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from the February 2013 issue

On Uladzimir Niakliaeu

I recently read something that amused me: one poet was suggesting that we name a steamship after every one of his contemporaries. In his imagination, all his friends from the literary world took the shape of a liner, a yacht, or a sailing ship, or even a cruiser. They sailed through the ocean and made a powerful fleet. How about some nuclear submarines with poets’ names on them, too? . . .  And then I read Uladzimir Niakliaeu’s new book. And what I found there was not a sailing ship symbolizing a poet, but, thank goodness, just a simple man, swimming alone at sea. A man who was, perhaps, thrown overboard, or jumped off the boat by choice—anything to run away from the crew that he was so sick and tired of. And now he is swimming, almost out of breath. But he won’t give up. He’ll brave the waves, spitting out the oily, sickening salty water, trying to make it to shore. There are a couple of lines from one of Niakliaeu’s poems—which could have become a subject for a dissertation on philosophy if we had (and I mean all humans of the world here) real philosophers—which I find particularly amazing:

He knows too much to survive.
He knows too little to die.

This applies both to him, and his generation, about which, I hope, he will write a lot more, not only in poetry but in prose, too. He is still very young at heart, he has a lot to say to the world.

Today the criterion for success for many of us is power and money; conscience is a kind of bother and discomfort for quite a few of us. Well, to be a conscientious person these days one needs to be fearless. And Belarusian people are fearless. A poet in Belarus is, as Pushkin said, "more than a poet."

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