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Head On A Gleaming Plate by Marina Tsvetaeva, trans. Christopher Whyte

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The poems in this volume were composed between August 1917 and November 1918, and thus they span the most turbulent period of the 20th century in Russia, as the nascent republic was overthrown by the Bolsheviks, and the country descended into civil war. This collection concentrates only on the lyric poems that Tsvetaeva wrote at this time, and their importance should not be underestimated. Each offers a modest, unassuming gateway to the immense world of her imagination and her travailed, eternally questioned and endangered humanity, including those with a missing word or phrase she did not find the time, to locate and craft amidst the overwhelming flow of inspiration. Like the events which formed their background, these poems raise ethical and human issues to which no simple answers can be found. And when Tsvetaeva announces, as the winter of 1918-1919 approaches, that ‘It befits heroes to be frozen’, she prompts us to consider the nature of her own, very personal heroism, at a stage when the very worst was still to come.

Shearsman Books



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