Red Cats

Anselm Hollo

For years I have loved the happy look of this early City Lights book (Number 16). (Looking at the red cover, I suddenly think: "Did Ferlinghetti himself design it?") (The book notes are mum on this issue.) I never knew it's all translations from Russian poets — "Red Cats" is a pun, invented by Allen Ginsberg(his background in marketing research coming in handy once again, as it did with the title "Naked Lunch.") Anselm Hollo is Finnish, so presumably has a complex relationship to Russia. He was 28 when he put out this book; Yevtushenko was the same age. The other two poets he translates are Semyon Kirsanov and Andrei Voznesensky. (I remember seeing Voznesensky read somewhere; maybe the Naropa Institute in 1976. He was elderly, fat, and deeply ironic.)

These poems are still youthful, shit-in-your-face trumpetings:

A spark of
A spark of
A spark of Godlike

Can set fire

(That's the beginning of Voznesensky's "— SPARKS —".)

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