The Atlanta Review’s spotlight on Russian poetry reveals work that otherwise may be forbidden to an audience in its own country, where journalists cannot criticize their authority, the internet is censored, and many facets of daily life are controlled by the federal government. It’s because of these limitations on Russian citizens that it can be increasingly difficult to find common ground with someone whose government is currently breaking all sorts of international laws—but their poetry and art remind us that you can’t judge an entire country by its authoritarian leadership.
Poets like Mikhail Eremin express this difference in perception in “The beetle”:
Hiring freeze, takeover, foretaste of profits—Criticism of other interests of the Russian government, such as alliances with other countries known for oppressive leadership, also surfaced in a number of poems in this issue. One such poem is Pavel Goldin’s untitled piece “They used to kill,” where he lists historic religious figures targeted and killed by Iran, and notes:
Half-game half-lesson for the benefit of the populace.
Offset and futures, spot and forward—
Half-game half-accounting as they say,
The capital was put to work.
In other words, Iran did moreAfter the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian poetry steadily began to emulate American and European poetry, revealing individuals questioning their place in an increasingly modernized and globalized world, seeking inner truths, addressing social issues, and attempting to understand love and loss. Although reflection of the state of the current Russian government still continues to be a topic drawn upon by many poets, other themes have emerged from the increasingly modern nation. Atlanta Review tries to expose the entirety of the picture to us and wholeheartedly succeeds in giving readers a taste of what it’s like to be Russian living in the 21st century.
for the nonproliferation of world religions
than all of the United States put together
for the nonproliferation of nuclear arms.
Other notable poems in this issue include Timur Kibirov’s “The Ethnic Question,” holding all people accountable for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, expressed in such a way meant to be unifying through the theory of non-religious universalism rather than dividing by differing religious histories. Marianna Geide’s untitled piece offers an insightful look into the human body and its existence, relating the act of creation to an industrial assembly line, but ends on a natural note, pulling us back into the earth. Vladimir Gandelsman’s “The Historian” scrutinizes the act of chronicling history on tragic days such as 9/11 with lines like:
Amidst the dying nations,It’s important to consider the work of the translators involved in the publication process as well. Translators give us access to things that are otherwise unavailable without a deep understanding of another language. Taking a piece of work and transforming it from one language into another is far more difficult than merely matching words with words—especially in poetry and literature, a certain mood must be translated along with the letters on the page—something utterly intangible and without articulation.
amidst the cities which the wars have craved,
you are a midwife at childbirth.
Atlanta Review: Russia provides insightful thought and emotion on 21st century Russia during a time when the international spotlight has once more returned to the old country. Whether or not you like history or politics, this Review’s edition will certainly be a good read, with something that could speak to everyone’s tastes.