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This review is taken from PN Review 203, Volume 38 Number 3, January - February 2012.

BROKEN AND RE-MADE NATALYA GORBANEVSKAYA, Selected Poems, trans. by Daniel Weissbort (Carcanet) £12.95

In an address to the emigré dissident journal Kontinent given in 1983 and helpfully reproduced here, Natalya Gorbanevskaya considered the life of a poet in exile. 'Leaving Russia...we lose a lot... our connection with a circle of readers, though we find new ones here... We establish a new connection with previous readers, more elevated, based on the pure relationship of poem to reader.' This book maps the circuitous route of Gorbanevskaya's poetry, viewed through the prism of that relationship. Her early forays, written in the mid-1950s, demonstrate an indebtedness, in equal terms, to the poetic strategies of the Acmeist school - the artists of saying No - and to the spirit of Velimir Khlebnikov's textured experimentalism. Intimate as they are, these early poems display a mental toughness, a questing energy that propels them forward towards a committed engagement with the reader, an arrangement redolent of the style and manner of Polish poetry of the same decade. In Gorbanevskaya's case, however, minus the nod to a neo-classical prosody.

Selected poetries can help to abbreviate a poet's line, bring it into sharper relief. In the late 1960s Gorbanevskaya was arrested for protesting against human rights violations. She was subjected to psychiatric abuse by the Soviet authorities and forced into exile, settling ultimately in Paris. The poetry of those long years is remarkable. The dominant mood, understandably, is one of desiccation and disconnection, of a life interrupted and thrown into rootlessness and chaos. However, there are signs even here of ...


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