Quotidian Blues


My sister is sitting
on the bank of a ploughed field,
catching the last grains like fish.
The black earth is agitated,
spattering poisonous salt
throwing foam beneath the blackthorn bush.

I go up to her, bent and old,
sobbing, so she pities me,
“Look, I’m cold, I’ll die.”
And she answers me,
“You were never alive,
you haven’t been born.”

I cry to her,
“Look at the clouds in the sky!
Here comes a storm!”
She furrows her brow,
doesn’t move,
watching the minnows of corn.


On the twelfth day   

On the twelfth day I met the one
who had talked to me.
He lay ill, wrapped in the Milky Way like a blanket.
He didn’t surprise me by this,
but he was not how I had imagined.
He washed down the medicine, with difficulty holding the glass,
whilst his other hand groped about in a silver dish,
then he handed a button to me and said:
Here’s the ocean—take it and show it to people.

Just then rained a meteorite shower,
it soaked me from crown to hem,
and the button dissolved like a handful of salt.
You know, of course, it is happiness,
When an ocean splashes in the lap of your dress.


Blok Capsule 

Here is my body, weighty, a simple protein,
going through customs, but through the window it’s all the same:
the night, the gloom of the station, the street and the street light,
the slow border guard in a white shirt, oh god,
here’s my bag, I’m trembling like a creature,
what if he discovers that under my skin
hidden in a box is Alexander Blok,
asleep like a puppy covered with a sack.

Go away, border guard, I’m still young,
if you don’t believe me, I’ll repaint my name,
a capsule of Blok is active in me
I’m starting to be confused by my pseudonym.
You should know, border guard, all my chatter
will be short, like a shot of adrenaline,
will be underground, fanciful, like water
with a smell of the north, with the tang of Ukraine.


A Dead Cat

I walked along the pavement and saw a dead cat in the gutter.
A woman drew near with a broom and scoop.
She shovelled the corpse into a bag and said:
“It’s my cat, I’m going to bury it.”

But then I went into a coat shop,
and soon forgot about the cat.

Light music was playing in the store.
A dead man wore a scarf and coat.
I said to the shop assistant:
“Give me a broom and scoop.
It’s my cat, I’m going to bury it.”
He replied:
“It’s not a cat, it’s a plastic dummy.
Please leave our shop.”

Then watching me go, he pointed a finger
and said something to another shop assistant.

I returned home.
Entering the lift I saw a pool of blood.
I got to the tenth floor with difficulty.
I felt bad.
I went out.
But coming towards me was my neighbour with a cloth and bucket.
I said to her:
“There’s blood there. A cat died there.
I’m going to bury it.”

She answered:
“It’s not blood. It’s just that I spilt tomato sauce.
I’m going to wash the lift.”
Then watching me go, she pointed a finger
and said something to another neighbour.

I went into my apartment.
I looked into the mirror and saw a dead cat.
It’s my cat.
I’m going to bury it.


Quiet is the molten night

Quiet is the molten night
on the steppes of Eastern Ukraine
you can’t surpass it, can’t overcome,
can’t fly up to the middle.

But a rock tears itself away
floats off, like a lonely sail
flows down in the mist of the sea
to find in a distant land

a house, that blooms on the boulders,
grows and reaches above,
all the while a liquid moon
seeps down from the tiled roof.


Like the word “flowerbed” 

I’m constantly rushing somewhere, for my troubles.
So today I went for bread and saw something white
flash past my feet and dart under a table in the summer café.
I follow the white thing. Suddenly I think it’s a rabbit.
I sit and wait, like the fool at the station,
twisting the menu in my hands, I order a beer.
And from under the table this white thing leapt out,
bounced like a ball and turned into a bird.
But I didn’t leave the café,
I sat at the table, leafed through the menu.
And on the last page in this book
next to the prices for Italian pizza
are three faint and roughly drawn arrows
“right,” “left” and “ahead.”
Under the “right” arrow it says “how you live,”
under the “left” arrow it says “how you die.”
Why did I sit at the table? Why did I stay looking at this menu?
Why did I come into this café at all?
I would choose the arrow “ahead,” but the inscription below is erased.
And for a long time that white bird flew over me,
as if I needed it, as if it was somehow interested in me.
Then it suddenly sat on the pavement not far from the night club,
and turned into something in bloom, like the word “flowerbed.”


Get lost

I approached
that is
I stood alongside
Russian literature
but she is proud
not paying attention

and I position myself
not giving way
clicking my heel on the asphalt
counting the crows

and suddenly she condescended
turned her gaze
saying what are you here for?
what do you need from me?
don’t stand alongside
fuck off from me
get lost

I tell myself to fuck off
and stand further off
not giving way
clicking my heel on the asphalt
counting the crows
in my memory
tying knots


I see almost nothing

my arms became branches
my legs lengthened like roots
I don’t know what to do now
how will I go to work
how will I open the green umbrella
how will I strike the keyboard
I see almost nothing
except the birds
sitting in the palms of my hands




Сидит сестра моя
на берегу вспаханного поля,
как рыбку, ловит последние зёрна.
Чернозём волнуется,
брызжет отравленной солью,
выбрасывает пену под куст тёрна.

Подхожу к ней, старая и кривая,
рыдаю, чтоб вызвать жалость.
– Видишь, мне холодно, я умираю.
А она мне:
– Ты не жила ещё,
не рождалась.
Кричу ей:
— Сейчас будет буря!

Взгляни, заволокло небо!
Она брови хмурит,
не двигается,
глядит на мальков хлеба.


на двенадцатый день

А на двенадцатый день я встретила того
кто со мной говорил.
Он лежал больной в млечный путь завернут как в одеяло.
Не то, чтобы он этим меня удивил,
но я не таким его себе представляла.
Он запивал лекарство с трудом удерживая стакан,
другой рукой что-то нащупывая на серебряном блюде,
потом протянул мне пуговицу и сказал:
Вот океан – возьми и покажи его людям.
В этот момент пошел метеоритный дождь,
и я промокла от макушки до платья,
а пуговица растворилась как горстка соли.
Знаете, наверно, это и есть счастье,
когда океан плещется в твоем подоле.


Капсула Блока

Вот мое тело, важный, простой белок,
едет через таможню, а за окном все то же:
ночь, привокзальный морок, улица и фонарь,
медленный пограничник в белой рубашке, боже,
вот моя сумка, я трепещу как тварь,
вдруг обнаружит, что у меня под кожей
спрятан в коробке сам Александр Блок,
спит как щенок, прихлопнув себя рогожей.

Уйди, пограничник, я еще молода,
если не веришь, я перекрашу имя,
капсула Блока действует на меня
я начинаю путаться в псевдониме.
Знай, пограничник, вся моя болтовня,
будет короткой, как выброс адреналина,
будет подземной, вычурной, как вода
с запахом севера, с привкусом украины.


Мертвая кошка

Я шла по тротуару и увидела на обочине мертвую кошку.
К ней приближалась женщина с лопаткой и веником.
Она сгребла труп в пакет и сказала:
— Это моя кошка, я буду ее хоронить.

Но я шла в магазин верхней одежды,
поэтому вскоре забыла про кошку.

В зале играла легкая музыка.
И стоял мертвый человек в пальто и шарфе.
Я сказала продавцу-консультанту:
— Дайте мне веник и лопатку.
Это моя кошка, я буду ее хоронить.
Он ответил:
— Это не кошка, а пластмассовый человек,
выйди из нашего магазина.

Потом он смотрел мне в след, показывал пальцем
и что-то говорил другому продавцу-консультанту.

Я вернулась домой.
Зашла в лифт и увидела лужу крови.
Я с трудом доехала до десятого этажа.
Мне было плохо.
Я вышла.
А навстречу мне соседка с тряпкой и ведром.
Я сказала ей:
— Там кровь. Там умерла кошка.
Я буду ее хоронить.

Она мне ответила:
— Это не кровь. Я только что пролила томатный сок.
Иду мыть лифт.

Потом она смотрел мне в след, показывала пальцем
и что-то говорила другой соседке.

Я вошла в свою квартиру.
Посмотрела в зеркало и увидела мертвую кошку.
Это моя кошка.
Я буду ее хоронить.


Тиха расплавленная ночь

Тиха расплавленная ночь
в степи восточной Украины,
не превзойти, не превозмочь,
не долететь до середины.

Но отрывается скала,
плывет, как парус одинокий
в тумане моря и стекла,
чтобы найти в стране далекой

дом, что цветет на валунах,
растет и делается выше,
покуда жидкая луна
стекает с черепичной крыши.


Похожее на слово “клумба”

Я постоянно куда-то бегу, у меня заботы.
Вот и сегодня пошла за хлебом, вижу белое что-то
под ногами мелькнуло и юркнуло в летнее кафе под столик.
Я — за этим белым, думаю, а вдруг это кролик.
Сижу и жду, как дурочка на вокзале,
покрутила в руках меню, пиво себе заказала.
А это белое из-под стола взметнулось,
как мячик подпрыгнуло и птицею обернулось.
А я из кафе уходить не стала,
сидела за столиком, меню листала.
И в этой книге на последней странице
рядом с ценами на итальянскую пиццу
три стрелочки “прямо”, “налево”, “направо”
нарисованы неотчётливо и коряво.
Под стрелкой “направо” написано — “как бы жизнь”,
под стрелкой “налево” — “как бы смерть”.
Зачем я села за столик? Зачем стала это меню смотреть?
Зачем вообще я в это кафе припёрлась?
Я бы выбрала стрелку “прямо”, но под ней надпись стёрлась.
А та птица белая ещё долго надо мной летала,
будто я ей нужна, словно я чем-то её заинтересовала.
А потом вдруг села на тротуар недалеко от ночного клуба,
и превратилась во что-то цветущее, похожее на слово “клумба”.


Иди отсюда

это я значит
к русской литературе
стала рядом
а она гордая
вниманния не обращает
а я стою себе такая
с места не двигаюсь
каблуком об асфальт постукиваю
ворон считаю

и вдруг она снизошла
взор обратила
че говорит пристала?
че тебе от меня надо?
не стой рядом
отвали от меня
иди отсюда

сама говорю отвали
и стою себе дальше
с места не двигаюсь
каблуком об асфальт постукиваю
ворон считаю
узелки на память


Я почти ничего не вижу

мои руки стали ветвями
мои ноги длинны как корни
я не знаю что теперь делать
как я пойду на работу
как открою зеленый зонтик
как ударю по клавиатуре
я почти ничего не вижу
кроме птиц
на ладонях сидящих


Translator’s Note

In translating these poems from Ganna Shevchenko’s first poetry collection, Домохозяйкин блюз, I wanted to retain their freshness and apparent simplicity. The spirit of the book is vital, with a fairy tale or dreamlike quality to some poems. I wanted to convey Shevchenko’s distinct, lively voice and—as the poet Arkady Shytpel commented in his 2016 review in Novyy Mir— the “strangeness and charm” of these poems.

I translated the title of the collection (literally Housewife’s/ Househusband’s Blues), as Quotidian Blues to convey the sense of lived experience, banality, the everyday. The connotations of the word “housewife” in English seemed too limited.

As much as possible, I have followed the structure of each poem. Rather than duplicating rhyme schemes, I have used half-rhyme, internal rhyme and consonant rhyme to preserve the formal integrity of each stanza in relation to the whole poem.

In Shevchenko’s poems, ordinary situations become fantastic as she meets with a dead cat, a dead poet (Charles Bukowski), her sister who tells her she doesn’t exist, someone “wrapped in the Milky Way as if in a blanket,” a bird which “turned into something in bloom, like the word “flowerbed.”

The poet Marina Galina in her preface to the book, describes some of the poems as “dark like the Ukrainian night with shining, terrifying stars, glowing through the cherry orchard close to the house.” This quotation is from Taras Shevchenko (1814-61), whose literary works form the basis of modern Ukrainian literature.

Shevchenko was asked in an interview in 2015 whether she was a Slavophile or a Westerner. She replied, “Actually I’m a transcendentalist. Like Henry Thoreau, who wrote Life in the Woods. If there was the hypothetical opportunity, I would be living right now somewhere on the outskirts of civilisation, in a hut on chicken legs, with my backside to the city, facing the woods.”


Special guest judge, Carolyn L. Tipton

“Anne Gutt has brought alive for us the strange and magical world of Russian poet Ganna Shevchenko. Though the collection of poems is titled ‘Quotidian Blues,’ the poet’s vision is anything but ordinary; she, herself, says she ‘see[s] almost nothing / except the birds / sitting in the palms of [her] hands.’ Through Anne Gutt, we enter a wonderland where the poet, following a white rabbit, goes into a café where, ‘next to the prices for Italian pizza / are three faint and roughly drawn arrows / “right,” “left” and “ahead.” / Under the “right” arrow it says “how you live,” / under the “left” arrow it says “how you die.” / … / I would choose the arrow “ahead,” but the inscription below is erased.’ We leave these poems with our minds slightly altered. It is Gutt’s particular skill to render this fantastical world in lucid English; the odd images come through with clarity; no ‘translation murkiness’ adheres to them. Moreover, the translator has given us English poems which, like the original poems, are musical, but whose music is subtle, and thus, more pleasing to most English readers; for example, rather than giving us full rhyme, she has used half-rhyme and assonance. I am so grateful to Anne Gutt for producing poems which feel as if they have been written in English, but which bring us not only a foreign world, but a quirky and original perception of this world.”

-Dr. Carolyn L. Tipton is a poet, translator, and teacher. She has been awarded both an N.E.H. and an N.E.A. Her first book of translations of the poetry of Rafael Alberti, To Painting (Northwestern University Press), won the National Translation Award. It was also a finalist for the PEN West Award in Literary Translation and was selected by Poet Laureate Robert Hass for Poet’s Choice. Her latest translation of Alberti, Returnings: Poems of Love and Distance (White Pine Press), is the recipient of the Cliff Becker Translation Prize.


Anne Gutt

Anne Gutt is a poet and artist living in the UK, working under the heteronym seekers of lice. She has books in many public collections, including ten in the collection of Artists’ Books at the Tate, London. She learnt Russian in order to read Russian poetry in the original. She is currently translating the poetry of Nina Iskrenko (1951-1995).

Photo by Franck Skyscape

Ganna ShevchenkoGanna Shevchenko is a poet and prose writer, born in Yenakiyevo, Donetsk, Ukraine. Her work has appeared in many literary journals in Russia, including Arion, Interpoezia, New Youth, People’s Friendship, October, and Siberian Lights, and in anthologies of poetry and prose. She won the International Contest of Contemporary Drama from the Belarus Free Theatre in 2010 for her play Iron, and was a finalist for the Moscow Account poetry prize in 2012 with Quotidian Blues; her novel Deep Miner (2015) was on the longlist for the Российская национальная премия (“National Bestseller” award). She has published three books, Cranes (2009), Quotidian Blues (2012), and The Inhabitant of the Crossroads (2015), and Window, Wind (2017). She is also a member of the Writers’ Union of Moscow.

  Photo by Andrey Tarasov