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Translated by Elaine Feinstein
RRP: GBP£ 9.95
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Price: GBP£ 8.96
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ISBN: 978 1 903039 37 3
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: October 1999
216 x 135 x 9 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Who sleeps at night? No one is sleeping.
In the cradle a child is screaming.
An old man sits over his death, and anyone
young enough talks to his love, breathes
into her lips, looks into her eyes.
When, more than a quarter of a century ago, Elaine Feinstein first published her translations of the poems of Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941), they broke new ground. She had developed mimetic forms to suggest the pace and movement of Tsvetaeva's complex structures, and the great Russian poet's passion and immediacy burst into a new kind of English verse.
Tsvetaeva is among the great European poets of the Twentieth Century. With Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak and Osip Mandelstam, she was, as Akhmatova wrote at the end of her life, one of 'the four of us': poets who kept their humanity and integrity through Russia's 'terrible years'. Even in her long and tragic exile, she never lost her roots in Russia or in the great tradition of Russian poetry. Her vibrant voice is fully alive in her time in part because it remains alive to her past, and to the cultures - especially French - in which she spent her exile.
Through Elaine Feinstein's versions, which, Charles Tomlinson said, 'reproduce that jagged, breathless self-wearing tone' of the poems, another generation of English-speaking writers and readers will discover her voice. Poets, particularly women, take courage from her obstinate determination to honour and obey the demands of what Pasternak called her 'golden, incomparable genius' against the dark current of her life. Elaine Feinstein adds to this selection new translations and an updated introduction.
'Marina Tsvetaeva was the first of the modern Russian poets whose greatness really came clear to me, thanks to these translations. Feinstein has performed the first, indispensable task of a great translator: she has captured a voice.' Alan Williamson, Threepenny Review
Praise for Marina Tsvetaeva 'Represented on a graph, Tsvetaeva's work would exhibit a curve - or rather, a straight line - rising at almost a right angle because of her constant effort to raise the pitch a note higher, an idea higher (or, more precisely, an octave and a faith higher.) She always carried everything she has to say to its conceivable and expressible end. In both her poetry and her prose, nothing remains hanging or leaves a feeling of ambivalence. Tsvetaeva is the unique case in which the paramount spiritual experience of an epoch (for us, the sense of ambivalence, of contradictoriness in the nature of human existence) served not as the object of expression but as its means, by which it was transformed into the material of art.'
- Joseph Brodsky. Praise for Elaine Feinstein 'Like numerous English readers, I owe my discovery of Tsvetaeva to the multi-talented poet and writer, Elaine Feinstein... Feinstein's translations prove that a poem can be re-born in its adoptive language.' - Carol Rumens 'Talking to the Dead is arguably Elaine Feinstein's best collection. Beautifully crafted, deeply felt, totally earned, these poems of love and bereavement, and more, will expand her readership well beyond the readers and writers of contemporary poetry who have long loved and treasured her exemplary contribution to the art.' Carol Ann Duffy 'Beautiful, generous, wonderfully intense poems ... Anyone who has ever felt comforted in grief by words, or who has lived through that tension between tenderness, longing and guilt, will recognize their precision and their truth.' Ruth Padel 'These are more than elegies, they are alchemy; the emotional force of the book is so strong that the dead come walking out of the pages.' Jo Shapcott 'The strangeness of visited cities, with their fearful histories, has been transmuted here by the responses of a truly gifted poet.' Dannie Abse 'Cities presents itself as the work of old age, but readers expecting regret or renunciation will be surprised by the affirmative character of this book. While Elaine Feinstein revisits Europe in the aftermath of Nazism, she also praises the good fortune of having lived richly in the sphere of literature and travelled widely among remarkable people. The poems here are lit with striking clarity - things retain their outline and solidity to an unusual degree.' Sean O'Brien 'Elaine Feinstein has made the juncture between poetry and memoir her own. As befits a poet who is also a master of fiction and biography, she writes with casual erudition and an acute storyteller's eye. Her forays into European culture and history are dazzling. Cities is a profoundly humane, intimate exploration of the places and stages by which a life acquires meaning.' Fiona Sampson 'For more than 40 years, Feinstein has been writing intensely lyrical, finely crafted poems. Those in [Talking to the Dead] are honest and moving, and are among her very best.' No. 1 in 'The Ten Best New poetry collections' - the Independent, 2007
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