Cover image for In the grip of strange thoughts : Russian poetry in a new era
In the grip of strange thoughts : Russian poetry in a new era
Kates, J.
Publication Information:
Brookline, Mass. : Zephyr Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xvii, 444 pages ; 23 cm
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Format :


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PG3237.E5 I6 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In the Grip of Strange Thoughts: Russian Poetry in a New Era is a Russian and English bilingual edition of thirty-two contemporary poets writing amidst the upheaval of the Russian 1990s. The collection conveys a sense of the profound freedom and energy of a unique moment in Russian history, as well as the diversity of experience in the years before and since. Edited by poet and translator J. Kates and with a foreword by poet Mikhail Aizenberg, the collection includes poems written long before 1990 but which could not be published, and those of more recent vintage. These thirty-two poets represent a phenomenal range of styles and perspectives. Beginning with the poet and popular songwriter Bulat Okudzhava, who started accompanying his poems on his guitar in the 1950s, the anthology includes poets whose work is deeply rooted in established conventions, avant gardists experimenting with new forms, and adherents of Russian free verse.

Author Notes

Poet and literary translator. Alone and in collaboration, Kates has translated six books of poetry from French, Spanish and Russian, including poems by Tatiana Shcherbina, The Score of the Game (Zephyr,2002) He also edited In the Grip of Strange Thoughts (Zephyr Press, 1999). Mikhail Aizenberg: Architect, poet, essayist. Born 1948, Moscow, graduated from the Moscow Architectural Institute in 1972, he has been writing poems since the mid 1960s.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Editor Kates presents three to six poems by each of 32 contemporary Russians, thereby providing a cross section of a half-century of poetic achievement done largely in despite of the heavy hand of Soviet ideology. For though many of these poets were officially published by the Soviet state, they often endured periods of enforced nonpublication, during which they circulated their work by samizdat or published outside the Soviet Union. Others didn't bother to seek publication. Together, they kept several traditions alive, which shows in great stylistic variety. Plenty use rhyme and regular forms. Plenty more write free verse and prose poetry, and Mikhail Yeryomin incorporates non-Russian words, hieroglyphics, and mathematical formulas in dense, eight-line poems. If Yeryomin sounds forbidding, turn to Bulat Okudzhava, who also wrote and recorded songs. The range of subject and of mood is as great as that of style, and printing the Russian originals as well as the translations increases the potential audience for the book and lets English-only readers see when rhymed Russian becomes unrhymed English. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0939010577Ray Olson

Choice Review

The continuing volatility of Russian literary culture invites frequent stock-taking, and at the same time complicates the anthologist's task. As Kates makes clear in the introduction to this bilingual collection of the work of 32 poets, the literary language and the relationship between poet and reader have evolved dramatically in the last decade. The volume updates (but does not duplicate or replace) Contemporary Russian Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology, ed. by Gerald Smith (CH, Feb'94). Mikhail Aizenberg's prefatory account of the "mosaic" of associations among unofficial poets in the 1970s and '80s vividly recalls the precarious yet tenacious existence of these artists from the perspective of one of their number. Kates's introduction outlines the broad picture--the breakdown of both Soviet and "dissident" establishments and the dialogue between voices from Russia and those of the diaspora. In contrast to Smith, Kates presents translations by several British and US poets and scholars, who have made their own choices as to form and sentiment. Kates's commentary on various approaches to translating Russian poetry will be especially illuminating to the anglophone readers for whom the volume is intended. With its range of reverberating voices, the present title will be welcomed by Russian- and English-speaking readers of contemporary poetry. N. Tittler SUNY at Binghamton