Many Americans read little from emerging foreign writers. The St. Petersburg Review, an excellent anecdote to this situation, offers translations of Russian writers into English, or English writers into Russian. The latter pieces are of particular interest me, since Russian is almost never found in American literary magazines. Any student of Russian should pick up a copy and check out the Russian translations of Maxine Kumin’s poems scattered throughout the journal – poems which haven’t yet appeared in Russia.
Arkadii Dragomoshcenko, a Russian author, writes “Memory Gardens” about his encounter with Robert Creeley at a Leningrad reading twenty years ago. Weaved within a description of their meeting is an analysis of Creeley’s work and reading, as well as descriptions of Soviet streets and cafes. Alexander Genis’s nonfictional piece “Grandmother” and Josip Novakovich’s short story “Resin” also paint portraits of an older Russian lifestyle.
Contemporary Russia is also definitely depicted here, specifically in Andrey Gritsman’s poem “St. Petersburg,” Yuli Gugolev’s poem “One soldier hadn’t seen his family,” and Maria Kamenetskaya’s “Ice,” a short story in which a girlfriend’s dare brings about the boyfriend’s epiphany: “When the ice began to tremble under his feet, Lev saw the future with clarity. A month, a year, five years. He saw the reasons for the ice, wet feet, the gawkers, watching Lev’s passage from the bridge.”
Many of these poems are politically charged. For example, Fanny Howe’s “Where Nihil Took Us” focuses on a question which arises from 20th century events (“What good is God to them crying out for help?”), Mary F. Morris’s “Love in the Time of Insurgency” describes lovers’ situations in Bagdad, and Gebeba Baderoon’s “The Port Cities” or Terese Svoboda’s “Africa, Next” gives the reader glimpses into Africa. These poems force the reader to remember the past and challenge how she will live in the present.
This sophomore issue contains some African poetry and prose as well as Russian and American. I applaud the St. Petersburg Review for its focus on well-written international writing, and I encourage readers and writers to discover the international literary community within its pages.