On editing a new anthology of Russian Poetry - review by Robert Chandler

Robert Chandler

More than Mandelstam

On editing a new anthology of Russian Poetry


English-speakers tend to assume that Russian literature is primarily a matter of long and very serious novels, but Russians themselves think otherwise. In a previous anthology for Penguin Classics I set out to show that Russian short stories are at least as lively, witty and thought-provoking as the Russian novel. In a new anthology, The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (Penguin Classics), I and my co-editors have tried to do something similar for poetry. If Russian poetry is less widely known than Russian prose, this is simply because, for the main part, it is harder to translate. But the number of good translations is increasing (recent examples include the late Stanley Mitchell’s outstanding Eugene Onegin, Angela Livingstone’s translations of Marina Tsvetaeva and Peter Daniels’s translations of Vladislav Khodasevich) and this is a good time to be compiling an anthology.

The two most important decisions I took were to invite two Russian-American poets, Irina Mashinski and Boris Dralyuk, to be co-editors. Both are poets in their own right. Boris was only eight when he emigrated to the United States in 1991; unlike either Irina or myself, he is truly bilingual.

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