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No one knew the fire that burned him – poems of Paolo Iashvili

Prepared by Levan Abramishvili
Friday, April 19
Paolo Iashvili, a Georgian poet and one of the leaders of Georgian symbolist movement, was born on June 19, 1894 in the village of Argveti, Sachkhere.

After getting education in Paris, he came back to Georgia in 1915 and became one of the cofounders and ideologues of the Georgian symbolist group Blue Horns.

Blue Horns was a group of Georgian symbolist poets and prose-writers. They were established in 1915 in Kutaisi and were active during the 1920, but, starting from the early 30s, Soviet regime deemed the group tasteless and useless and started suppressing the members and their ideas. Titsian Tabidze, whose works we have also published was a part of the Blue Horns and close friends with Paolo.

The Soviet regime made the writers work on spreading propaganda and slowly silenced or killed those who didn’t follow the orders. Iashvili had to adapt to the Soviet doctrine, and his poetry slowly became more and more ideological in essence.

At the height of the 1930s Great Purge, Paolo witnessed and even had to participate in public trials that exiled and/or killed many of his associates from the Writers' Union. The betrayal of his ideals completely demoralized the poet. Presented by Beria with the alternative of denouncing his lifelong friend and fellow Symbolist poet Titsian Tabidze, or being arrested and tortured by the NKVD, Iashvili went to the Writers' Union office and shot himself dead on 22 July 1937.

Polo Iashvili’s poetry is outstanding for its interest in the human fate, life and death. While being mysterious and sometimes grotesque, his poems don’t lose the sight of the homeland and his love for his country, its values and poetic images permeate his extraordinary poems.

Desk—My Parnassus

As though I was just writing a letter
suddenly my work becomes a dream.
Peals of the midday sky's lament
are enslaved in poetry's stream.

My thumbs probe pages for syllables
to dull the sadness of yesterdays.
The tip of my pen trills
to the nightingale's song.

Dusty yellow streaks pierce the glass.
The muse pours in.
The poet faints.
His desk takes over, crafting dreams.

His neighbors have arrived from elsewhere.
His pen brands the velvet cloth.
His notebook awaits dictation:
sing, pen, sing your nightingale's melody.

Vultures converge on the steppes.
Quails assemble on the fields. Dense forests
follow the falcon flying through the sky.
Mountain shingles explode the firmament.

Stalks of barley and black wheat
nod ominously. I race towards them.
The poet's pen no longer sings
though it used to be his nightingale.

From The Heights

This is our field.
We greet the fate framed for our destinies.
We never wanted more
or less than whatever everyone had.

Bounded by Georgia's mountains,
her colors follow us in song and sound.
The mountains set the table like hungry wolves,
preparing banquets for the guest of honor.

We are the chosen ones.
We rarely show our fear.
We are young, and the sun
is the herald of poetry.
We can't endure the fire's glare.

Such is the thrill of youth:
on rainy days the sky beams for us.
I smile, as the coffin-maker
wraps a sheet over his unlucky creation.

There is no limit to time.
Nothing can break us.
In work, war, and storm
we preach life's bounty.

Green leaves, bird songs,
water's whispering melody,
the lashes of the women we once loved –
such are the ashes of memory.
But when we kiss them,
they stand as the guards to our eternity.


When the words stop flowing, may I go insane.
When I can no longer praise the sun,
may I dig out my eyes.

Poem, if you cannot kindle the fire,
you are a piece of flesh ripped from my heart
dead before you were born.

War is everywhere in flames.
The resisters have fled to the forests.
But worse than all these things
is the poet, sick with inspiration.

My hollow body roams the city.
I look just like the others,
except, as they say, I write poetry.
No one knows the fire that burns
my brain like treachery.

How many eyes does it take to see everything?
How many hearts do I need to despair?
How many people must I ruin for my poems
to sparkle, pure as butterfly wings?

Words nag me like death.
My blood, my thoughts, my soul
become their slave. The night is over.
Dawn bursts upon the edge of the day.
Neither man nor skeleton, you are memory.

Every poem I write is a year
struck from the book of my life.
If this poem is to be my last one
may the crows relish its delicacy.