3 CONTEMPORARY RUSSIAN WOMEN POETS
Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova & Maria Stepanova
Edited by Catherine Ciepiela
from Russian by Catherine Ciepiela, Anna Khasin & Sibelan Forrester
ISBN 978-0-9832970-8-6 (paper) $18
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In distinct ways all three poets featured in Relocations are engaged in the project of renovating Russia’s great modernist tradition for a radically different historical situation. They write poems of imaginative daring, pushing recognizable scenarios into the fantastic, the surreal or the speculative, bending form and language to the task.
Polina Barskova began publishing her poetry at age nine and is the author of eight books of poems; her latest, Ariel’s Dispatch (Soobshchenie Ariela, NLO, 2011), was nominated for an Andrey Bely award. Two collections of her poetry in English translation appeared recently: This Lamentable City (Tupelo Press, 2010) and The Zoo in Winter (Melville House Press, 2010). She is a published scholar with degrees in classical literature (from St. Petersburg University) and Slavic languages and literatures (UC Berkeley). Her research has focused on cultural life during the siege of Leningrad, about which she has numerous publications and two forthcoming books. She currently teaches Russian literature at Hampshire College and lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Anna Glazova is a poet, translator and scholar of German and Comparative Literature with a PhD from Northwestern University. She is the author of three books of poems, the most recent, For a Shrew (Dlia zemleroiki, NLO, 2013), being honored with the Russian Prize for Poetry. She has translated into Russian books by Robert Walser, Unica Zürn and Ladislav Klima; her translations of Paul Celan’s poetry recently appeared under the title Speak you, too (Govori i ty, Ailuros, 2012). A volume of her poems in translations by Anna Khasin, Twice under the Sun, appeared with Shearsman Books in 2008. Her scholarship has focused on the work of Paul Celan and Osip Mandelstam. She teaches and resides in Hamburg, Germany and the United States.
Maria Stepanova is the author of nine books of poems and the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Andrei Bely award (2005) and a Joseph Brodsky Memorial Fellowship (2010). Among her most notable works are a book of post-modern ballads, Songs of the Northern Southerners (Pesni severnykh iuzhan, ARGO-RISK, 2001) and a book-length narrative poem, John Doe’s Prose (Proza Ivana Sidorova, NLO, 2008). Relocations presents the first extensive selection of her poems in English translation. Her activities as an essayist and journalist make her a visible cultural figure. Since 2007 she has worked as editor of the independent online journal OpenSpace.ru, now reconfigured as the crowd-sourced journal Colta.ru. She is a lifelong resident of Moscow.* * *
Catherine Ciepiela is a scholar and translator of modern Russian poetry. She is the author of a book on Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak (The Same Solitude, Cornell UP, 2006) and co-editor with Honor Moore of The Stray Dog Cabaret (NYRB 2006), a book of Paul Schmidt’s translations of the Russian modernists. Her translations have appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The Massachusetts Review, Seneca Review, Pequod and The Common. She teaches Russian literature and poetic translation at Amherst College.
Anna Khasin is an independent translator and poet living in Boston. Her earlier translations of Anna Glazova were published by Shearsman Books under the title Twice Under the Sun (2008).
Sibelan Forrester is Professor of Russian at Swarthmore College with a scholarly focus on Russian modernist poetry, particularly the work of Marina Tsvetaeva. She writes her own poetry and has published poetic and scholarly translations from Croatian (Dubravka Oraić-Tolić’s American Scream and Palindrome Apocalypse, Ooligan Press, 2004), Russian (Elena Ignatova’s Diving Bell, Zephyr Press, 2006; Vladimir Propp’s Russian Folktale, Wayne State University Press, 2012), and Serbian (stories by Milica Mićić-Dimovska and an excerpt from Miroljub Todovorić’s verbal-visual novel Apeiron).
from Polish by Piotr Gwiazda
ISBN 978-1-938890-00-0 (paper) $15
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6 x 8
“Grim, glancingly beautiful, always necessary.”
“One of the most important books of our time: these are at once unsettling and comforting, timely and wryly moving poems about the laughable annoyances, limited joys, and the never fully present sorrows of cosmopolitanism, the life of the citizens of the world.”
“Wróblewski is the true poetic chronicler of our 21st century diaspora in all its absurdities and anxieties … Kopenhaga is a journey to the end of the night that always makes a U-turn in the middle, to take in the latest folly—and also self-rescue mission—of the transplant. Read it and weep—and then laugh!”
Kopenhaga is the first comprehensive collection of prose poetry by Grzegorz Wróblewski, one of Poland’s leading contemporary writers. The book offers a series of vignettes from the crossroads of politics and culture, technology and ethics, consumerism and spirituality. It combines two tropes: the emigrant’s double identity and the ethnographer’s search for patterns. While ostensibly focused on Denmark, it functions as an investigation of alterity in the post-cold war era of ethnic strife and global capitalism. Whether he writes about refugees in Copenhagen (one of Europe’s major transnational cities), or the homeless, or the mentally ill, or any other marginalized group, Wróblewski points to the moral contradictions of a world supposedly without borders.
Grzegorz Wróblewski, born in 1962 in Gdańsk and raised in Warsaw, has been living in Copenhagen since 1985. He has published ten volumes of poetry and three collections of short prose pieces in Poland; three books of poetry, a book of poetic prose and an experimental novel in Denmark; a book of selected poems in Bosnia-Herzegovina; and a selection of plays. His work has been translated into fifteen languages. His poems in English translation appear in many journals, anthologies, and chapbooks, as well as in two collections Our Flying Objects (Equipage Press, 2007) and A Marzipan Factory (Otoliths, 2010).
Piotr Gwiazda has published two books of poetry, Messages (Pond Road Press, 2012) and Gagarin Street (Washington Writers’ Publishing House, 2005). He is also the author of James Merrill and W.H. Auden: Homosexuality and Poetic Influence (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). He is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).
I CAN ALMOST SEE THE CLOUDS OF DUST
from Chinese by Fiona Sze-Lorrain
ISBN 978-0-9832970-9-3 (paper) $15
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6 x 8
Yu Xiang, using simple language, striking syntax, and hypnotic refrains, keeps her poet’s eye and mind attentive to the not-so-hidden heart of quotidian life. And what does she find there? People, including herself, confronted with the beautiful and terrifying fact of their lives, wanting to “Love someone / anyone” (“Street”), before it ends. To Yu, life is far from humdrum. Like a photographer who photographs his feet as he walks, each step points to a larger movement—too large to capture as a totality. Yu focuses her attention on the smaller details—these tiny, shimmering essences. And with language that helps us train our gaze, the poet reveals that the ordinary can be spellbinding.
—Naomi Long Eagleson, “Words Without Borders”
These spare, yet sensuous poems, selfless, but beating with an inimitable voice and heart, remind me that no matter what the language, no matter what the culture, there is only one poetry: the poetry of the bone marrow. May this haunting, truth-insistent book circumnavigate the whole planet!
Yu Xiang comfortably inhabits the negative space between viewer and subject, artist and artwork, the lover and her beloved in this acrobatic, ekphrastic, meditatively-compelling collection. Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s crisp translation invites American readers to experience Yu Xiang’s poetic mastery half a world away from its formative origins in the Shandong province, bringing into focus the voice of one of China’s most celebrated and memorable female voices. “I have a lonely yet / stable life,” Yu admits at one point in the book. “This is my house. If / you happen to walk in, it’s certainly not / for my rambling notes.” Yu Xiang disarms her reader with exacting imagery and pathos in order to tell the aching, unavoidable truth of womanhood in these striking poems.
Discreet and seldom a guest at mainstream poetry events, Yu Xiang lives the figurative interpretation of her own poem, “Low Key,” shying away from media attention and commercial literary activities. She considers her life uneventful and boring, and earns a living in an office as do most “ordinary beings”—“I am not interested in too many things. Life has no joy, so I write. I am actually interested in very few things, so I write,” she continues in her credo. On the other hand, she is adamant that a mundane life does not lack poetry. Rather, it lacks being discovered. For one who believes the music is stronger than the musician, poetry is neither career nor charity. The art is a privilege, the word a spiritual nourishment that helps her survive the tedium of life, and find meaning or beauty in an otherwise pessimistic and difficult society.
A key figure of the post-70s Chinese poets, Yu Xiang began writing poetry in 2000. Her honors include the Rougang Poetry Prize (2002), the Yulong Poetry Prize (2006) and the Cultural China Annual Poetry Award (2007). Enigmatic and sensual, Yu Xiang’s writings are immensely popular. Her work includes a volume of poetry, Exhale (2006), and two chapbooks, Sorceress (2009) and Low Key (2011). As a visual artist, she has also exhibited oil paintings at various venues. Yu Xiang currently lives in Ji’nan, the capital city of Shandong province.
Author of two books of poetry, My Funeral Gondola (Mānoa Books/El León, 2013) and Water the Moon (Marick, 2010), as well as several volumes of translation of contemporary Chinese, American and French poets, Fiona Sze-Lorrain co-edited the Mānoa anthologies, Sky Lanterns (2012) and On Freedom: Spirit, Art, and State (2013), both from the University of Hawai’i Press. She lives in France where she is an editor at Vif Éditions and Cerise Press.
from Polish by Mira Rosenthal
ISBN 0-9832970-3-1 (paper) $15
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Tomasz Różycki’s Colonies is one of the most remarkable sonnet sequences of our time: the work of a wandering, restless, and moral mind, here rendered with clarity and vividness by the translations of Mira Rosenthal.
— Susan Stewart
In Tomasz Różycki’s lyric profusion, I hear the sharp blasts of a mordant intellect, but not without the human notes of an infinite melancholy playing in the background. This is the soundtrack of a valiant mind, a layered imagination that nonchalantly apprehends and formally measures the tarnished world in demotic language such that it enchantingly restores simplicity and bewilderment to our existence.
Tomasz Różycki walks to work every day through the city of Opole, in the Polish region of Silesia, where he has lived since his birth in 1970. The fact that he is walking is important: the rhythm of feet on concrete and cobblestone, the familiar view across the Odra River, the regular length of time it takes him to reach his destination. Poetry has a long friendship with walking, good for pacing the flow of thought and establishing a strong rhythm. We are familiar with the idea in the Anglophone tradition from the late eighteenth century, when the Romantic poets transformed walking into a cultural and aesthetic act of taking pleasure in a landscape. For William Wordsworth, almost daily excursions on foot as well as longer walking tours functioned as a way to compose and revise poems that sprung from his meditations on the countryside. But what is important in Różycki’s daily walking is not so much any pastoral awareness it brings about but the fact that such rambling often leads to more sustained interest in the history of a place. Wordsworth’s pedestrian experience of the Lake District moved him to write a guidebook that traced the history of the region; so, too, Różycki’s paced knowledge of his part of Silesia roots him in a historical curiosity. In Colonies, his sixth collection, this curiosity blooms into an outright aesthetic obsession.
—from the Translator’s Introduction
Tomasz Różycki is a poet, critic, and translator. Over the last ten years, he has garnered almost every prize Poland has to offer, as well as widespread critical and popular acclaim in translation in numerous languages. Różycki is the author of seven volumes of poetry, most recently Kolonie (Colonies) and Księga obrotów (The Book of Rotations). Over the course of his career, he has developed an extraordinarily distinctive, personal poetic voice that combines highly concrete imagery with evocative references to the historical legacy of his family and his time. He has lived his whole life in Opole, a previously German city that was repopulated by Poles relocated from the Ukrainian area of eastern Poland taken over by the Soviets after World War II. He is considered to be an inheritor of the tradition of Czesław Miłosz and Adam Zagajewski, and his highly formal work deals with questions of both literary and ancestral tradition. His awards include the Krzysztof Kamiel Baczyński Prize (1997), the Czas Kultury Prize (1997), The Rainer Maria Rilke Award (1998), the Kościelski Foundation Prize (2004), and the Joseph Brodski Prize from Zeszyty Literackie (2006). He has been nominated twice for the Nike Prize (Poland’s top literary honor) and once for the Paszport Polityki (2004). He lives in his hometown of Opole with his wife and two children and teaches at Opole University. Zephyr Press has also published his The Forgotten Keys.
While on a Fulbright Fellowship to Poland, Mira Rosenthal discovered her passion for translating contemporary Polish poetry. Her translations and scholarship on Polish literature have received numerous awards, including fellowships from the PEN Translation Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Her own poetry has been published widely, and her collection The Local World, winner of the Wick Poetry Prize, came out from Kent State in 2011. She holds an M.F.A. from the University of Houston and a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Indiana University. She is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.
from Chinese by Fiona Sze-Lorrain
ISBN 978-0-9832970-6-2 (paper) $15
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6 x 8
Read from MĀNOA: A Pacific Journal of International Writing.
Subtle and compelling, Bai Hua is among the best in contemporary Chinese poetry.
—David Der-wei Wang
Drawing, thinking, speaking and ministering—Bai Hua explores language as a multi-dimensional medium in which image and voices mold words and synergies into portraits and encounters.…Unlike traditional pastoral poets and landscape artists, Bai Hua does not depict thriving or romantic representations of the landscape. The literal world within and without, here run the undercurrents of poetry. There is neither pastoral contentment nor dramatic exile in Bai Hua’s work.
—from the Introduction by Fiona Sze-Lorrain
Considered the central literary figure of the post-Obscure (or post-”Misty”) poetry movement during the 1980s, Bai Hua is one of the most influential poets in contemporary China. Born in 1956 in Chongqing, he studied English literature at Guangzhou Foreign Language Institute before graduating with a Master’s degree in Western Literary History from Sichuan University. His first collection of poems, Expression (1988), received immediate critical acclaim. A highly demanding writer, Bai Hua’s poetic output is considerably modest but selective: in the past thirty years he has written only about ninety poems. After a silence of more than a decade, he began writing poetry again in 2007. That same year, his work garnered the prestigious Rougang Poetry Award. A prolific writer of critical prose and hybrid texts, Bai Hua is also a recipient of the Anne Kao Poetry Prize. Currently living in Chengdu, Sichuan, he teaches at the Southwest Jiaotong University.
Fiona Sze-Lorrain's debut collection of poetry, Water the Moon, was published in 2010. In addition to her books of translation of Chinese poets from Zephyr Press, she has translated several contemporary French and American authors, and co-edited the Manoa anthology, Sky Lanterns (University of Hawai'i Press, 2012). An editor at Cerise Press and Vif éditions, she is also a zheng harpist and orchid healer. She lives in France.
by Marianne Langner Zeitlin
ISBN 978-0-9832970-5-5 $17
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5½ x 8¼
For anyone interested in classical music, Motherless Child is a novel to be savored. [full review]
—Roberta Silman, Artsfuse.org
One gets wrapped up in the ruse Elizabeth has woven, and becomes as determined as she is to learn the truth.
—Joy Parks, Quill & Quire (Canada)
Set in the world of classical music, Marianne Langner Zeitlin’s third novel is a suspenseful page-turner that takes us on a young woman's quest to understand her family’s difficult past. Under an assumed name, Elizabeth Guaranga takes a job with the famed music manager Alfred Rossiter, who was once her late mother's lover. Rossiter’s name was synonymous with evil in Elizabeth’s home: he had lured her mother away from the family, and then used his power to squelch her father’s career as a concert pianist. After Elizabeth meets the writer George Wentworth, who is writing a biography of Rossiter, she begins to learn that the truth she is seeking is far different from what she had been led to believe.
Zeitlin has spent her entire adult life in the world of classical music—as the wife of acclaimed violinist Zvi Zeitlin, as one of the first women to manage an orchestra herself, and, in her young adulthood, as an employee at one of the largest music management firms in the United States. She brings her wealth of knowledge about the music world to this riveting tale of loss, love, power, and the immutability of one’s past.
Motherless Child contains a Book Group Discussion Guide.
Marianne Langner Zeitlin is the author of numerous short stories, essays, articles and dramatic works. She has published two other novels, Mira’s Passage (Dell) and Next of Kin (Zephyr Press), which won a City of Toronto Book Award, and her stories have been anthologized in two collections. Recent stories have been published in FictionFix.net, Passager, Aethlon, Scribblers on the Roof, and Jewishfiction.net. She lives in Rochester, New York.