The Poem

Andrei Voznesensky’s “Foggy Street” is a thirty-line rhymed poem reflecting the poet’s concern with loss of identity and his fascination with ambiguity. In “Foggy Street” time, space, and identity have blurred to the point of disintegration, but the poet’s treatment is occasionally light and humorous so that the overall effect is paradoxical.

In the opening lines, Voznesensky establishes the atmosphere, a foggy street on which the only discernible figures are police officers. The fog, both literal and figurative, so disorients the narrator that he is unable to determine even the period he is living in: “What century is it? What era? I forget.” The poet’s attempts to describe this oblique world take up the body of the poem. The poetic landscape, presented through a mosaic of images and comparisons, is by turns nightmarish and amusing, romantic and absurd.

The second stanza introduces images of general disintegration: “everything is crumbling,” and “nothing’s intact.” The people whom the poet encounters are undifferentiated, but at the same time unconnected. This series of vague but unsettling images breaks off to be replaced by a more precise and less unpleasant one of the poet “flounder[ing] in cotton wool.” Although the poet continues to stumble through the fog and his vision remains blurred, the language with which he describes the scene in the third stanza becomes more concrete; he begins to pick out a few...

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Forms and Devices

Voznesensky is a highly innovative poet whose verse eschews classical metric patterns and who often startles the reader with abrupt shifts and unusual rhymes and juxtapositions. “Foggy Street” typifies Voznesensky’s early style, combining traditional alternating rhyme with a metric pattern suggesting, but not corresponding to, classical Greek forms.

The form of the poem is cleverly matched to its content; just as figures emerge, but dissolve or fragment before they can be clearly identified, the poem’s structure varies slightly from stanza to stanza, so that a pattern appears to form, only to disappear as the reader moves further into the verse. The theme of fragmented self is reinforced by a structural sense of fragmentation developed through frequent use of dashes, ellipses, and caesuras or internal pauses, such as those created by the question marks in the final line of the first stanza.

Indentation of the second line in most stanzas, followed by a very short third line, contributes to the sense of disjuncture, as do sudden shifts in register and tonality. Consider, for example, the third stanza, which begins “Noses. Parking lights. Badges.” This line, with its staccato beats, contrasts with the smoother rhythms of the previous verses. The playfulness of the combination of images lightens the tone, as does the shift in voice as the poem seems suddenly to address the poet in the stanza’s closing lines.


(The entire section is 481 words.)