“Собачьи стихи” by Radislav Lapushin

“Dog Poetry” (Собачьи стихи) is a deceptively simple collection of poems about the author’s dog. I say about the author’s dog, but really they are just as much meditations about life, perception, and happiness. They follow a somewhat chronological format, with the first poem (Prologue # 1) written from the author’s point of view, describing how his family ended up (решили зайти просто так) at a shelter and then, somehow, found themselves going home with a dog. Later poems describe the dog’s mischievous puppy-like tricks, his growing wisdom and maturity, and his near brush with death when he is bitten by a snake. Some poems are written from the dog’s point of view, and others from a human perspective, but, as the poems make clear, the two perspectives are not all that different. Badyusha (the dog) has to make sense of his perceptions about the world, gain control of his behavior, overcome his fears of abandonment, and face his own mortality, while still maintaining his affectionate and optimistic approach to life. The overall effect is warm-hearted and uplifting, even as our hero occasionally plunges into the depths of terror and depression (when faced with a visit to the vet, for example, or fears that “mama” will leave him, or that, in the wonderfully evocative poem “Страх”, no matter how fast he runs, he won’t be able to make it home).

The poems themselves are short and written in a lilting conversational tone that manages to be both unpretentious and poignant, and are simple enough that even those whose Russian is not particularly fluent should be able to enjoy them, so if Russian is not your native language, don’t be scared! The meters and rhymes are classically elegant without seeming stiff or mannered–the lines just seem to flow naturally into the chosen meter, and the rhymes seem to happen naturally as well. Overall, the poems are a pleasure to read from a technical point of view as well as being delightfully imaginative in their contents.

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