cover image THE DIARIES OF MARYA ZATURENSKA, 1938–1944


Marya Zaturenska, , intro. by Patrick Gregory. . Syracuse Univ., $29.95 (259pp) ISBN 978-0-8156-0714-4

Russian-born Zaturenska (1902–1982), though a Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, may not be well known to many contemporary readers, but these diary entries, selected by the editor of the Syracuse University Library Associates Courier, will introduce the innermost thoughts of a bright, prickly, melancholic figure. An immigrant to New York's Lower East Side at age seven, Zaturenska sought, in her son Patrick's words, "to flee the suffocating confines of her environment" through a "passionate love affair with the English language"; eventually, she won a scholarship to college and began publishing her poetry. She married the poet Horace Gregory a few weeks after meeting him. At their Riverside Drive apartment, they were at the center of New York's wartime literary scene, socializing with the likes of Muriel Rukeyser, Klaus Mann and Jim Farrell. In these utterly candid journals ("never prepared by her for publication"), Zaturenska displays a surprising self-reproach for her own social awkwardness ("I always feel I've said too much") and for what she sees as lack of poetic productivity, despite her considerable success. While Zaturenska's reactions to the war are illuminating, it is her deep anxieties about life in general that contemporary readers will find familiar. It is hard to believe Gregory's introductory claim that "the diaries do not... offer the reader a true portrait" of his mother—especially regarding her "melancholy" and "dejection"—given the constant, often oddly graceful, references to illness and sadness. These selections are from more than 800 pages written during the six-year period considered to be the time of Zaturenska's greatest maturity, and offer important and illuminating primary material for literary historians. Photos. (Dec.)