Yevgeny Yevtushenko: The Siberian Cowboy Poet

Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Yevtushenko in 2010. By Rodrigo Fernández via Wikimedia Commons

…So that got me thinking about Elko. You go to an academic poetry reading and the poetry may be fine literature, but the event is pretty tame. Pretty dry … and Yevtushenko—he didn’t fit that mold. It was like a bomb went off when he started reciting. This volcano of language was pouring out of his body. So my experience in Elko told me this guy is a gold mine. We’ve got to get him to an audience that will really appreciate the performative element of his work.

At the Paris Review, Carson Vaughn profiles the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. He was known for his brightly colored clothing, his bombastic delivery, and his teen-idol-like effect on the women in the audience at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Yevtushenko died on April 1, 2017, in Tulsa, where he’d been a lecturer on poetry and the history of world cinema.

And they all remember the way he performed: animated and loud, arms flailing, spit flying, his new anthology in hand, leaving the stage behind. The one and only Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, walking with a group of performers to a restaurant downtown, would later mimic Yevtushenko’s delivery, his accent spot on, according to Bette Ramsey, and his limbs going wild.

“Talk about a flashback to Catholicism,” Zarzyski said. “Yevtushenko in his Cossack vestments moving up and down the aisle reciting poetry—and the women just swooning.”

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