Such is the elegant simplicity—a whole poem in ten words, vibrating with image and emotion—of the best-selling Russian poet Vera Pavlova. The one hundred poems in this book, her first full-length volume in English, all have the same salty immediacy, as if spoken by a woman who feels that, as the title poem concludes, “If there was nothing to regret, / there was nothing to desire.”
Pavlova’s economy and directness make her delightfully accessible to us in all of the widely ranging topics she covers here: love, both sexual and the love that reaches beyond sex; motherhood; the memories of childhood that continue to feed us; our lives as passionate souls abroad in the world and the fullness of experience that entails. Expertly translated by her husband, Steven Seymour, Pavlova’s poems are highly disciplined miniatures, exhorting us without hesitation: “Enough painkilling, heal. / Enough cajoling, command.”
It is a great pleasure to discover a new Russian poet—one who storms our hearts with pure talent and a seemingly effortless gift for shaping poems.
From the Hardcover edition.
Pieces by Soviet and American writers of the time are interspersed. The American contributors include Raymond Carver, Mary Gordon, Garrison Keillor, Adrienne Rich, John Updike, Alice Walker and Robert Penn Warren. Among the Soviet writers are Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Andrei Voznesensky, Bulat Okudzhava, Tatyana Tolstaya, Georgy Semyonov and Bella Akhmadulina.
It was the hope of everyone concerned with this anthology at the time of its original publication that its attempt to make new connections between two peoples through storytelling and poetry would capture the imagination of readers in America, the Soviet Union and the world.
Zina was born in Russia in 1900 and moved to Israel in 1920. Early on, she wrote her poetry in Russian, her mother tongue; later, after she had mastered the Hebrew language, she wrote her poems in Hebrew, the language of her adopted land. Through this translation of Zina’s poetry into English, poems from both groups are now accessible to western readers.
Seventy-eight of the poems in this book represent three separate collections of poems which Zina had printed as small books between 1929 and 1944 for distribution to family and friends. The poems have been left in their sequence as organized by Zina herself within each of the collections. Also included in this book is a poem Zina wrote after losing her son in war in 1948.
In addition to Zina’s poetry, readers will find a large collection of family photographs assembled by the editor, Zina’s daughter, Judith Weinshall Liberman, and the editor’s comments about each photograph, both captivating and enlightening.
The editor’s preface to the book, as well as her essays about the life and writings of Zina Weinshall, round out the picture, and help the reader gain insight into a unique poet.