Gossip & Metaphysics: Russian Modernist Poems & Prose

by Katie Farris, Ilya Kaminsky and Valzhyna Mort (editors)

$19.95

“As a whole, Gossip and Metaphysics: Russian Modernist Poems and Prose gives us an inside look at what it means to be a poet in a society undergoing cataclysmic upheaval and change. In these pages we find unassailable courage coupled with the dizzying beauty of uncensored expression, reminding us that the creative force is a generative force which imparts energy to all that is humane and essential. The nine voices featured in this elegant volume serve as a bold template for anyone who would speak truth to power in any country in any age.”
— Sonja James, The Journal of West Virginia

Format: paperback

There has been no anthology in English dedicated to the poetics of the great generation of Russian modernists. For a group of poets so widely admired, relatively little seems known about their philosophy of poetry and their poetic influences, and although there is tremendous aesthetic diversity in this group, they have more in common than many readers assume. Russian poetry was a small world, made even smaller by the arrests, disappearances, pogroms, famines, assassinations, and political conflagration of the revolutionary era, and literary differences were often overcome by a mutual sense of historic cataclysm.

This anthology’s structure is like textile, with many common threads intertwining, doubling back, sometimes unraveling—creating a matrix of poetic conversation: Mayakovsky on Khlebnikov, Pasternak on Mayakovsky, Tsvetaeva on Pasternak, Brodsky on Tsvetaeva, Akhmatova on Mandelstam. Shared themes range from expected (the word) to serendipitous (the ocean). Above all these poets are obsessed with proximity—to God, to nature and place, to poetic predecessors, to language (their own and others), and always, forever, to the inexpressible.

Thanks to the Antonia and Vladimer Kulaev Cultural Heritage Fund for support of this book, in honor of artist Elena Karina Canavier.

Featured writers: Anna Akhmatova, Andrei Bely, Joseph Brodsky, Daniil Kharms, Velimir Khlebnikov, Osip Mandelstam, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Boris Pasternak, and Marina Tsvetaeva

With versions and translations by: Katya Apekina, Walter Arndt, Clarence Brown, Christopher Colbath, Herbert Eagle, Katie Farris, Jane Gray Harris, Max Hayward, G. M. Hyde, Ilya Kaminsky, Jane Kenyon, Roger and Angela Keys, George L. Kline, Stanley Kunitz, Anna Lawton, Constance Link, Angela Livingstone, Robert Lowell, W. S. Merwin, Valzhyna Mort, Eugene Ostashevsky, George Reavey, Judson Rosengrant, Barry Rubin, Paul Schmidt, Janet Tucker, Jean Valentine, Daniel Weissbort, Margaret Wettlin, Christian Wiman, Matvei Yankelevich

If you were to read this volume in one sitting, you might be overwhelmed by the clatter of voices—Kharms bellowing into the darkness, Akhmatova grinding her syllables out against the walls of the Soviet prison that held her son, Tsvetaeva gasping and stuttering her way toward a self-contradictory, paradoxical truth—all speaking to and for and about imagery, meter, history, truth, logos, and one another… like sitting down late to a poets’ dinner in the kitchen of a Russian restaurant, with conversation and vodka-drinking well underway. This book reads a little messy, a little antagonistic. Some conversations have begun long ago and there’s no one there to help catch you up; some end abruptly when someone or other leaves to smoke a cigarette or salt the soup. What keeps you there is the heady and unmistakable knowledge that you are in the proximity of genius.

About the Editors:

Katie Farris is the author of boysgirls (Marick, 2011), which combines prose poetry, fairy tale, riddle, myth, and drawings. She has contributed translations to books of Russian, French, and Chinese poetry, including This Lamentable City (Tupelo, 2010) and New Cathay (Tupelo, 2013). She currently teaches in the MFA program at San Diego State University and in New England College’s low-residency MFA program.

Ilya KaminskyIlya Kaminsky is author of Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo, 2004) and co-editor of The Ecco Book of International Poetry (2010) and editor of This Lamentable City: Poems of Polina Barskova (Tupelo, 2010). He teaches at San Diego State University and in the New England College M.F.A. Program. He lives in San Diego, California.

Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union in 1977, and is now widely regarded as the most exciting young poet in America. In 1993, his family received asylum from the American government and came to the United States. Ilya received his BA from Georgetown University and subsequently became the youngest person ever to serve as George Bennet Fellow Writer in Residence at Phillips Exeter Academy. Dancing in Odessa is his first full length book. In 2005 alone, Ilya Kaminsky won Whiting Prize, the 2005 Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2005 Foreword Poetry Book of the Year award.

Valzhyna Mort, born in Minsk, Belarus, has published two poetry collections in English, Factory of Tears and Collected Body(both Copper Canyon, 2008 and 2012). Awarded a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship and Poetry magazine’s Bess Hokin Prize, she now teaches at Cornell University.

“As a whole, Gossip and Metaphysics: Russian Modernist Poems and Prose gives us an inside look at what it means to be a poet in a society undergoing cataclysmic upheaval and change. In these pages we find unassailable courage coupled with the dizzying beauty of uncensored expression, reminding us that the creative force is a generative force which imparts energy to all that is humane and essential. The nine voices featured in this elegant volume serve as a bold template for anyone who would speak truth to power in any country in any age.”
— Sonja James, The Journal of West Virginia

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