Ryan Hardy on translating Yaroslav (Slava) Mogutin

Ryan Hardy


on translating Yaroslav (Slava) Mogutin


I began with a literal translation of the poem, ignoring word order and providing several translations of the same words to choose from later. Next, I formatted lines to match the original poem. Before moving onto polishing, I also identified turns of phrase that would need more time and thought to accurately incorporate into a final product. In polishing my rough translation of Mogutin’s poem, I began by adjusting word order to best match the point of syllabic emphasis in each clause, while with Mayakovsky’s I focused more on the emotions behind the poem. I then moved to honing in on word choices, leaving notes that indicated desired sentiment where I was still unsure of what I wanted to highlight. Next, I read through, thoughtfully evaluating and altering verb choices based on verbal aspect and active-passive voice within the clause. Lastly, I reviewed capitalization, punctuation, and line breaks to best match the original. A series of more detailed notes regarding stylistic choices in my translation are listed below:

  • захожу в дома — To maintain the poetess’ conversational tone, I translated the prefix за- as indicative of fleeting entrances, in which “I swing by” felt more appropriate.
  • благодать такаяТакая indicates a conversational ellipsis and buffer around the verb. I added “sort of” to add a brief pause to the line and slightly dampen the verb’s delivery.
  • от меня лучи во все стороны — “Beams” highlighted the emanating light of a saintly glow. I added “of light” to ensure readers wouldn’t picture large beams of wood protruding from the poetess. I inserted “going” into my translation of во все стороны to highlight the outward movement indicated by the accusative case while maintaining a similar meter.
  • между прочим, тебе телефон из-за меня отключили — I originally translated this section as “it was cause of me that your phone line / was cut off.” I moved “cause of me” to the second line to improve the flow of the first. I also shortened “because" to “cause,” to soften the point of emphasis on “me” in the sentence.
  • телефон твой пиздец совсем, е.т.м.! — I was struck by the sudden heatedness of this line and hoped to highlight it. I considered “your phone is totally fucked up,” but didn’t want the line sounding redundant when paired with the е.т.м.! (“fuck your mother”). Given the wide range of meanings for пиздец, “your phone is a total piece of shit, you motherfucker” fit the build and tone of the line best.
  • about the author

    Slava Mogutin, born in Kemerovo, Siberia, in 1974, is a New York-based artist, writer, and social activist. Slava’s career began with writing for independent newspapers and media outlets in Moscow. Son of Soviet poet and novelist Yuri Mogutin, Slava’s background in writing proved useful as he forged his career in journalism. His 1994 staged registry for a same-sex marraige liscence with his partner Robert Filipinni drew media attention as the first of its kind in the Russian Federation, but was rejected following a failed referendum of a 1969 Soviet law defining marriage as “a voluntary union between a man and woman.” Ensuing police harassment and another charge for “inflaming national, social, and religious division” motivated his subsequent immigration to New York.

    Mogutin’s writing centers themes of queerness and masculinity, and is heavily influenced by his experiences as an immigrant and dissident. His poems confront societal norms unabashedly. In New York, Slava continues to publish his work. His publications include titles in Russian, translations of Allen Ginsberg, monographs, essays, poems, and prose. Mogutin is the winner of the Andrey Bely Prize, and his writing and photography have been featured in publications worldwide, including the New York Times, Stern, Flash Art, Libération, and the Calvert Journal.

    Vladimir Mayakovsky—poet, playwright, satirist, revolutionary, and futurist — was born in present-day Georgia to a Cossack father of noble descent and a Ukrainian mother. Moving to Moscow as a teenager, Mayakovsky was radicalized and joined local socialist groups. Following a brief prison sentence, Vladimir distanced himself from the Party, focusing instead on his independent socialist education. Mayakovsky discovered his literary voice as he became more involved in the Moscow artists’ circles of the 1910s. He made his name in Futurist literary magazines with early poems like “Night” and “Take That!” Mayakovsky played a key role in early Bolshevik literature following the October Revolution, supporting socialist ideology not only in his writing but also through plays, film, and agitational propaganda. Mayakovsky’s Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, a poetic epic in tribute to the vanguard of the revolution, was applauded by both the Party and Soviet citizens. After the release of two satire pieces in the late 1920s, Vladimir’s relationship with the Party began to deteriorate and Soviet media targeted him in media campaigns. Following an argument with a romantic partner in 1930, Mayakovsky died of suicide. Mayakovsky’s pioneered Futurist and Socialist Realist genres, gaining revered status in the Soviet canon.

    about the translator

    Ryan is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, pursuing a degree in Russian and Eastern European studies. He holds various writing and editing positions for the School of Russian and Asian Studies, Pomona College Vestnik, and Doublespeak Magazine. Ryan’s main research interests lie in the study of underground cultural movements in Soviet and post-Soviet Eurasia, most recently focusing on the Leningrad Rock and Siberian Punk movements of the 1980s and ’90s. He enjoys reading, climbing, and getting lost on walks. He plans to continue learning languages, having most recently started a course in Czech. Ryan’s collaborative translation of Tamara Dmitrievna Skoblikova-Kudryavtseva’s memoir, Words for Oneself, is due for release by the end of 2021.