The readers who orbit a poem, each —
Each in the ambit of his talents —
Has sent his native language to a breach,
And waits for a return, listening for balance.
As intermittent suns revolving out of reach,
Stanzas in the form of a recurring fire
Suggest the periodicity of an outlier:
Liar, lyre, lye that leaves day charred, night bleached.
Of foreign poems half-heard, half-sensed, the gazer —
Swept towards aphasia in a feverish glimpse —
Sees more collapsing stars, arrays’ erasure,
Familiar words elided in eclipse;
And feels his way among the phrases,
Caesuras ablaze, Logos in a brazier —
Fire in the nature of, because in nature
Ardent verses turn in an ellipse.
NOTES For Students of English
This poem is mentioned in Hertz’s correspondence. A friend had sent him a copy of the poem «Читатель Отвечает За Поэта» (“The Reader Answers for the Poet”) written in 1960 by Soviet poet Boris Slutsky (1919-1986). Slutsky’s poem develops the idea that a reader “answers for the poet as a moon answers for its planet.”
Hertz replied: “…Thank you for sending me the poem. No, I hadn’t heard about it or read it when I wrote Readers [“The Readers Who Orbit a Poem”]. Since then I have read many of Slutsky’s poems — what I can find of him. There is no question that Slutsky is a great poet. His technique lies so lightly on one’s shoulders and yet produces such profound effects. It’s the illusion of lightness, of casualness, that is so terribly moving — saying that the reader is not some mindless piece of iron out there in boundless space, but a companion in orbit; that the mutual attraction like gravity of poet and reader is not a burden, but that the two are beautiful in their harmonious motion, being comfortable together, the two of them, out among the worlds. Only Slutsky could say it like that because he was a great artist. I hope his star is rising.”