One of the best-known poets of Kazakhstan, Aigerim Tazhi — who writes in Russian — offers incisive and intimate observations in these seemingly spare poems that “pour out a little from an overflowing heart.”
Paper-thin Skin is her debut collection in translation. Readers will find images of fish, insects, birds, the sea, the sky, humans seeking connection, and death in these succinct poems, along with windows, mirrors, and eyes: these are poems of observation and deep reflection. Tazhi gently insists that we look at words and the world “in the eye,” as she seeks to create what translator J. Kates calls a “mystic community of communication.”
Aigerim Tazhi (Айгерим Тажи) was born in the western Kazakhstani city of Aktobe (formerly called Aktyubinsk) in 1981. She is the author of БОГ-О-СЛОВ (THEO-LOG-IAN, which could also be read as GOD O' WORDS) (Musagetes, Kazakhstan, 2004). Tazhi won the International Literary Steps Prize in Poetry in 2003; in 2011, she was a finalist for the International Debut Prize in Poetry; in 2019, she was included in the prize list of the International Literary Poetry Award and named a finalist of the International Literary Voloshin Contest. Her work has been featured in many prominent literary magazines and anthologies; and her poems have been translated into English, French, Dutch, Polish, German, Armenian, Uzbek and other languages. In 2009 Tazhi created a continuing project of literary installations and performances, Visible Poetry. She lives in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
J. Kates is the author of several collections of his own poetry, and the translator of more than a dozen books by Russian and French poets, including Tatiana Shcherbina, Mikhail Aizenberg, Mikhail Yeryomin, Aleksey Porvin, Jean-Pierre Rosnay, and Sergey Stratanovsky. He co-translated four books of Latin American poetry, was the translation editor of Contemporary Russian Poetry, and was the editor of In the Grip of Strange Thoughts: Russian Poetry in a New Era. He has been awarded three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, an Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, the Cliff Becker Book Prize in Translation, and a Käpylä Translation Prize.
Paper-thin Skin, by Aigerim Tazhi
By Aigerim Tazhi
Translated from the Russian by J. Kates
168 pages | Bilingual: Russian/English
Paperback | ISBN 978-1-938890-90-1
"...in a vividly faithful translation by J. Kates, [...] Tazhi’s poems are strikingly imagistic, her syntax shorn of unnecessary appendages. By steering clear of any narrative thread or conceptual utterance, they seem like pure instants of perception." — Timothy Walsh, Rain Taxi Review
"Aigerim Tazhi’s Paper-Thin Skin is a work of stunning originality.” — Elmira Elvazova, Massachusetts Review
“This is a beautifully translated volume that neither exoticizes nor renders out the joy of reading poetry grounded in another place and language.” — Alison Mandaville, World Literature Today
“…[Tazhi's] poetry is enjoyable for the pure inventiveness of her images and observations. The collection is riddled with vivid, often intriguing images and witty one liners... Zephr Press is doing a good service in promoting the poetry of writers that might not get such an airing in their homegrown presses.” — Belinda Cooke, Poetry Salzburg Review