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 Boris Ryzhy

Born:   8 September 1974
Deceased:   7 May 2001



The name of Boris Ryzhy (1974 2001) who quit the scene at his will very young is well-known in Russia to people keen on poetry. Handsome, bright and gifted, the poet went away at the crest of success. Laureate of the Northern Palmyra Award, and the Antibooker prize and participant of the poetry festival in Rotterdam dedicated to Brodsky, with his verses well published and favored by critics Boris seemed to be quite safe. But for his verses, which are piercing with their irresistible beauty of mans fragile and tragic existence.

Best take the tram...

    Best take the tram if youre going back to the past
    with its bell, the drunk bloke next to you,
    the grimy school kid, the mad old girl,
    and, of course, the poplar leaves drawn in its trail.
    Five or six tramstops later
    we ride into the nineteen-eighties
    factories to the left, works to the right,
    no one cares, get out your fags, whats wrong with you.
    Whats that youre mumbling, sceptical, something
    like this is all lifted from Nabokov.
    He was the barins son, you and I are the leftovers,
    come on, smile, there are tears on your face.
    This is our stop
    posters, banners, here and there,
    blue sky, red neckties,
    somebodys funeral, musicians playing.
    You play along to them on your whistle
    and then float off to the beautiful sound,
    leather jacket, hands in your pockets,
    along that path of unending separation,
    along that road of unending sadness
    to the house where you were born, melting into sunset
    solitude, sleep, the moulting of leaves,
    come back as a dead soldier.
    (translated by Sasha Dugdale)

Boris Borisovich Ryzhy was born on September 8, 1974 in Chelyabinsk city in a family of a mining engineer. In 1980 the family moved to Sverdlovsk (the Soviet name of Yekaterinburg city), the industrial centre of the Ural region, and the grim realm of mines, factories, former prisoners and schizophrenic poetry.

    I was bornI still find it unbelievable
    in a labyrinth of factory yards,
    in that land of rock doves, populated, for a thousand years
    in equal parts by cops and thieves.
    For this reason, I do not love diminutives,
    and when fellows knock and, smiling, ask for vinegar,
    I give them what they want.
    (As a Sheet of Ice Covers Granite, 1997)

The people of this city and their way of life imbue Boris poetry. As a child he mixed with criminals that were all around and his verses reveal his sincere pity and feeling of kinship to them.

He started writing poetry at the age of fourteen. At this age he was also the citys champion in boxing and enjoyed the respective image among his fellows. They all thought me a boxer, while I am a poet, poet! He wrote later about that time.

In 1991 he entered the Sverdlovsk Mining Institute and got married. In two years his son was born. While studying Boris took part in poetic life of the institute, still boasting strong literary traditions, including publishing of verse books and a poetry seminar. At that time the seminar was headed by Yuri Lobantsev, a talented poet and a fine person, now also late, unfortunately. Lobantsev did very much for Boris, encouraging him to take part in students poetry festivals, where the young poet unmistakably took prizes.

Boris naturally indulged in bohemian get-togethers and was a favorite of Yekaterinburg literary coterie. Along with that he managed to be a scientist also.

In 1997 Boris graduated from the Mining Institute and became the post-graduate of the Academy of Science Ural Department at the Institute of Geophysics. In 2000 he became a research worker and from that time published 18 works on the structure of the earth crust and seismic activity of the Urals and Russia. His last work is planned to be released in the Reports of the Academy of Sciences. His last year, 2001, seemed to start the best period in his life in terms of his poetic and scientific achievements.

Thats what it looked like... Altogether Boris wrote over 1300 verses (including those left in drafts only). He also wrote prose. The first serious publications of his poetry were in journals Ural, Zvezda and Znamya and almanacs Urbi and Arion. He was also published in Moscow and Yekaterinburg newspapers and magazines. For some time Boris was in the staff of the journal Ural, writing for his column Actual Poetry With Boris Ryzhy. Boris Ryzhy hanged himself on May 7, 2001. Was it the upsurge of strong ideal emotions, which artistically gifted persons willingly plunge into and can hardly get the better of? Was it a stubborn will to prove his sincerity? Was it the call of the starry abyss sparkling through his verses?

    The scrap heap of memory: its contents are so various.
    As a man once said whos since deceased,
    ugliness is beauty
    that cannot be contained within the soul.
    Too much of every sort of thing does not fit.
    The trains stand waiting in the station
    its time. A boy is bidding his mother farewell.
    Called up, poor wretch, it seems.
    Write us at least, sonny; were worried.
    Sunrise is more terrible for farewells
    than sunset. Well, now, lets kiss!
    More than the blackest grief, poet.
    (As a Sheet of Ice Covers Granite, 1997)

Adding to the range of genius self-murderers Boris Ryzhy left us his amazingly penetrating and alive poems. His soul seems to embrace this harsh world and lovingly strive to transform it into the music of his words, the music that transcends the outer reality and brings you to the innermost heights of intangible existence.

    In a black arc over the traveling bag,
    the saxophonist played all night.
    A drunkard slept on a park bench,
    stretched out on newspaper sheets.
    I will also become a musician
    and, if I do not die,
    will play into the wind at night
    in white shirt and black bowtie.
    So that the drunkard smiles in his sleep,
    under the emptied-out tumbler of the sky,
    sleep: dont worry about anything,
    music alone exists.
    (Nad sakvoiazhem v chernoi arke, Stikhi)

Some verses by Boris Ryzhy have been translated into English, Italian, German and Dutch. Yet, the music of his poetry is very hard to translate.

The poem books by Boris Ryzhy:

        2000 Love (Lyubov)
        2000 And everything of the kind(I Vsyo Takoye)
        2001 - In the Cold Wind (Na Kholodnom Vetru), posthumously published
        2003 Verses (Stikhi, 1993-2001)
        2004 Justification of Life (Opravdanie Zhizni)
        2006 Like a Song (Tipa Pesnya)

Vera Ivanova


Translated verses taken from the article Music Alone. On the Poetry of Boris Ryzhy. by ALEKSEI ARNOLDOVICH PURIN, translated by EMILY JOHNSON

Best take the tram... translated by by Sasha Dugdale


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