Nabokov, the poet

“Like Joyce, Nabokov was first a poet.” Thomas Karshan wrote this as the first sentence in his amazing introduction for the book Vladimir Nabokov: Collected Poems. If one wants to understand Nabokov more, this collection could be of a great help rather than reading his renowned and celebrated novels. Not to eliminate the significance of his novels, such as Lolita, but this collection of Nabokov’s poems brought a series of moments together more than a chronicle, shining with various poetic images on those crucial time spans in Nabokov’s life.

Thomas Karshan named Nabokov together with James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Samuel Beckett to be those authors who has invented poetic prose style of novel, and the place where is the best to gaze into this poetic stare of Nabokov’s is his poetry. The Collection is more than a chronicle, as Thomas Karshan pointed out, the collection preserved more original Poems and Problems — ah, even the title is with fun alliteration!

In this wonderful collection, one could enjoy Nabokov’s poems with an extended understanding of his life in Germany, his nostalgia of the bleak hometown, and his feeling on exile, fame, identity, moreover, there are numerous poems that tell stories, carry folklores, making those poems not only beautiful in terms of language and rhyme, but also rich in a perfect mixture of meaning and feeling.

No music's more sublime than silence. You're created 
for unrelenting silence. Recognise its seal
upon a stone, on love, in stars above the roadway.'

--"The Demon" Vladimir Nabokov
Collected Poems

As a poet in exile, Nabokov expressed his complexed emotions towards exile and its sadness —

From exile's lamentations distanced,
lives on my every reminiscence
in an inverted quietude:
What's lost forever is immortal;
and this eternity inverted
is the proud soul's beatitude.

--"Spring"
Vladimir Nabokov
Collected Poems
What bliss it is, in this world full of song,
to brush against the chalk of walls, what bliss
to be a Russian poet lost among
cicadas trilling with a Latin lisp!
--"Provence"
Vladimir Nabokov
Collected Poems

Nabokov converted his pain and sorrow in exile in Europe and eventually to the U.S. into his poems. There are numerous verses and stanzas invoking memories of childhood in Russia, harking back scenes and natures in his native land; and even, he promised to himself that “Enough, I will return one day” in “The University Poem”.

Exile is a heavy word, however, to different extent, “exile” exists in our hearts, in our minds, in our each departures.

Come, leaf, name a country beginning with 'f';
            for instance, 'forget' or 'farewell'.

--"Exile"
Vladimir Nabokov
Collected Poems