A gripping lyric examination of exile, Anzhelina Polonskaya’s Take Me to Stavanger devastates in its imagistic exactitude. In a world riven by war, no matter which country is ‘yours,’ Polonskaya writes, ‘You’re guilty wherever you go.’ Yet, somehow—within her spare, razor-sharp glimpses of joy and beauty—‘we lived as we could.’ Polonskaya’s poetry speaks across borders despite the risks of doing so; translator Andrew Wachtel brings it, in its full power and sight, to English readers.
Amid the din of Russia’s patriotic sentiments and Instagram instants, is there any room left for the voice of a poet? Despite the many entertainments and distractions of modern life, Anzhelina Polonskaya’s spare but cutting poems in Take Me to Stavanger declare a wholehearted “Yes.” This bilingual Russian-English volume makes a refuge for the poet and her readers, plumbing the depths of contemporary melancholy and ennui. Beautifully crafted idiosyncratic dissections of a strong individual who refuses to go along with the currents of popular culture or political jingoism invite readers to slow down and pay attention.
Anglophone readers who have wondered where they might find a contemporary inheritor of the tragic and visionary poetry left us by Tsvetaeva, Ahkmatova, and Mandelstam need look no further. It’s burning bright in these musical, sharp, and expert translations by Andrew Wachtel, who here serves again as Polonskaya’s ferryman from Russian into English. These poems go for broke and break the sound barrier between languages and cultures. They lament, they leap, they keep pushing beyond, looking for common ground. Everywhere we turn in them, we find life as it coldly stares through death. As much as we ever have, and more so now, we need to hear from the voice of conscience in Russia. In your hands is living testimony.
Anzhelina Polonskaya is a Russian writer and artist from Malakhovka, a small town near Moscow. She is the author of A Voice, To the Ashes, and Paul Klee’s Boat, all of which were translated into English by Andrew Wachtel. Her poetry has also been translated into German, Dutch, Slovenian, Latvian, and Spanish.