Today is Regina Derieva’s birthday

February 7th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Regina Derieva (February 7, 1949 – December 11, 2013) was both versatile  and prolific as a writer. Her poetic work was about evenly divided between poems in free verse and poems in traditional rhyme and meter. It was those that interested me most as a translator. Among the poems of hers I’ve translated are several from the sequence “Northeastern States.” At the request of Alexander Deriev, her husband, I recently resumed translating these, and soon, if all goes well, will have completed all nine. Following is my translation of the final poem in the sequence:

Boston, MA

Golfers are leaving the golf course, headed for home.

A motorboat leaves in its wake a long trail of foam.

There are bulls here, but none that Europa has ridden.

Death is absent, or else remains distant and hidden.


That is why all are naïve and forthright and free.

The ocean’s teardrop splits space in two, as she

with her snow-white smile rolls over the land anew.

To multiply time, time must be shortened too.


There are things to forget, to get moving, rubbing one’s eyes.

One has to remain both here and back there, in some wise.

What has weight, like a syllable, has no soil or address.

It’s water-and-sky. America, may God bless.

Richard Shaw (1924 – 2015)

May 16th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

My father died May 13, in hospice. One day short of his ninety-first birthday. His career as a geneticist was a troubled one, resulting in the many moves our family made over the years, as described in this memoir. He was a real scientist, though: while still a graduate student he made an important discovery relating to the sex ratio in population genetics. It is now known as the Shaw-Mohler equation, but recognition of its importance came too late to help him in his career. He also had aspirations as a writer. The following passage shows something of his careful eye and view of the natural world:

“The fruit fly, Drosophila, was also known as the wine fly, because it inhabited wineries as well as kitchens and grocery stores. It looked a little like an ordinary fly, except for being much smaller and slower in the air. It was habitual for Drosophila workers to anesthetize the flies and examine them under a low power microscope. Seen that way, Drosophila females showed a yellow body and males showed a dark abdomen. They both had bright red eyes. Under slightly higher magnification you could see the transparent wings and black wing veins, the delicate bristles, and the details of the body, legs, and antennae. A delightful and beautiful creature it was to see.”

The early chapters, about growing up in Redlands, California in the twenties and thirties, are particularly good. The things he notices and chooses to mention are often surprising.

I will miss him.

Regina Derieva (1949-2013)

December 12th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I just received the sad news of the death of Regina Derieva, a wonderful Russian poet with whose works I have been involved over the years as a translator and admirer. Her range was remarkable; she wrote both formal and free verse as well as numerous works in prose.  As a “classical” poet, she was heir to the Acmeists. The religious component in her poetry is strong; she was a convert to Catholicism. For the last decades of her life she lived in Sweden.

She leaves behind her husband, Alexander Deriev, an icon painter and founding editor of the journal Ars Interpres, and a son, Denis Deriev.

From “Winter, Euterpe,” by Regina Derieva

The cast-off remnant of a centaur, on
its pedestal the head sits, turning green,
like Fet’s May grass under its little sun,
with fleeting space around and inbetween.

God doesn’t wonder, was the creature there,
the way the creature wonders about God.
Where you are now, brazen artificer,
creation needs no legs, and goes unshod.

Where you are now, there is no brass in feet,
no steel in voice, or gesture, or endeavor;
only the purest fluff, to every beat
and every breeze ecstatically aquiver.

Tr. by Alan Shaw

Little Tragedies ebook

August 6th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

My translation of Pushkin’s Little Tragedies, with an Afterword, notes, and other material, will shortly be available as an ebook, purchasable as a pdf download from this site, and I plan to make a Kindle version available soon after.

The translation of Mozart and Salieri will continue to be separately available as a free download.

Check back here for updates.

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