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This review is taken from PN Review 20, Volume 7 Number 6, July - August 1981.

DOING JUSTICE Three Russian Poets: Margarita Aliger, Yunna Morits, Bella Akhmadulina, translated by Elaine Feinstein (Carcanet) £2.80
Paul Verlaine, Femmes/Hombres, translated by Alistair Elliot (Anvil) £5.95

No other country can rival Russia in the range and quality of its poetesses. The great women poets in other languages - Louise Labé, Gabriela Mistral, Ingeborg Bachmann, Elizabeth Bishop - seem like isolated phenomena, whereas Russia can point in its comparatively short existence as a world literature to two poetesses of the highest eminence, Marina Tsvetaeva and Anna Akhmatova, to practitioners of quality like Natalya Gorbanevskaya and Olga Berggolts, and to the three poets recently brought together in a single volume by Elaine Feinstein: Margarita Aliger, Yunna Morits and Bella Akhmadulina.

The volume is to be welcomed, but not without reservations. Aliger and Morits (as I should prefer to transliterate), the least familiar of the trio, are each represented by only ten poems, slightly less than half those translated from Akhmadulina. It is difficult to see either of them making much headway, whatever their intrinsic merits, against a poet who has already been granted a volume to herself (Fever and other new poems), translated by Geoffrey Dutton and Igor Mezhakoff-Koriakin, Morrow, 1969; over half of Feinstein's selection are also to be found here), and who, without yet rivalling his fame, is already familiar to the cognoscenti as a much finer poet than Yevtushenko, to whom she was once married. The effect is to make it seem as if Aliger and Morits have mainly their sex to recommend them for inclusion, irrespective of their evident excellence and the manifest differences between them in style and temperament. It ...

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