24 January 14 | Kaija Straumanis

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is by Will Evans on Relocations: 3 Contemporary Russian Women Poets, a collection of poems from Zephyr Press by Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova, and Maria Stepanova, translated by Catherine Ciepiela, Anna Khasin, and Sibelan Forrester.

For those who don’t know, Will is the face behind Deep Vellum Publishing, based in Dallas, Texas, and is also a translator of Russian. Here’s the beginning of his review:

Two women dominate the history of Russian poetry: Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva. Both authors transcended the label of “woman poet” and live in the realm of the eternal untouchable legends of Russian poetry. To wit, I remember a Russian professor in college correcting a short essay I wrote on an Akhmatova poem because I used a feminine noun to describe her, as what in English we would call a “poetess.” My professor crossed that word out emphatically and wrote in the column in bold Cyrillic letters: “Akhmatova is a POET,” using the masculine-gendered noun to correct a term Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva were both outspoken in rejecting. In the strictly-gendered Russian language, this choice of gender is not a trivial distinction, and provided a lesson in gender politics that has stuck with me to this day.

Yet since these two grand dames, standard bearers of the rich Russian poetic tradition and shining lights of 20th century poetry, passed away, there have been precious few Russian women poets translated into English. This is where Zephyr Press comes in, and bless them for it. Relocations: 3 Contemporary Russian Women Poets is their latest bilingual collection of contemporary poetry by Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova, and Maria Stepanova. Relocations was released around the same time as their edition of Anzhelina Polonskaya’s Paul Klee’s Boat (which I reviewed for Three Percent in late 2013), and in just two books, Zephyr Press has published more Russian women poets than all other American publishers in the last 20 years combined. And they’ve been doing it for a while now.

For the rest of the review, go here


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