Poems from Children's Island

by Sasha Chernyi

Translated from the Russian by Kevin Kinsella

Illustrated by Jessica Seamans

A bi-lingual edition with illustrations and
handmade covers.

Here and through Small Press Distribution


$17 + free shipping


To Each His Own

“Hey, look—by the stream—
Little men have removed their skins!”
Shouted the young finch.
Then it flew and perched on a tower
To look at the naked kiddies
Screeching and splashing in the water.

The finch opened its beak in wonder,
The finch really was amazed:
“Ah, crazy kids!
Long-legged shakers,
Instead of wings—two sticks
And neither down nor feathers!”

A hare peeks from behind a willow
And shakes his head
Like an amazed Chinamen:
“How funny! What fun!
They’ve got neither tails nor fur…
Twenty fingers! My God…

But a carp in the reeds hears the racket,
With bulging eyes, it breathes:
“Silly hare! stupid finch!
Who cares about fur and feathers?
Here they need fish scales!
No fish scales? Brothers, you’re kidding me!"

1921


“If you, like me, sometimes wonder why chocolates don’t grow on beds and frogs don’t use pillows, if you think that girls are cheese and boys potatoes (or is it the other round a way?); if you, even just once in a scarlet moon, imagine that little mouses are far braver than humungous lions, then these poems may be for you. Not recommended for adults! as these rimes are far too clever, and besides adults don’t like poetry.”

—Charles Bernstein


“Kevin Kinsella has done an enormous service by translating to English the charming children’s poems by seminal Russian poet Sasha Chernyi. What a pleasure to become acquainted with his work for children, both in the original and in this lovely translation. This book will have a permanent place on my shelf.”

—Irina Reyn, author of What Happened to Anna K.


“These masterful, inspired translations do eminent justice to the caustic wit, paradoxical wordplay, idiosyncratic worldview, uniquely keen sensibility, and quirky prosodic rhythms of one of Russia's most interesting and gifted (and alas, undeservedly little-known heretofore in this country) poets circa the first half of last century. Before Daniil Kharms and Nikolai Zabolotsky, there was Sasha Chernyi. Without him, the history of Russian poetry would be woefully incomplete. This fine book's publication is an occasion to celebrate.”

—Mikhail Iossel, editor of Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia, and founder and director of the Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Kenya, and Vilnius


It is a pleasure to welcome the first English-language edition of Sasha Chernyi (or “Chorny” in alternate, more phonetically exact spelling), one of the earliest Russian-Jewish humor writers from Odessa, the town that also produced Isaac Babel. Chernyi’s satirical poems, with their mordant wit, observant eye, and ease of verbal caricature, made him the darling of the liberal intelligentsia of the early 1900s. His children’s poetry—which he especially cultivated as a political refugee after the Revolution—shows great empathy with how children see things, and especially how they see animals. Now ably translated by Kevin Kinsella, Sasha Chernyi’s Children’s Island (1921, 1928) ushers us into the mysterious world of children’s culture of a bygone era.

—Eugene Ostashevsky, editor of OBERIU: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism