Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Book Talk. Air Raid by Polina Barskova with Translator Valzhyna Mort
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Please join the Harriman Institute for a discussion with poet and scholar Polina Barskova about her new volume, Air Raid (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2021). She will be joined by translator Valzhyna Mort and moderator Mark Lipovetsky. This event is part of our Contemporary Culture Series.

The Siege of Leningrad began in 1941 and lasted 872 days, resulting in the most destructive blockade in history. Already shaken by Stalin’s purges of the ’30s, Leningrad withstood the siege at a great human cost. Air Raid takes us through the archives of memory and literature in this city of death. Polina Barskova’s polyphonic poems stretch the boundaries of poetic form—this is what we’re left with after poetry’s failure to save nations and people: post-death, post-Holocaust, post-Siege, post-revolution; post-marriage and post-literature. How does language react to such a catastrophe? How does a poet find language for what cannot be told? This new translation of a leading contemporary Russian poet confronts English excavating its muteness, stutter, and curse.


Speaker Biographies

Polina Barskova is a poet and a scholar, author of twelve collections of poems and two books of prose in Russian. Her collection of creative nonfiction, “Living Pictures,” received the Andrey Bely Prize in 2015 and is forthcoming in German with Suhrkamp Verlag and in English with NYRB. She edited the Leningrad Siege poetry anthology Written in the Dark (UDP) and has three collections of poetry published in English translation: This Lamentable City (Tupelo Press), The Zoo in Winter (Melville House) and Relocations (Zephyr Press). She has taught at Hampshire College, Amherst College, and Smith College. In 2021, she will be teaching Russian Literature at the University of California at Berkeley.


Valzhyna Mort was born in Minsk, Belarus. She is the author of Factory of TearsCollected Body (both from Copper Canyon Press), and Music for the Dead and Resurrected (FSG). She is the recipient of an NEA translation grant, fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the Amy Clampitt Fund from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the 2010 Bess Hokin Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the 2018 Gulf Coast Prize in Translation. She is the translator of Air Raid by Polina Barskova (UDP). She teaches at Cornell University and writes in English and Belarusian.



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