“Each Movement of Bold Hands”: Igor Avtamonov’s “Flight”

Flights have been much on my mind lately. 2022 was a year of often involuntary, often painful displacements for a great many people. Jenny and I, too, undertook some major journeys, which, for all their difficulties, have been rewarding beyond measure. We now find ourselves living in Oklahoma and caring for our seven-month-old twins, Nina and Charlie. I’ve stepped down as Editor-in-Chief of the Los Angeles Review of Books and have taken up a position at the University of Tulsa, teaching courses in the English Department alongside Jenny. And at the very end of December we finally managed to fly our beloved cats, Pushkin and Nora, from LA, reuniting our family.

LARB has played an important role in my life from the time it was founded by Tom Lutz in 2011. I was its first volunteer Noir Editor and became a regular contributor. I served as the journal’s Executive Editor from 2016 to 2020, when I was named Editor-in-Chief. A few days ago I officially passed the torch to Michelle Chihara. Working with LARB’s brilliant staff and contributors has been an honor and a pleasure, and I’ll always support the organization in every way I can.

Likewise, although I’ve left Los Angeles for now, the city will always be my home. Jenny, the twins, and I will return to it frequently. The collection of poems I published in 2022, My Hollywood, is no farewell note — it’s a love letter, and the romance continues. I’ll be looking for and sharing LA stories all my days.

One such story made a deep impression on me last month. It concerns the tragic death of Rex Minter, mayor of Santa Monica from 1963 to 1967. A single-engine Cessna in which Minter was the passenger was forced to make an emergency landing on a stretch of Santa Monica Beach and flipped upside down into the surf. The pilot survived but Minter died of a heart attack. He was 95 years old.

The unusual setting and the fact that the former mayor was a lifelong pilot combine to lend this sad incident a measure of poetic resonance. The story made me think of a naively optimistic sonnet by the SoCal émigré Igor Avtamonov (1913-1995), about whom I’ve posted before. He too was a passionate aviator from an early age. I suspect lifting off was, for him, a near-religious experience; it was certainly a means of escape, if only temporarily, from the mundane troubles of life in exile.


Wide open space as far as we can see,
a fanciful mirage of clouds… Below,
mountains like clumps, a meadow’s streak of green,
a snaking river’s steady eastward flow…

Our gaze is greedy… And our greed’s rewarded…
We crawled like dung beetles just days before,
but we pressed on. No, we would not be thwarted:
and now we live our dreams — and now we soar.

The plane obeys each movement of bold hands
and pierces through the clouds just like a plow…
The city lies beneath us, a crushed spider,

its street-legs sprawling out, row upon row…
While we continue to climb higher, higher,
and in salute to Earth our wings expand!


Со всех сторон простор – внизу, вверху и сбоку,
Причудливо висят миражем тучи вкруг,
Под нами кочки гор, мазком зелёный луг,
Среди полей, змеясь, река бежит к востоку…

И жадный ищет взгляд… И всё доступно оку…
Мы ползали вчера, как по навозу жук,
Но вот упорством дум, усильями наук,
Мечты воплощены и мы летим высоко!

Послушен самолет движеньям смелых рук;
Пронзает облака, как землю резал плуг…
Под нами улицы размеченные в строку…

Средь дыма город там – распластанный паук!
А наши два крыла раскинулись широко,
И с неба шлём земле победный мощный звук!


14 thoughts on ““Each Movement of Bold Hands”: Igor Avtamonov’s “Flight”

  1. Congratulations on the move! May your vistas be at least as grand and inspiring as this poem is in its Russian and English robes! I especially love this line: “and pierces through the clouds just like a plow…” Mayakovskian!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Firstly, Boris, many congratulations on the move and I hope all goes well with you in your new direction – so good to have all the family together again! 😊😊 And thank you for sharing the wonderful poem. We really do love, as a species, to take wings when we can!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A new city, a new life, a new chapter, a new pristine page on which to ink more beautiful – perhaps slightly different – words. I wish you well. As the Irish say,
    “May the road rise up to meet you.
    May the wind be always at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face;
    the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
    may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s