Internationally Acclaimed Russian Poet to Visit Fairfield

Submitted by Carolyn Arnold on October 5, 2009

news_cas_yevtushenko_09Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko has been inspiring people since the 1950s, when he first began to publish his poems. Later, he became an unofficial ‘voice of the people’ by walking a difficult but courageous line against Stalinism and for personal freedom.

On Wednesday, November 18, Fairfield University students, faculty, staff, and the greater community will have the chance to listen to his poetry live at 7 p.m. in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. The evening’s event is titled, “On the Border Between the Country of Yes and the Country of No.” For more information, click here.

After the end of Joseph Stalin’s reign in 1953, Russians were hopeful to see change in their nation. “He was one of the young voices of change,” said Dr. David McFadden, professor of history. “He wasn’t quite a dissident because while he did write about the need for more democracy, he never denounced Russia or the Soviet Union.”

His poems have been published in more than 72 languages. One of his most famous poems, Babi Yar, written in 1961, was a protest poem against anti-Semitism. The poem was inscribed in the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Once Nikita Khrushchev came to power in the 1950s and set in motion a “cultural thaw” and de-Stalinization, Yevtushenko was able to visit te United States through cultural exchange. He visited in the turbulent years of 1969-70, and wrote poems in English about the many historical events taking place including Kent State and the Vietnam War. “I have loved his work since I was in college,” said Dr. McFadden, who hopes to have Yevtushenko sign an original copy of one of his books of poetry.

Faculty member Dr. Javier Campos, professor of modern languages and literatures, invited Yevtushenko to Fairfield. Dr. Campos met Yevtushenko in Guatemala in 2007 at the International Poetry Conference where they were both invited speakers. “I have read his poems since I was 17 and living in Chile,” said Dr. Campos. Yevtushenko visited Chile in 1970 by invitation of Salvador Allende, the first democratically elected Marxist president.

After Dr. Campos and Yevtushenko became acquainted, they began talking about translating his poems into Spanish. Since then Dr. Campos has become the official Spanish translator of Yevtushenko’s poetry. His translated book of poems was published in Nicaragua in February of 2009. “I like his poetry because it is simple, but deep,” Dr. Campos said. The translations took time and dedication because, “you have to translate the heart of a poem, it cannot be done word by word,” said Dr. Campos.

While at Fairfield, Yevtushenko, who is a permanent professor at the University of Tulsa where he teaches Russian literature and poetry, will be presented with the Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., Award for Excellence in the Arts. He will also visit classes and talk with students, faculty, and staff, in addition to the public event on November 18 which will include live poetry readings for which he is famous, and short films that he directed.

“It will be an incredible evening,” Dr. McFadden promised.

The event will be sponsored in part by the Humanities Institute of the College of Arts and Sciences, University College and the Departments of Russian and East European Studies, History, Judaic Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Modern Languages and Literatures, International Studies, Peace and Justice, and Visual and Performing Arts.

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