An Anthology of Contemporary Russian Women Poets

Article excerpt

Valentine Polukhina and Daniel Weissbort, eds. An Anthology of Contemporary Russian Women Poets. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2005.286 pp. Bibliography. List of Poets and Translators. Index.

In 2002 Daniel Weissbort and Valentina Polukhina-Weissbort is a well known poet and was the co-founder and, until recently, the editor of Modern Poetry in Translation, while Polukhina is probably best known for her many contributions to Brodsky scholarship-coedited a special issue of MPT (#20) entitled Russian Women Poets. It consisted of translations of some 70, mainly contemporary, Russian poets, along with several interviews conducted by themselves and others with a number of the poets included in the volume. It also has several brief introductory essays as well as a bibliography and biographical information about the poets. The essays not only address the content of the volume, but confront a variety of questions that attend the basic concept of such an anthology. The editors are clearly aware of the range of opinions that might attach to their venture, not in terms of the quality of the poetry, which is unassailable, but of the binary which fundamentally defines it. All that is addressed in a fashion which does not dwell overly on any single point while openly and frankly acknowledging the key issues. And ultimately the value of the volume resides in the quality of the poetry, and in the service it provides in bringing these poets together and in bringing many of them to English speaking audiences either for the first time, or in fresh contexts.

Evidently, the editors thought the effort they had expended in preparing this volume could still yield further fruits. Polukhina herself had read the work of nearly 800 Russian women poets! The idea of producing an expanded and modified version of the original volume led to the publication in 2005 of a separate stand-alone volume, An Anthology of Contemporary Russian Women Poets. There is much overlap between the two volumes, but the newer volume is easily to be chosen if choose one must. Ideally, both would be read or consulted. The list of authors has been expanded to 80, and some changes have been made, primarily to emphasize their working notion of "contemporary," which they clarify as referring to "the middle generation," i.e., those who remember the period before perestroika and are still writing today. All but one-Gorenko (d1999)-were alive in 2005. At the same time they have wisely included a judicious selection of the most accomplished of the older generation (e.g., Akhmadulina, Gorbanevskaia), and an equally judicious representation of relatively young poets. A handful were born in the late 1970s, and the two youngest (Gatina, Marennikova) were born in 1981. The "representativity" of the volume is further enhanced by including poets living in emigration in the west, and dispersed not only across Russia, but in several of the former Soviet Republics. …