare have been possible? Or Heine? Or even Byron, the "Carbonaro lord"?

It is Pasternak's good fortune that he is far from being consistent. Right after his message to Bryussov he has a beautiful panegyric dedicated to the memory of Larissa Reissner; he sings of the "mad year 1905" in a whole series of poems; he writes his "Lieutenant Schmidt," his "January 9th," and all this in the fine stanzas of authentic poetry. He has given us a very salient image of Lenin:

...I recollect those words of his
With sparklets in my hair did prickle,
Like the globe lightning's shivering hiss.
All rose and peered, their eyesight straining
Towards the distant table green,
When lo! he loomed upon the rostrum,
His presence felt before 'twas seen.
He glided on, too swift for vision,
'Twixt obstacles and helpers all,
Like ball compact by thunder hurtled
Into the mighty meeting hall.
Followed the crash of loud ovations
Relief from tenseness, like the split
Of atom forced to burst asunder
The props and bars that circle it.

And nevertheless, even in his revolutionary poetry - revolutionary in its ideas and meaning - one can find cases where the approach to this meaning lies through associations which are completely unexpected and often narrowly individual. Pasternak is original. This is at once both his strength and his weakness. His strength, because he is infinitely far from the trite, from the hackneyed, from rhymed prose. His weakness, because this originality of his sometimes verges on the egocentric, and then his images cease to be intelligible, the quiver of his throbbing rhythm and the windings of his super-subtle verbal scoring become, beyond a certain point, mere convolutions of unintelligible image combinations - so subjective and so intimately subtle are they. You may find in his work an endless number of beautiful metaphors, and the breath of his poetry is fresh and fragrant. Take his picture of a garden "sprayed and drenched with a million azure tears"; or of a boat putting in to shore:

Scorching heat, arid high the strand.
From the incoming boat the chain fell clinking
Like rattlesnake upon the sand,
Its rust-gnawed coils in the sedges sinking.

Or the sense of passing time: "The year guttered out like a lamp-drawn moth." Or "The Steppe"

How good those paths that led out to the steppe!
The boundless steppe, like a seascape looming,
With the sigh of the grass, the rustle of ants,
And the sobbing drone of the midges swarming.

Then there is the picture of the rain in "Close Night," with the dust which "swallows the rain in pills," and hundreds of other images, admirably fine and subtle.

But what are we to make of "The Return" or "Our Tempest"?2) The play on the "ts" in the first example and on the "1" and "b" in the second is combined with images that are linked up with associations inaccessible to "socialized perception." And this violates the laws of complex simplicity.

Such is Boris Pasternak, one of the most remarkable masters of verse of our time - a poet who has not only gemmed his work with a whole string of lyrical pearls, but who has also given us a number of profoundly sincere revolutionary pieces.

Ilya Selvinsky is to a certain extent the polar opposite of Pasternak. He is a poet with a great poetic voice, that reaches out to the wide spaces of the open highway, to mass scenes where shouts resound, where horses stamp, where songs of daring ring out, where enemies are fighting, where living life is seething, where history is kneading its crude dough.

...Mere craftsmanship is all too poor
To breathe the era's hurricane....

he says on the one hand. And on the other:

You cry aloud: "To hell with song!
Give us a sanitary sewerl"
Poetry then will be plentiful
As aircraft in an elevator.

His slogan is:

Comrades, enough! Cast your eyes wider!

This is perfectly just. But it is a pity that the poet - not without the influence of the critics - does not always practise What he preaches, and his attempts, noteworthy as they are, to.work on a larger canvas sometimes succumb to the style of the rhymed factory wall-newspaper. Selvinsky can write a fine song, based on folksong in the exact sense of the word. Its broad sweep and fluent rhythm are admirable. It is a song that really seems to pour out of its own accord.

Basing his work on songs and on various dialects, and by most careful attention to language, its sound and sense features, Selvinsky has produced notable things in his "Ulalyaevshchina" and "Army Commander," which will go down in the history of our poetry as some of its greatest achievements. But now, when the "agitational piece" in the style of Mayakovsky has already outlived its day, it seems to us that the poet unduly stresses this note in his work. It obviously cramps his style. When he writes as follows in the Electricity Plant Newspaper:

Think above all, you women workers,
One thousand five hundred women,
Resonant as sleigh-bells loud
And as the noble Cenci proud....

it sounds discordant, unconvincing and even - if the author will excuse us - a little ludicrous, because one is at once struck by the entire artificiality of this attempt to squeeze the broader associations, innuendoes and images by main force into the Procrustean abed of the factory newspaper, which must inevitably have its own specific character. Selvinsky, however, is a very ;great and genuine master of verse, unquestionably revolutionary and moreover possessing a great command of culture.

Nikolai Tikhonov is interesting from a number of different view-points. He persistently enlarges the scope of our subject-matter by penetrating into the most outlying parts of the Soviet Union and introducing into our poetry national motifs of the Caucasus, Central Asia and elsewhere. He labours incessantly over problems of poetic form, and his wonderfully melodious ballads will remain in the memory forever. He thinks profoundly, ponders out his philosophy to the very foundations, inseparably combining intellect and emotion in one poetic unity. He is a "poet of the understanding" first and foremost.

Tikhonov's "Twelve Ballads" contain within themselves a tremendous, restrained and grim passion. It is romanticism tempered with manly strength and assurance. The poet seizes as if by the bridle the tragic and solemn chords that threaten to tear away to all sides, subjugates them to one dominant thought, which resounds like a leitmotif in music.

The heroism of military duty finds its expression in the "Ballad of the Blue Package," brought to its destination by an aeroplane which crashes:

...Earth rushed up like a shattering shot.
Tripping and stumbling, they ran to the spot.
A smashed mouth spake from the smoking wreckage:
"My leg can wait, first thing - the package."

A very powerful piece of writing is the "Ballad of the Soldier on Leave," which contains a remarkable picture of battle:

The machine gun choked, rasped, sputtered fire,
From the flanks pealed the batteries' carillon;
Eleven times they advanced to attack -
That desperate battalion....
Six score dead were laid in a row
Beneath the limes by noon,
And tobacco stuck to the blood-smeared hands
Of the soldiers, ready to swoon.

The ".Death of the Fighter" and the "Ballad of the Nails" are among the best examples of Tikhonov's work, and the concluding lines of the latter ballad -

If nails could be made of these people free,
The strongest nails in the world they'd be -

are already gaining currency as an historical aphorism.

In Tikhonov's verse we may find bold and original comparisons, apt interweavings of words, sounds and meanings:

Sipping tea and lolling discreetly
That the Mauser may not gall your side.


They are hemmed about with a fiendish night
Of forgotten haunts and magic black,
Sick eyes and ambush-lurking curses...

'Local colour" is conveyed in unexpected form:

And its steely maw the tractor rears
Like a mammoth in Chardjwin melon fields.

Or his description of Tiflis:

Here in, costly fabrics flaunting
Or discoursing on the lute,
Here in sulphur bath of marble
Healing water gushing out -
From the head it pours,
Setting nerves aquiver,
To the polished floor's
Flagstones, like a river.

Tikhonov's poems are always profound, but in his case also the striving to reveal the innermost content, to let down the poetic pitcher into the hidden springs of life, sometimes leads to the interweaving of word and image being made on too subjective a system of co-ordinates. Evidently afraid of being too superficial or of lapsing into banality, the poet sometimes oversteps the bounds of general comprehension, and thus he, too, violates the laws of "complex simplicity."

N. A. Aseyev is the most orthodox "Mayakovskyite," one who toils over problems of verse form, an untiring poetagitator, very much concerned with current affairs, full of "actuality." Moreover, despite his theoretical aberrations, he possesses great poetic culture. His requirements are out of the common:

    rhymes for you
        will not be made
save those that cut
    like a razor blade;
for you will ring
    no other verse -
this be sung
    and throb in your ears.

However, this poet's unquestionable talent is cramped by his theoretical outlook. He does not see that the "agitational piece" of Mayakovsky can no longer satisfy, that it has become too elementary, that what is required now is more diversity, more generalization, that the need is arising for monumental poetic painting, that all the sources of lyric verse have been opened and that the very conception of "actuality" is becoming a different one. So that when one now reads, for instance, in his poem "To Them" (i.e., the enemies of the revolution)

Your weapons -
    and provocation;
    electrification -

it seems dry, newspaper stuff, poetically unconvincing.

We may mention also the talented poets, Lugovsky and Prokofyev, and the exceedingly colourful, "autochthonous" Pavel Vassilyev, who displays exceptional promise as a poet and will come to occupy a place of honour in our poetry, if he is able to round off' the rough edges of property-loving barbarism in himself, and to take root once and for all on socialist soil.

I wish to make one further deviation from my printed report. I have omitted to mention such an outstanding poetthis is my personal opinion, but I feel obliged to express it - as Vassily Kamensky, who represents a very great poetic magnitude.

Soviet poetry does not end with poetry in the Russian language. Perhaps the most noteworthy achievement of the revolution in the field of the fine arts is the flourishing state of literature among the national minorities of the Soviet Union, the appearance of a host of talented writers among these peoples. The length and breadth of our mighty country is blossoming with a multitude of poetic flowers. Such poets as. Tychina and Sosyura in the Ukraine, Yanka Kupala in White Russia, Akop Akopyan in Armenia, the outstanding poets of Georgia, Azerbaidjan, Uzbekistan and other countries, the fine creative work of the Persian emigrant poet, Lahuti - all these represent phenomena of tremendous cultural significance, whose importance cannot as yet be finally gauged. Poetry in non-Russian languages is now no longer a mere appendage to Russian Soviet poetry. It is a very powerful independent force, a remarkable part of the poetry of our Union, welded together by singleness of purpose socialist in content, national in form. It should be dealt with separately by comrades who know the respective languages. This is an important task, and one that is altogether indispensable, for unless this is done, we cannot envisage our Soviet poetry as a whole.

So much, then, for our achievements. But does this mean that poetry is keeping pace with our era? Not at all. In this respect we must unequivocally state that we are "backward," as is being repeated so often and so persistently at the present time.


1) Komsomol: the Young Communist League. Ed.

2) Here Bukharin quotes two instances where Pasternak has sacrificed sense to sound. They are omitted, since the play on letters and sounds cannot he conveyed in translation. Ed.