With no disrespect to Peter Orlovsky, a far more towering poet died last week, a poet loosely connected to Orlovsky and not so loosely to Allen Ginsberg. I refer to Andrei Voznesensky, a heroic figure in 20th century Soviet/Russian verse.
In repressive times, Voznesensky pushed back. A gifted orator, an iconoclast of verse, a warrior against censorship, Voznesensky shared some of the same Beat-infused spotlight that shone on Ginsberg. In the dreary Breshnevian years, the youth embraced him, chanted his name at poetry stadium readings, passed his work around in samizdat. He’s surely in the pantheon of 20th century Russian poets, right there with Brodsky, Pasternak, Ahkmotova, Akhmadulina, Mandelstam. The other titan of contemporary Russian verse, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, lives on.