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In the Soviet Union, as in the West, Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) is acknowledged to be one of the great Russian poets of the century, along with Mandelstam, Pasternak and Akhmatova. Overnight sensation and oft-times pariah, Tsvetaeva was a poet of extraordinary intensity whose work continues to be discovered by new readers. Yet, while she is considered to be one of the ma In the Soviet Union, as in the West, Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) is acknowledged to be one of the great Russian poets of the century, along with Mandelstam, Pasternak and Akhmatova. Overnight sensation and oft-times pariah, Tsvetaeva was a poet of extraordinary intensity whose work continues to be discovered by new readers. Yet, while she is considered to be one of the major influences on modern Soviet poetry, few know of her consummate gifts as a writer of prose. These select essays, most of which have never been available in translation before, display the dazzlingly original prose style and the powerful, dialogic voice of a poet who would like to make art's mystery accessible without diminishing it. The essays provide incomparable insight on poetry, the poetic process, and what it means to be a poet. The volume offers, among many fascinating topics, a celebration of the poetry of Pasternak and reflections on the lives and works of other Russian poets, such as Mandelstam, Mayakovsky, and Zhukovsky. Included in this richly diverse collection are the essays The Poet on the Critic, which earned Tsvetaeva the enmity of many, Art in the Light of Conscience, a spirited defense of poetry, and The Poet and Time, seen by many scholars as providing the key to understanding Tsvetaeva's work. The immense power and originality of Tsvetaeva's language, captured by Angela Livingstone's superb translation of the essays along with twelve of Tsvetaeva's poems on related themes, is testimony to why the Tsvetaev revival in the Soviet Union and interest in the West continue to gain momentum as the centenary of her birth approaches. The volume is made complete by the addition of an elegantintroduction by the translator, a chronology of Tsvetaeva's life, and an index of contemporary poets and writers mentioned in the essays.


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In the Soviet Union, as in the West, Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) is acknowledged to be one of the great Russian poets of the century, along with Mandelstam, Pasternak and Akhmatova. Overnight sensation and oft-times pariah, Tsvetaeva was a poet of extraordinary intensity whose work continues to be discovered by new readers. Yet, while she is considered to be one of the ma In the Soviet Union, as in the West, Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) is acknowledged to be one of the great Russian poets of the century, along with Mandelstam, Pasternak and Akhmatova. Overnight sensation and oft-times pariah, Tsvetaeva was a poet of extraordinary intensity whose work continues to be discovered by new readers. Yet, while she is considered to be one of the major influences on modern Soviet poetry, few know of her consummate gifts as a writer of prose. These select essays, most of which have never been available in translation before, display the dazzlingly original prose style and the powerful, dialogic voice of a poet who would like to make art's mystery accessible without diminishing it. The essays provide incomparable insight on poetry, the poetic process, and what it means to be a poet. The volume offers, among many fascinating topics, a celebration of the poetry of Pasternak and reflections on the lives and works of other Russian poets, such as Mandelstam, Mayakovsky, and Zhukovsky. Included in this richly diverse collection are the essays The Poet on the Critic, which earned Tsvetaeva the enmity of many, Art in the Light of Conscience, a spirited defense of poetry, and The Poet and Time, seen by many scholars as providing the key to understanding Tsvetaeva's work. The immense power and originality of Tsvetaeva's language, captured by Angela Livingstone's superb translation of the essays along with twelve of Tsvetaeva's poems on related themes, is testimony to why the Tsvetaev revival in the Soviet Union and interest in the West continue to gain momentum as the centenary of her birth approaches. The volume is made complete by the addition of an elegantintroduction by the translator, a chronology of Tsvetaeva's life, and an index of contemporary poets and writers mentioned in the essays.

30 review for Art in the Light of Conscience: Eight Essays on Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    This was the first non poetry book I'd read by Tsvetaeva, and her remarkable prose is evident to see. These richly diverse essays provided much insight into not only her poetry and the poetic process, but also her life, and the admiration for other Russian poets. It was a quite fascinating read, and I don't think I will get to read essays on poetry as unique, as moving, or as passionately written ever again. As a poet, Tsvetaeva wrote on male themes such as war and valor as well as on traditional This was the first non poetry book I'd read by Tsvetaeva, and her remarkable prose is evident to see. These richly diverse essays provided much insight into not only her poetry and the poetic process, but also her life, and the admiration for other Russian poets. It was a quite fascinating read, and I don't think I will get to read essays on poetry as unique, as moving, or as passionately written ever again. As a poet, Tsvetaeva wrote on male themes such as war and valor as well as on traditional female ones such as love, jealousy, and abandonment. Her voice throughout is unapologetically, and her poetic personae are the whole of female mythology, from peasant girl to the Tsar-Maiden, Joan of Arc to Phaedra. Her insistent, magnetic voice, her innovative modernist poetics were officially ignored in the Soviet Union for decades but nevertheless influenced several generations of Russian poets. She began writing in short lyric forms, then gradually moved on to greater depth and length with complexities in epic poems, before eventually arriving at prose. The move to prose was both natural and necessary, and a stroke of genius. She found her true voice, and it's a voice that never go away.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rodney

    Thanks to a wealth of publications since the ‘60s, there are lots of ways into Marina Tsvetaeva’s work via English. For my money though, few capture her force of mind and powerful wit as vividly as Angela Livingstone does in these essays, most written during Tsvetaeva’s prose-heavy émigré period in Paris in the ‘30s. Watching Tsvetaeva clarify for herself and her public where she’s been, what poetry means, and what value it has in the political roar through which she lived is fascinating, in par Thanks to a wealth of publications since the ‘60s, there are lots of ways into Marina Tsvetaeva’s work via English. For my money though, few capture her force of mind and powerful wit as vividly as Angela Livingstone does in these essays, most written during Tsvetaeva’s prose-heavy émigré period in Paris in the ‘30s. Watching Tsvetaeva clarify for herself and her public where she’s been, what poetry means, and what value it has in the political roar through which she lived is fascinating, in part for the uncompromising way she responds to her contemporaries, partly for the rigorous measure of the art she leaves for us. The circumstances that history forced upon Tsvetaeva and her cohort make our own hand-wringing about the efficacy of poetry look like a grade school play. I don’t mean that to put us down (well, maybe a little) so much as to elevate Tsvetaeva’s razor-sharp and intensely particular approach to poetics, which for her reaches beyond any syllabus or specialty to become a manual of how to stay human in a world with shrinking space for that.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Harper Curtis

    Thank you Bloodaxe Books. These are profound and passionate essays, written with a sense of urgency, coming from the heart of a poet.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vincent

    You magnificent wizard. I want to talk about her on a first name basis.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lady Mayfair

    (and I think silently: love is a bow-string pulled back to the point of breaking). This little snippet of a poem was the inspiration one of Marina Abramovic's earlier works: Rest Energy in 1980, an audacious piece of performance art that I can't get out of my mind. Excerpt from the book: "No one has the right to judge a poet who has not read every line that poet has written. Creation takes place gradually and successively. What I was in 1915 explains what I am in 1925. Chronology is the key to under (and I think silently: love is a bow-string pulled back to the point of breaking). This little snippet of a poem was the inspiration one of Marina Abramovic's earlier works: Rest Energy in 1980, an audacious piece of performance art that I can't get out of my mind. Excerpt from the book: "No one has the right to judge a poet who has not read every line that poet has written. Creation takes place gradually and successively. What I was in 1915 explains what I am in 1925. Chronology is the key to understanding. – Why are your poems so different from one another? – Because the years are different. The ignorant reader takes for a manner of writing something incomparably more simple and more complex: time. To expect identical poems from a poet in 1915 and 1925 is like expecting identical facial features in 1915 and 1925. ‘Why have you altered so much in ten years?’ Nobody asks this, the matter is so obvious. They won’t ask, they’ll just look, and after looking they themselves will say: ‘Time has passed.’ It’s exactly the same with poems. The parallel is so close I’ll continue it. Time, as we all know, does not make us prettier, unless in childhood. And no one who knew me at twenty will say to me now I’m thirty: ‘How much prettier you’ve become.’ At thirty I’ve become more defined, more significant, more original – more beautiful, perhaps. But not prettier. It is the same with poems as with features. Poems do not get prettier with time. The freshness, spontaneity, accessibility, beauté du diable, of poetry’s face give way to – features. ‘You used to write better’ – a remark I hear so often! – only means the reader prefers my beauté du diable to my essence. Prettiness – to beauty. Prettiness [krasivost’] is an external criterion, beauty [prekrasnost’] an internal one. A pretty woman – a beautiful woman; a pretty landscape – beautiful music. The difference is that a landscape may be beautiful as well as pretty (an intensification, elevation, of the external to the internal), while music can be beautiful but not pretty (an enervation, reduction, of the internal to the external). What’s more, the moment a phenomenon leaves the realm of the visible and the material, the word ‘pretty’ can no longer be applied to it. A pretty landscape by Leonardo, for example. One wouldn’t say this. ‘Pretty music’, ‘pretty poems’ – a measure of musical and poetic illiteracy. Bad common parlance." Note from this reader: Tsvetaeva’s liking for puns and homonyms is fundamental in these essays. The word for art, [iskusstvo], is related to words meaning temptation, [iskus] and [iskushenie]; and enticement and seduction occur throughout her writing – art is a seduction away from matters of conscience. But [iskus] also suggests artifice, as well as meaning a test, or even a novitiate, and the texts bring to surface these notions submerged in [iskusstvo]. The main point of the essays is that art is not ‘holy’ as people think, but is Power and Magic: ‘When shall we finally stop taking power for truth and magic for holiness?' Art is not virtuous, but elemental, coming upon the poet in a [naitie]: one computes this word as ‘visitation’, but it means a ‘coming upon’ – no personal being is implied.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Tsvetaeva's energy and passion are amazingly inspiring and contagious! It was such a joy to read these essays and spend a little time in her head. I was particularly impressed by "The Poet on the Critic", but all of the essays are worthwhile and insightful. Angela Livingstone's translation is smooth, coherent, and conveys Tsvetaeva's voice well. I'm grateful that she chose to translate these essays into English--this volume is a gift. Tsvetaeva's energy and passion are amazingly inspiring and contagious! It was such a joy to read these essays and spend a little time in her head. I was particularly impressed by "The Poet on the Critic", but all of the essays are worthwhile and insightful. Angela Livingstone's translation is smooth, coherent, and conveys Tsvetaeva's voice well. I'm grateful that she chose to translate these essays into English--this volume is a gift.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lysergius

    Tsvetaeva is primarily concerned with the nature of poetic creation and what it means to be a poet, and the essays contained in this slim volume are among the most exciting of all explorations of this theme.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Zhaslan

    A good introduction into what Cvetaeva was and thought about Ахматова, Маяковский, Пастернак, Гёте... * Any offering from the outside world is a blessing, for in that world I am nothing * Gladness afterwards, when it’s done * There’s only one teacher: your own labor, / Ans only one judge: the future. * De Vigny: après avoir réfléchi sur la destinée des femmes dans tout les temps et chez tous les nations, j’ai fini par penser que tout homme devrait dire á chaque femme, au lieu de Bonjour - Pardon A good introduction into what Cvetaeva was and thought about Ахматова, Маяковский, Пастернак, Гёте... * Any offering from the outside world is a blessing, for in that world I am nothing * Gladness afterwards, when it’s done * There’s only one teacher: your own labor, / Ans only one judge: the future. * De Vigny: après avoir réfléchi sur la destinée des femmes dans tout les temps et chez tous les nations, j’ai fini par penser que tout homme devrait dire á chaque femme, au lieu de Bonjour - Pardon * In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sylvie Paul

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Trinity

  11. 5 out of 5

    Daria Shakurova

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Smolinski

  13. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

  14. 4 out of 5

    Max Zur

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sérgio Alcides

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lejla Subašić

  17. 4 out of 5

    S

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tesni

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bob Cat

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ivana Galapceva

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cara

  22. 5 out of 5

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    Sarah

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Ervin

  25. 5 out of 5

    Maria Stadnicka

  26. 4 out of 5

    Liam

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tom

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bubaljilja

  29. 5 out of 5

    Koko

  30. 5 out of 5

    Romayne

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