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Yevtushenko with Hank Williams in the Background

April 3, 2017

Yevegeny Yevtushenko, Red Cat, Dies at 83.

I’m sure most of you have heard by now that Yevegeny Yevtushenko, the greatest living poet from the former Soviet Russia died April 1. I love the fact that he was a longtime resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma and preferred Oklahoma to anyplace else in the U.S, according to the NY Times.

For those of us who grew up with the literature of the Beat Movement from the 1950s and 60s onward, Yevtushenko represented the radical left coming out of Russia and giving hope for sanity in a US quagmired in Vietnam. I mean if cats like Yevegeny Yevtushenko could unsettle the Reds during the supposedly Soviet thaw maybe something could happen here. Lawrence Ferlinghetti celebrated the very young Yevtushenko in his hipster Pocket Poets Series. You couldn’t get any more Beat bona fides than that. He was one of Beatdom’s Red Cats.

Red Cats Front CFEKd0rW8AEgOug                               Red Cats Back Cover md16035656090_3

Years and years ago in a Beat magazine called The Gryphon, Hans Jurgensen published a poem of mine (one of my very few poems). Here it is seeing the light of day after several decades:

Yevtushenko with Hank Williams in the Background

Paul Varner

The comrade hillbilly:

time’s making times half a time wave past the ‘40s—

‘is counting years later to the way of salvation?—

Bratsk Station, Alabama/ on the road to the gonegone (clichéd) world

the poem picker plugging his man with soma

from the radio playin’ the latest:

“Today I am as old in years

                        as all the Jewish people.

                        Now I seem to be

                                                A Jew.”

A fiddle waves across the mind,

the sickly smell of whine—

                        creating night visions—

                        small hope for Babi Yar

Oh Gorgeous Voice.

Bratsk Station1403789