Maria Stepanova in Little Star

This week we welcome Maria Stepanova to these shores by featuring her poem “Fish” from our forthcoming Little Star #5 (2014).

Stepanova is not only a great poet but she’s also the courageous founder of, Russia’s most respected independent magazine of ideas. Colta is using crowd-funding to maintain its autonomy and elude Putinian restrictions on a free press. Read here, for instance, about how Russia’s most visible writers and intellectuals, religious and lay people, have responded to Pussy Riot’s imprisonment.

Stepanova will be reading on Friday at Hunter College (5 pm, 68th & Lexington), on Monday at the Brooklyn Public Library, and the following Friday at the annual Slavic Studies conference in Boston.

from “Fish,” translated by Sasha Dugdale

In a tin bath, a tin bath she lay
We poured water in, and mixed in some salt
One man got drunk, another repaired the transmitter,
A fourth man wandered the shore in lament:
What would he tell his grandchildren, but I digress:
Speaks no English, has not expressed hunger,
Still one should do something—cook, or offer something raw.
This cannot be, it simply cannot be.

Eyes—hungry, wide-lipped, hair
Like wet hay, pale as ice and smelling of vodka;
If it turns on its side even slightly, a line
Of vertebrae knots the length of the back, like on yours.
Not a word of Russian, most likely Finno-Ugric
But sadly no experts were at hand
When the nets were cast in hope that morning
And the beast smiled and beat its tail in greeting.

Read more in Little Star Weekly this week or in the upcoming Little Star #5

For another taste of the Polar Explorer genre, consider Joseph Brodsky

Sasha Dugdale is a poet and a frequent translator from the Russian.  Her own most recent book of poems is Red House, published in 2011; her most recent translation is Birdsong on the Seabed, by Elena Shvarts. She is the editor of Modern Poetry in Translation.

Read Maria Stepanova:

Relocations: Three Contemporary Russian Women Poets: Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova, Maria Stepanova, translated by Catherine Ciepiela, Anna Khasin, and Sibelan Forrester

Maria Stepanova, Kireyevsky



Maria Stepanova, with poet Glyn Maxwell, at a gathering of the Joseph Brodsky Memorial Fellowship Fund, Chiostro della Madonna dell’Orto, Venice, June 2013. Stepanova was a Brodsky fellow in Rome in 2010. Read an essay she wrote in Rome on cemeteries and W. G. Sebald here (in Russian). Photograph Ekaterina Nechaeva



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