Poetry Friday: Discovering a "new" poet – Judith Hemschemeyer

Poetry Friday is hosted by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference  

I love the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, and have several volumes of her poetry. A few weeks ago, I noticed (unbelievably, for the first time, even though I’ve had these books for a while), that the translations were always by Judith Hemschemeyer.  I made a mental note to look her up someday, and then just ran across her lovely poem “Gift” in Postcard Poems: A Collection of Poetry for Sharing  byPaul B. Janeczko.   


Let me wrap a poem around you-
Not now, when the curve of your life,
Like a mile-wide Pacific wave
Is rising, rushing you along,
Tons of sweet water supporting every limb

But sometime, if ever you are thrown down
On some strange beach, or hurt, or so in love
with someone you dare not make a start.
Then let me approach and offer you these words,
A poor shawl for your perfect throat.

Judith Hemschemeyer

A little more poem hunting led me to another poem to fall in love with: 

Remember the Room was Filled with Light

They were still young, younger than I am now.
I remember the room was filled with light
And moving air. I was watching him
Pick brass slivers from his hands as he did each night
After work. Bits of brass gleamed on his brow.
She was making supper. I stood on the rim
Of a wound just healing; so when he looked up
And asked me when we were going to eat
I ran to her, though she could her. She smiled
And said, ‘Tell him . . .’ Then ‘Tell her . . .’ on winged feet
I danced between them, forgiveness in my cup,
Wise messenger of the gods, their child.

Any search for Hemschemeyer leads first to Akhmatova…but I have now discovered that this noted translator is a wonderful poet in her own right, and someone I am so glad to share this Poetry Friday.

7 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Discovering a "new" poet – Judith Hemschemeyer

  1. Don't you just love "let me wrap a poem around you"! These are beautiful, Tara. I'm glad you did the research. Somehow I think I've read that second poem. It seems so familiar. Both are poignant images of a tiny part of lives.

  2. There's something to be said about Hemschemeyer's dedication to translating Akhmatova. There were a few translations here and there before she came along, but none complete. Hemschemeyer spent years learning Russian just for the sake of translating Akhmatova. And on the basis of a handful of lesser translations. Truly a major undertaking!

  3. Pingback: Landscape as Language - Truman State University Press

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