Here is a stanza from a poem by Nikolayev titled "Enter Our Spring."
The language of Artery Lumen is alive, so you are swept along. But if you do pause to observe the writer's style, you'll see remarkable things taking place. For instance, in "The Irreparable" sentences travel like ocean waves for a considerable distance without a stop.
There is talk of a reaction by "new formalists" against free verse, the dominant mode in American poetry. It is true that most free verse is inert, and writing in form could be a refreshing change if it is indeed new. But if this means writing sestinas and villanelles, I don't think the practitioners will cause much excitement. As Baudelaire said, art that hearkens back to the "classic" produces an "abstract and indefinable beauty." It is the struggle to express the contemporary that makes poetry seem alive, and contemporary life can hardly be expressed in the forms used by poets four hundred years ago.
In the first place there must be a poet, someone gifted with unusual powers of imagination and a flair for language. Such a person could make meter and rhyme answer to the times. I don't want to make great claims for Nikolayev - there's far too much of that going around. The present state of reviewing has brought poetry into disrepute - readers think that so much mediocre and bad writing is being touted that no book of poems can really be any good. Obviously Nikolayev is only at the start of a life of writing poems. But it is a strong and original start.
Though he has been living in the United States, Nikolayev is still very much a Russian poet. With us it is always a good thing to change. Television commercials are always telling us so, but before television, in the time of covered wagons, Americans were on the move and changing their habits from one place to another. Nikolayev's zest in writing verse comes from a background of people to whom poetry, even complex poetry, was a song, and they didn't see why a way of singing should be abandoned as long as it gave pleasure. Pasternak said, "I have never understood those dreams of a new language, of a completely original form of expression." But many of our poets, since Pound, Eliot and Williams appeared on the scene, have sought and found "original forms of expression."
We know what to expect of American poets these days - they are nothing is not original. They have nothing to say. Nikolayev's experiments are different: they are made with feeling and with language. To write out of your feelings, to express love and other emotions, to be a lyric poet in the dead, academic atmosphere of American verse at the present time, and to have, as Nikolayev does, the language to express a range of thought and feeling, is certainly new. I look forward to what the poet of Artery Lumen may write in the future.
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