Home Hollywood Boris Dralyuk’s ‘My Hollywood’ honors the humanity in the vestiges

Boris Dralyuk’s ‘My Hollywood’ honors the humanity in the vestiges

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Los Angeles native Boris Dralyuk from Odessa has written an Oscar-worthy collection of poetry.

“My Hollywood and Other Poems” (Paul Dry Books, Inc., $16.95) is an almost cinematic—and somewhat comical—review of time, change, and loss in West Hollywood. In particular, Dralyuk writes about remnants of Hollywood’s golden age a century ago, as well as the remnants of several waves of Russian Jews who moved to West Hollywood in and around the 1980s. (Dralyuk’s family was among them.)

He is a widely published poet and translator, actively immersed and respected in Los Angeles, national and international literary culture, and is editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Moving to West Hollywood in 1988 at the age of 8, Dralyuk loved it and stayed. The poems describe the Hollywood he lived and loved, a place that disappeared before he had a chance to experience it. He mourns for what he doesn’t know.

With a few exceptions, the rest are memories – mostly other people’s. These memories often involve famous or notorious buildings or places. Allah Gardens is a charming hotel frequented by early stars and razed to the ground in 1959. A library in exile that is now largely unvisited. “Dingbat” apartment building. Hank’s Bar at the Stilwell Hotel, closed in 2015 after 60 years.

There is also a controversial 1930 statue commemorating Rudolf Valentino, which appears in the first poem in the series, “Desire.”

“That night I discovered the parks in De Longpre and Cherokee. …Looking at all the little houses and telling myself these were the good old days of Swanson, Pickford, Chaplin, Arbuckle and others residence. . . .” – Horace McCoy, 1938

It’s clear: the good old days are over.

some giant fig trees, some pygmy palms

casts broken shadows on the disenfranchised grass;

dog Luo flat, limp; the wanderer begging;

In the center – the name is ridiculous

desire — face uplift, framed

leaning on the dusty leaves, he tiptoes,

Abstract Adonis, Bronze Lotarius.

Sitting here all night, if you can stand the dirt—

Watch people come and go, but you won’t see

The woman in black weeps for Valentino.

The chief sank deep into the dunes of time.

A crow crackled on the branches overhead,

It’s like the projector is slowly dying.

So much history, pride, folly, loss and sadness is packed into this rather light-hearted little sonnet. (In many of his sonnets, Dralyuk uses an adaptation of the Onegin festival, with its unusual rhyming scheme and alternating masculine or feminine line endings.)

The buildings and places found in this collection have a humanity. They are stand-ins for the people who built them or who used to live in them. Many of them came from elsewhere. Many of them are from where Dralyuk is from. He honored people by naming, describing and immortalizing these places. Here’s “The Bungalow’s Past”:

“Bungalow courts provide at least a little ‘California leisure’ for the poor.” -Robert Winter, California Bungalows (1980)

They go from here to Pasadena to hold court,

Not in fancy dress, but in casual clothes,

No judgement on our misdemeanors,

Warm, down-to-earth, tightly packed—

There is no arrogance in these Swiss chalets,

These beaming Tudors, Spanish hideaways

This gives us dignified style:

Crown molding, copper awning, clinker tile.

Fair bungalow, now your dominion is here

closure.I watch you get destroyed

In favor of featureless and polished

The tycoon of apartments.

Your bold agave, ferocious, protective agarwood

Drop their spears by the real estate agent’s gallows.

Dralyuk writes these little houses like people. Destruction to make room for people with enormous wealth feels like a human injustice and loss – and of course it is.

“My Hollywood” isn’t just about buildings and places. “Little Masters” describe area artisans who can hand-etch rubber stamps, repair heirloom lamps, or rebind beloved old books. Venice Beach: A Diptych depicts the tragic later years of actress Sarah Bernhardt and pioneer of cinematography Alexander Derankov. Three short poems in “Russian Clover” are dedicated to poets Innokenty Annesky, Gregory Ivanov and Yevgeny Kropivnitsky. Here is the poem to Ivanov:

Take a small table on the sidewalk,

The one farthest from the door,

in a way no one wants to know

If you were here the day before.

like signing a contract

Sitting here like a figurine.

Your knowledge of the terms that bind you:

Boredom, pity and neglect.

“Boring, pity and neglect” are slow but sure killers of people and places that are no longer considered valuable. In a stunning outline performance, however, Dralyuk evokes an entire era by commemorating a few random details in the poem.

The whole tone is standard Dralyuk on social media, interviews, and the rest of his work. The standard Dralyuk is very clever, humorous, and just a little ironic. If you don’t get angry, you will be dull. Dear. Even gentle.

My Hollywood is one of the most powerful poetry collections in recent history. It’s seamlessly evocative from front to back—though its 41 poems are divided into four sections, one of which contains a Dralyuk translation of the Russian poet. (It’s easy to see why his need for translation is so great.)

The book was full of praise from poet Ilya Kaminsky, who called Dralyuk a “master.” he is. “My Hollywood” is a wonderful collection of fresh, human poetry from past iterations of Hollywood.



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