Yevtushenko, Yevgeni (Vol. 13)
[Yevgeny Yevtushenko]writes about metaphysical overtones. The leading theme of his … sequence 'The Bratsk Station' is a dialogue between an Egyptian pyramid and this electrogenerating station in the Siberian tundra. The work Bratsk has a double meaning: it stands both for brotherhood and for the place. Yevtushenko's sequence hymns the Russian achievement and prophesies a spiritual future of vaster achievement, but not of faith; though his ideas are strictly Communist, his expression is individual…. This book contains Yevtushenko's best poetry till now: an individual restatement of a commonplace passionately accepted by his audience. It can and should be read in the West with suspension of disbelief, for it is fine poetry…. (p. 78)
J. M. Cohen, in The Spectator (© 1967 by The Spectator; reprinted by permission of The Spectator), July 21, 1967.
The actors in Yevgeny Yevtushenko's Under the Skin of the Statue of Liberty wait onstage for the audience to enter…. Sitting casually against the large metal backdrop, eighteen youths talk in undertones, chew gum, smoke and stare indifferently or defiantly at the people who are joining them in the hall.
Cramped and restless, the actors are very close to the audience, practically within reach of the first row of seats. This first row is reserved. The audience, settling into place, has the time and proximity to absorb details of set and costume on the shallow stage…. This is American Youth as the Moscow audience might expect it to be, but the actors would probably strike the American viewer as middle-aged and dated, belonging more to the Beat Generation than to today's counter-culture….
The main presence in the theatre is the metal backdrop, which replaces a curtain. All of the action of the performance takes place in front of this backdrop. Seamed together from sturdy sections of flat and corrugated metal, it creates a cold and urban setting. The last two words of a slogan, the WAR, painted in large, white English letters at the extreme left, leave to the imagination the beginning of the slogan and the extension of the metal curtain beyond the dimensions of the stage and theatre. (p. 138)
What we see and hear on stage is a series of enactments of political events or of events that are portrayed as central to the American Experience. (p. 139)
[Violence] alternates with less devastating skits. Some seem irrelevant, like a barker selling lottery tickets. Others strike the American viewer as on target, such as when a Gallup pollster, using the rope as a microphone, puts questions to Americans on the street who are handily portrayed by the four skulls….
When the students play themselves, Yevtushenko's treatment is sympathetic, and the youth movement is depicted as a helpless,...
(The entire section is 816 words.)
The general reader as well as the specialist in Russian literature will find [Le betullenane] extremely valuable. Although Yevtushenko is probably the Soviet poet best known abroad, several of the poems included in this collection are published for the first time outside of the Soviet Union….
Yevtushenko, caught between [poles of eradicated traditions and anticipated phenomena], voices the "Soviet" anguish of the individual, whose ideological opposition to the old beliefs is frustrated by the absence of new positive values. In the search for new values, he alternately rejects and accepts official Soviet dogmatism and the pseudo-ideals of Western consumer society. This suffered uncertainty,...
(The entire section is 178 words.)
Many contemporary Soviet poets write about women … but Evtushenko's poems on the subject are somewhat different from those of other poets. While most of them present women in love this is a minor subject for Evtushenko…. His female characters have specific qualities; they are earthly creatures; their feelings are intense and real. Evtushenko does not distance them with abstract associations. At the same time his poetic "I" is less personally involved in the action than those of poets like Voznesenskii. Like Voznesenskii, however, he sees women as victims of a cruel fate who are to be pitied or admired. Yet each of them is an unique human being, and there is always a certain tragic tone about each one. Although his...
(The entire section is 528 words.)
For the specialist, there is patently little point in acquiring [From Desire to Desire]. It is obviously intended for those romantic but uninitiated poetophiles who have somewhere heard of Yevtushenko and seek another name to drop in literary conversation. To this purpose it is well designed. (p. 642)
L. B. Croft, in World Literature Today (copyright 1977 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 51, No. 4, Autumn, 1977.
(The entire section is 64 words.)
Love Poems cannot be regarded as one of [Yevtushenko's] major publications: only half a dozen poems have not appeared in translation before…. But it is part of the same venture to divert attention from public works such as "Babiy Yar" towards the more personal, though never hermetic, love lyrics….
Recent poems suggest the development in Yevtushenko of a dutiful and at times tiresomely moralistic persona—"Where there is no love, how foul and disgusting / to copulate", "Oh bless the family, dear Lord, the crown of all mankind"—but it would be wrong to expect a complete, "Dover Beach"-like withdrawal from public concerns. (p. 846)
(The entire section is 124 words.)
Yevtushenko, Yevgeni (Vol. 3)
Yevtushenko, Yevgeni 1933–
Yevtushenko is a Russian poet known throughout the world for his superb dramatic readings of his own work. Although frequently critical of contemporary Soviet society, he remains essentially a regime poet.
Yevtushenko's poetry strikes me as that of a man in whom power and banality of thought and language are inextricably combined…. A bit of a publicist, a bit of a journalist, something of an orator, and certainly a poet, Yevtushenko impresses me as being a virile but impure servant of the Muse.
Derek Stanford, in Books and Bookmen, March, 1972, p. 79.
Yevgeny Yevtushenko is the most universally well known contemporary Soviet poet, and his name has been linked with the post-Stalinist struggle for liberalization within the USSR. Yevtushenko has been attacked vituperatively by Soviet officialdom and yet virtually canonized by Soviet youth. Most westerners who know of his work are familiar with "Zima Station," which reveals the bewilderment of a youth who has discovered the seamy side of life under Communist rule, "Babi Yar," an attack upon anti-Semitism in the USSR, and "Stalin's Heirs," a warning that Russia be ever watchful lest Stalin rise again….
Yevtushenko considers himself to be a civic poet with a mission as well as a message, and he selected the materials for [Stolen Apples], "as a matter of principle." Each of the five sections forms a cycle which reflects the topical nature of Yevtushenko's poetry in general. The first set, entitled "Pitching and Rolling," contains six poems linked formally by the somewhat ubiquitous nature-imagery and thematically by the poet's assertion of his unanimity with the common people and their fate…. Throughout the second set of poems, somewhat nonromatically entitled "Doing the Twist on Nails," the poet meditates upon his amatory experiences. It is significant that from this section Yevtushenko selected the poem which lends appellation to the entire collection. The poet, though pessimistic, views love as a transitory but redemptive experience. In his love poetry, Yevtushenko is perhaps at his best. Here we find his most efficacious use of assonance, alliteration, and his tendency to utilize the stepped line of Mayakovsky. The most lengthy section is entitled "The Torments of Conscience" and recollects some recent historical catastrophes from the rise of fascism to political assassination in the United States. Included also are veiled references to the Stalinist era as well as to contemporary forces of reaction within the USSR. The artist is reminded of his sacred responsibility to expose and root out evil, thus preventing its recurrence.
There follows a series of poems, "Procession with the Madonna," inspired by Yevtushenko's visit to Italy. The rhythms of contemporary Roman life lead the poet to contemplate the essence of existence. Filled with hope and bitterness, he seeks to establish the meaning of life while examining the nature of injustice in the world. The final section of the collection summarizes the poet's impressions of America and is somewhat ironically labeled "Cemetery of Whales." It is here that the unevenness of Yevtushenko's style is most apparent….
Stolen Apples then presents the English speaker with the most comprehensive edition of Yevtushenko's poetry available in this country. The student of Russian should find this collection invaluable since he is readily able to compare the adaptations with the original Russian texts, a feature hitherto scarcely available to those interested in the work of Yevtushenko. We find the poet enigmatic and at times uneven in his poetic output, but he is unquestionably sincere at each given moment.
Delbert Phillips, in Arizona Quarterly, Spring, 1973, pp. 86-8.
I came away from Yevtushenko's American visit sick at heart. He stayed too long, long enough for our suspicions to be confirmed, for the myth of his intellectual independence and moral integrity to be dissipated, for us to see him no longer as the brave young poet speaking out against social-fascist tyranny but rather as a Cold Warrior not yet come in from the cold; to see him as a loser, a man of bad faith, a poseur, a stalking horse for Soviet imperialism. He is not a friend of freedom, nor a true socialist. Allen Ginsberg, in trying to justify the obvious moral ambivalence of the man, said, "He is trying his best to unify the Russian-American Soul under the banner of poesy; in heaven great golden thrones of credit are given for good intentions." Well, Ginsberg is wrong. And Sartre is correct. Intentions count for nothing;… it is precisely Yevtushenko's intentions which are most wrong….
He has begun to blunder, Yevtushenko, to believe his clippings. The pity is that so many American writers abet his career—Updike, Kunitz, Dickey, Ginsberg—that it will be some time before the mediocrity of his poetry and the opportunism and bad faith riddling his life like a fever are publicly acknowledged. But it will come….
It is understandable how he is able to manipulate both Western and Soviet media. He possesses great intelligence and strength and a single-minded attachment to his own advancement. All that might be excusable if he were a passably decent poet, but he is the biggest literary fraud to roll down the pike since Truman Capote. He is brother in feeling and media-manipulation to Erich Segal and Rod McKuen—the latter being the "poet" he most resembles—beyond their shared capacity for lousy writing. Both he and McKuen celebrate mawkish dimestore sensibilities, sensibilities common to fourteen-year-old groupies gushing hotpantsed over television rock stars. There is a distinction: Yevtushenko runs more to melodrama and bathos than McKuen, giving a purple tint to his popular banalities. And he has added one modern refinement to the bag of emotional clichés: he plays the role of poet-as-political-bad-boy, naughtily although safely provocative. And that is why I am discussing him here, because many serious people have taken his publicity stunts for politics and his ladies' verse for poetry.
Dotson Rader, "Yevgeny Yevtushenko: The Cold Warrior as Poet," in Evergreen Review, Spring, 1973, pp. 125-36.