Anton Batagov

16+

(Female poetry through the ages)

song cycle

 

(2018)

 

 

Nadine Koutcher, soprano

Anton Batagov, piano

 

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We live on a female planet, where male roles are insignificant.

Men will always be children, no matter how much pleasure they take in patriarchy, greatness, games of science and power.

 

Evgeny Golovin

 

 

When we talk about ‘a poetess’ or ‘female poetry’, it usually sounds like ‘women behind the wheel’, in a patronizing and mocking way, meaning that it’s impossible to seriously discuss women’s literary art in our patriarchal civilization.

A while ago, I found out that the first poet whose name came down to us was a woman. She lived back in the 23 rd century BC, in the Sumerian city-state Ur. Her name was Enheduanna. She was the high priestess of the goddess Inanna and the god Nanna, composed hymns and prayers and sang them. They have been preserved and translated into modern languages. These texts aren’t simply outstanding poetry. They are quintessential to what Buddha, and then Jesus Christ, said to the people two thousand years later.

So I had this idea to compose a song cycle based on poems written only by women. I started exploring this absolutely amazing layer of literature, read a few thousand texts created in various eras: poems, hymns, prayers, poetic descriptions of visions and revelations, and selected 16 of them. Any choice suggests abandoning something. I decided to limit myself to two languages, English and Russian, having to leave ‘off screen’ a huge number of masterpieces composed in other languages. My selection does not claim to have any historical or geographical order. What was really important to me is that all these texts take shape of a ‘journey’.

The cycle contains 9 texts in English and 7 in Russian. Out of nine English-language texts, three were written by British authors, three by Americans, and three were translated from Sumerian, Middle Dutch and Hindi.

Out of six Russian-language texts, one is not in modern Russian, but in Church Slavonic, translated from Greek. Its author is Kassia, venerated as a saint, and the translations of her works into Church Slavonic are included in the Orthodox canon.

All 16 authors are unique personalities, and reading their biographies alone makes a huge impression.

All these works composed in various centuries and millennia tell essentially the same story: of love that a woman feels deeply and uncompromisingly; of love, in which the God and the lover are the same. The woman received a ‘lunar mystery’ from the universe, and this secret can be a destructive weapon, but the inconceivable female nature transforms domination into self-renunciation, dissolves power in tenderness, and the truth can be attained not as a result of logical constructs and debates, but is experienced as the natural state-space, where nothing exists but love. It’s there that all our meetings take place, and any journeys we take are just different route options — but they all lead us there.

 

AB 2018, translated by Kate Pirogova

Photo by Alisa Naremontti