The following are two translations from Russian of the same poem: First Frost

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The following are two translations from Russian of the same poem:
First Frost

Andrei Vozesensky (Translated by Stanley Kunitz)
A girl is freezing in a telephone booth,

huddled in her flimsy coat,

her face stained by tears

and smeared with lipstick.

She breathes on her thin little fingers. 5

Fingers like ice. Glass beads in her ears.

She has to beat her way back alone

down the icy street.

First frost. A beginning of losses.

The first frost of telephone phrases. 10

It is the start of winter glittering on her cheek,

the first frost of having been hurt.

First Ice

Andrei Vozesensky (Translated by George Reavey)
A girl freezes in a telephone booth.

In her draughty overcoat she hides

A face all smeared

in lipstick and tears.

She breathes on her thin palms. 5

Her fingers are icicles. She wears earrings.

She’ll have to walk home alone,

Along the ice-bound street.

First ice. The very first time.

The first ice of telephone phrases. 10

Frozen tears glisten on her cheeks–

The first ice of human hurt.


  1. Analyze the poems. Use the model.

  2. What differences do you notice between the two translations? Make a specific list.

  3. For each difference, which do you prefer and why?

How do the word choices support the meaning? What associations do certain words evoke (call to mind)? Consider the sound of the words and how that matches the general mood and subject of the poem. Consider the effects of any literary devices.

Three different translations of the same Chinese poem

(from the East Asian Studies Center, Indiana University, Traditional Chinese Literature)

Homework: Read.

Below is a student’s analysis of the two translations of

Andrei Voznesensky’s poem.

  1. Read the essay.

  2. Reread the essay one paragraph at a time and…

  3. Underline points you had not thought of before and

  4. List the ideas with which you agree and those with which you disagree.

(Note line numbers.)

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