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Dark Elderberry Branch


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About the Author

Marina Tsvetaeva was born in Moscow in 1892 and died in 1941. Her poetry stands among the greatest works of twentieth century Russian writers.

Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union in 1977, and arrived in the United States in 1993, when his family was granted asylum by the American government. He is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004) which won the Whiting Writer's Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Metcalf Award, the Dorset Prize, the Ruth Lilly Fellowship given annually by Poetry magazine. In 2008, Kaminsky was awarded the Lannan Foundation's Literary Fellowship, and in 2009, poems from his manuscript, Deaf Republic, were awarded Poetry magazine's Levinson Prize. Currently, Kaminsky teaches Contemporary World Poetry, Creative Writing, and Literary Translation in the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing at San Diego State University. Jean Valentine won the Yale Younger Poets Award for her first book, Dream Barker, in 1965. Her eleventh book of poetry is Break the Glass, from Copper Canyon Press. Her previous collection, Little Boat was published by Wesleyan in 2007. Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems 1965-2003 was the winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry. The recipient of the 2009 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, Valentine has taught at Sarah Lawrence, New York University, and Columbia. She was the New York State Poet Laureate from 2008 until 2010.


"...with tenderness and emotional integrity [Valentine and Kaminsky] created a Tsvetaeva-centric world in gorgeous poems and fragments of prose." --The Rumpus

...a master class in poetics...[bringing] layer after layer of meaning, context, and skill to life.... Tsvetaeva would approve of this re-vision of her work. --The California Journal of Poetics "Of the legendary four great Russian poets of her generation (others were Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Pasternak) at the beginning of the twentieth century, Marina Tsvetaeva has always seemed to me the most mysterious. Of course they were all mysterious-what great poet, indeed what individual person is not? -- but I have turned from reading translations (I read no Russian) of her poems and writings, and from writings about her and her tormented story -- and from reading them gratefully with a feeling that, vivid and searing though they may have been, she had been in them like a ghost in a cloud, and was gone again. This new selection from her poems and prose, a 'homage' to her by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine, brought me a closer and more intrimate sense of her and her voice and presence than I had before...this Dark Elderberry Branch is magic." --W.S. Merwin This 'homage' to Tsvetaeva captures moments, lines, and fragments the way a talented artist captures an individual with a few well-placed strokes of charcoal. As artists understand, a faithful rendering is not always the best way to capture an individual, a scene, or an idea. It is not completeness or precision that are most important, but instead, intuition, empathy, and artfulness. And in this sense Dark Elderberry Branch succeeds brilliantly. --Gwarlingo "As Brodsky once wrote of Tsvetaeva, '[her] voice had the sound of something unfamiliar and frightening to the Russian ear: the unacceptability of the world.' Ilya Kaminsky's and Jean Valentine's homage is a work of true translatus, carrying-across that voice, that sound, 'by hand--across the river, ' into an English of commensurate intensity, ferocity, and beauty. is magnificent: absolutely essential reading for anyone who loves Tsvetaeva." --Suji Kwock Kim "For a non-Russian reader, Tsvetaeva's poetry has always been a house with neither doors nor windows. This is the first time when the translators do not claim to inhabit this house, but choose to stand outside--most importantly outside of themselves, as when in ecstasy, in love with Tsvetaeva's genius. With these brilliantly introduced and delivered poems, Kaminsky and Valentine offer no less than the first real welcome of Marina Tsvetaeva into English. To turn to Tsvetaeva's own words (I can eat--with dirty hands, sleep--with dirty hands, write with dirty hands I cannot), these two American poets wrote this Russian book with sparkling clean hands." --Valzhyna Mort "The magnitude of love, exile, loss, desperation and faith is met with a fortitude most of us will never have to muster; a vulnerability most would never expose. We can thank the stoeln paper, quills, red ink; the bells of Moscow, piles of bills an bread from a stranger for a glimpse into the lines and life of Marina Tsvetaeva in a tender 'reading' by poets Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine, a collaboration exquisitely suited to deliver these earthly traces." --C.D. Wright "The poems Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine have chosen to translate, by Marina Tsvetaeva, are blessings of experience, blessings even of suffering, though also of simpler causes of joy, someone's body, a ray of light, a book. Kaminsky says he and Jean Valentine have very different temperaments from hers, but they show here what they show, differently, in their own poetry, that they are themselves, each of them, so very good at blessing experience, finding its indomitable life. This is radiant work. They chose the right poet to fall in love with, and her poems responded."
--David Ferry

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