This Lamentable City

Polina Barskova, Author, Ilya Kaminsky, Editor, Ilya Kaminsky, Translator , edited and trans. from the Russian by Ilya Kaminsky. Tupelo $11.95 (48p) ISBN 978-1-932195-83-5

Barskova is a poet whose voice is at once so intimate and taunting, it can be almost impossible to resist her. “Are you still frightened,” begins the book's first poem, “my clueless devochka?” It is this closeness, as though her lines are whispered in your ear, that allows Barskova to turn away from us with such terrific effect in her poems. “Now you will forget what you desired,” she writes, “Now,/ Who you were.” Though only 10 poems appear in this collection, Barskova demonstrates an extraordinary amount of vocal variation, as in “When someone dies...,” in which Barskova is clear and unforgiving in her instructions on how to handle a dead man: “Right now you should lick him.” In deceptively simple English, Kaminsky's translation (with Matthew Zapruder) allows Barskova's brusque, plainspoken Russian to shine through. The few muddled moments in the translation arise out of an attempt to be both simple and abstract with the English (the single line, “Left to the right directly straight-ahead,” for instance). Nevertheless, Barskova's is a voice of stunning originality and eroticism. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/19/2010
Release date: 03/01/2010
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