Marie Marshall

Author. Poet. Editor.

Tag: Vera Rich

Vera Rich meets Taras Shevchenko at the Kievo-Percherska Lavra

I recently heard from poet Bob Newman, on his return from a trip to the Ukraine. He had been among the delegates to a commemoration of the late Vera Rich, held on the tenth anniversary of her death. This included a poetry-reading at the Ivan Franko University in Lviv. Bob told me that included in that reading was my poem with the above title, which had been published originally in issue 50 of Manifold, the poetry magazine Vera had founded, and which she had edited for many years before her death. I wrote it as a tribute to her.

As I have reported before, I got to know Vera Rich late in her life. We corresponded by email and on poetry forums. I always took her critiques of my poetry on the chin – she was very forthright – and I knew that if she praised something it must therefore be very good. Occasionally we had fun – just see our exchange of ‘Mongolian’ limericks.

Just before she died, Vera engaged me to read through her translation of the Ukrainian epic The Death of Cain by Ivan Franko. Unfortunately we never completed the work on that poem.

Anyway, here is the sonnet I wrote to Vera ten years ago. It describes her joyful arrival in heaven.

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Vera Rich meets Taras Shevchenko at the Kievo-Percherska Lavra

Hey – Taras! Is that really you, old friend?
Then that was not the Dnepr I just crossed
But Jordan. This is every journey’s end –
The halls of Paradise – and I’m not lost.

They say the Lavra’s gates remit all sins,
So I have walked through three times, to be safe,
And now discover here my rest begins,
My limbs are strong, my shoes no longer chafe.

Good Lord – this air is clear! Elysium
Reminds me of Ukraine and Belarus;
So this is what they mean by “Kingdom Come” –
But Taras, what will now be asked of us?

Eternal worship? Ah – in adoration –
The seraphs’ hymns deserve a good translation!

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Vera Rich 2005

Mongolian Limericks

Mongolia

Five years or so ago, the late Vera Rich, poet and translator, let slip some ‘Mongolian’ Limericks just for fun. I replied in kind and tickled her. Here’s an exchange or two between us.

Vera:

A Mongolian dealer in koumiss
Told his daughter: “I’m angry with you, Miss!
Last night’s supper was spoiled,
For the tea was not boiled,
And the dumplings were sticky as glue, Miss!”

Me:

His daughter’s voice came from the yurt:
“To say the least, you’re very curt!
No need to be cocky –
Those dumplings were gnocchi,
Green tea is drunk tepid – I’m hurt!”

Apparently Vera wrote a whole series of these as a divertissement at a Mongolian Studies Conference in the 1980s – a far cry from her serious work translating Ukrainian and Belorussian poetry. Here’s some more.

Vera:

Said a PR man in Ulan Bataar,
“I really don’t know what’s the mataar!
But that cursed foreign press
Writes of us less and less,
Saying it has too much else on its plataar!”

Me:

The cleaner (whilst shoving her Huva)
Said, “No Mongol is the prime muva
Of things international.
Anonymity’s rational…
It could be worse – this could be Tuva!”

It does you good to let your hair down once in a while. Vera is very much missed by those of us who knew her and worked with her.