Literary roundup: Poets of our mad, transitory world

“To your mad world—one answer: I refuse.”

– from new translations by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine of Marina Tsvetaeva’s “Poems to Czechoslovakia.”

The latest issue of Poetry magazine features a number of selections of the work of Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva. I will soon be writing something about Tsvetaeva’s brief but impactful time living in Prague.

The opening stanza of Tsvetaeva’s poem  “Bound for Hell,” translated by Stephan Edgar:

“Hell, my ardent sisters, be assured,

Is where we’re bound; we’ll drink the pitch of hell—

We, who have sung the praises of the lord

With every fiber in us, every cell.”


Poet of the casinos

In what might be considered another refusal of our mad world (or the opposite of a refusal), Poetry magazine features an article by Jeffrey McDaniel on the Atlantic City casino existence of poet DJ Renegade. The portrait of this poet and gambler living in comped hotel rooms and carrying his few belongings from casino to casino is fascinating.

Leipzig Book Fair

The Leipzig Book Fair kicks off today and features a lot of Central and Eastern European writers and topics, with a focus on writers from Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. Among the Czech writers attending are Ivan Klíma, Pavel Brycz and Jaroslav Rudiš among others.




Found in translation

Another great poet and chronicler of the turbulent 20th century, Tadeusz Różewicz, will have his memoir Mother Departs published by the newly established Stork Press in 2013. While his poetry and plays can be found in English this will be the first work of Różewicz’s prose translated into English. Born in 1921 Różewicz is counted among the great poets of his generation such as Czesław Miłosz, Wisława Szymborska and Zbigniew Herbert.

Różewicz’s prose has been translated into German, though in this article on The Polish Book Institute’s site it is clear that it has suffered neglect there as well.

Stork Press is a London-based independent publisher specializing in Central and Eastern European writing. Their first title coming out in April will be a novel by Polish writer A.M. Bakalar written in English and titled Madame Mephisto. The publishers describe the debut novel as “a menacing, fast-paced, intense exploration of Polish immigration to the UK.”

Other translated titles coming out later this year include the novel Freshta by well-known Czech journalist Petra Procházková, Illegal Liaisons by Polish writer Grażyna Plebanek, and the debut novel of Hungarian writer Noémi Szécsi, The Finno-Ugrian Vampire. You can read an excerpt of Szécsi’s second novel The Communist Monte Cristo on Words Without Borders.

Photo – Marina Tsvetaeva by Max Voloshin, Koktebel, 1911

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