Larissa Shmailo wrote me a while back to tell me about the new anthology she edited, Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry; I’ve been remiss in letting so much time go by before passing the information on, but what can I say? I’m just a feckless kinda guy. At any rate, she says in her Preface:

This anthology celebrates the Russian translator along with the Russian poet. All the work herein is translated from the Russian originals, with a few exceptions for “English-as-a-Second-Language” poems from noted bilinguals Philip Nikolayev (who provided many of the translations in this volume), Katia Kapovich, Irina Mashinski, and Andrey Gritsman (who also provided translations); there is also one English-language poem from Alexandr Skidan. Except where noted, all of this work is seen in English for the first time.
In the interests of accuracy and inclusion of as many poets as possible, I have decided not to provide the Russian text of the poems. This omission will be rectified in a future and expanded print version of this anthology. I have included the Russian for the “hostile” translation of Igor Belov by Eugene Ostashevsky, since the original is needed to “get it.” (Ask a friendly Russian-we are most of us quite friendly- to let you in on the inside joke.)

She thanks some of my favorite people (Boris Dralyuk, Alexander Cigale, Irina Mashinski, and others), and I thank her for putting it together and alerting me to it; other anthologies of recent Russian poetry can be found at Zephyr Press.


  1. Okay, friendly russophone Hattics, what’s the joke? (Asking this question seems to be my new role on this blog.)

  2. Jeffry House says

    I’d like to hear about the joke, too.
    I must say, though, that the idea of hostile translation carries a bit of merriment, in and of itself!
    Imagine the midnight call, to the poet, demanding ransom, or else; a life’s work or magnum opus, mangled in many languages.
    Undoing the damage to reputation caused (and here I quote, in translation, the poet himself) “would be like disentangling the ingredients of a fruit smoothie.”

  3. Of course it’s a part-condsecending, part-cynical reinterpretation of the poetry of youth, love, and death but I don’t get a clear image of a joke. All too fuzzy to my eye, one poem, another poem which tends to follow the landscape of the first one quite closely, with only a few exceptions. Any important clues I missed? What on Earth Paris is doing in the last stanza, and those potato chips too?

  4. Much as we would like to be able to, Zephyr Press can not take any credit for the anthology “Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry.” We can take credit for several other books of twenty-first century Russian poetry, which we encourage those who like the anthology to seek out at

  5. Woops, sorry—I’ll change the wording.

  6. > In the interests of accuracy and inclusion of as many poets as possible, I have decided not to provide the Russian text of the poems.
    I see how that would serve the interest of “inclusion of as many poets as possible”, but how does it serve the interest of “accuracy”?

  7. Larissa wrote to say:

    BTW, the Belov joke: his poem is in complete, not particularly “experimental” sentences. For example, the verse below:

    От сквера, где одни скульптуры,
    до всяких окружных дорог
    за мной присматривает хмуро
    из гипса вылепленный бог
    is more or less given by
    From the square, where there are sculptures,
    to all the surroundings roads,
    a god made of plaster
    is following me with a frown.
    The humor is in Ostashevky’s bulleted “hostile” rendering.

    So there you have it. It doesn’t seem to be an actual joke.

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