"When life tightens the noose..."
by Nikolai Morshen
(translated from Russian by Vladimir Golstein and Jill Pearlman)

  1. When life tightens the noose, when you think it is over,
  2. And no escape from grief;
  3. When a coward shoots himself, and a brave man runs–
  4. The poet composes a verse.
  5. When life is measured, like a barn or a prison,
  6. And no escape from banality;
  7. When the fool prospers and the genius loses his mind–
  8. The poet composes a verse.
  9. When death, despair, and fear arrive,
  10. And no escape from destruction;
  11. When an atheist prays, and a monk calls for the devil–
  12. The poet composes a verse.
Packingtown Review – Vol.14, Fall 2020

Nikolai Morshen (1917-2001) is considered one of the best poets of Russian emigration. Born in Kiev and educated in Odessa, Morshen ended up in Germany after World War Two. He moved to United States in 1950, where he taught and wrote poetry. His collections include The Seal (Тюлень, 1959), Punctuation: Colon (Двоеточие, 1967), and The Echo and the Mirror (Эхо и зеркало, 1979). Morshen is a highly skillful and highly imaginative poet whose work has been translated by Richard Wilbur, among others.

Vladimir Golstein is the Associate Professor of Slavic Studies and the Chair of the Department of Slavic Studies at Brown University. He is the author and co-author of books on Mikhail Lermontov, Feodor Dostoevsky and Svetlana Aleksievich, as well as numerous articles that cover all aspects of Russian fiction, poetry, and film.

Jill Pearlman is a poet and a journalist. Her poetry appears in Salamander, Barrow Street, Via Negativa, and elsewhere. With Vladimir Golstein, she translated and published several poems of Marina Tsvetaeva (The Other Shore, Vol. 2, 2011) and Sophia Parnok (Inventory, #3, 2012). Her webiste is jillpearlman.com.

  1. Nikolai Morshen
    "His life was so short..."poetry