From Pushkin to Pussy Riot Editor’s Preface

From Pushkin to Pussy Riot—Russian Political Poetry and Prose, a special issue of Matter guest-edited by Larissa Shmailo and Philip Nikolayev

Preface
Russia, the American mirror — serfs and slaves, manifest destiny, nationalism, strongmen at the helm, revolution and New Deals denied. LGBT outlawed, oligarchs in charge, racisms, religiosities, and misogynies enthroned.

From Pushkin to Pussy Riot, how do we engage Russia and her dead Kareninas, her poetry, her dissent? How does Russia affect us? What is her history and politics, the literature of her culture wars?

Here we address these questions and collude with you with our poetry and prose in translation. As with all oppressed and repressed writers, we write in myth, parable, and slant. And sometimes, we scream, run at tanks, get arrested and do hard time, just for reciting a poem. (This way to the polonium cocktails, ladies and gentlemen!)

Learn from us, American cousins; better yet, join us as we sing from our materialist-consumer-authoritarian lives as we have always sung, to fight and win. We are on the same side, are your brethren with strangely accented polysyllabic names, cry, drink, die the same.

Here are over 30 poets, essayists, and prose writers for your delectation, expanding the word politics to the size of our polis. Let this be a beginning of a new dialogue, a new dialectic and true collusion.

Larissa Shmailo

A special thanks to the collaborative translators and poets of YOUR LANGUAGE MY EAR http://web.sas.upenn.edu/yourlanguagemyear/and the estates of Olga Chugai and Dennis Novikov for their contributions to this issue.

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Larissa Shmailo‘s new novel is Sly Bang (2018); her first novel is Patient Women (2015, semifinalist, Subito Press/University of Boulder Prose Competition). Her poetry collections are Medusa’s Country (2016), #specialcharacters (2014), In Paran (2009), the chapbook A Cure for Suicide (2006), and the e-book Fib Sequence (2011). Her poetry albums are The No-Net World and Exorcism, for which she won the New Century Best Spoken Word Album award; tracks are available from iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and other digital distributors. Shmailo’s work has appeared in over 25 anthologies, including Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters (Penguin Random House), Words for the Wedding (Penguin), and Contemporary Russian Poetry (Dalkey). Shmailo is the original English-language translator of the first Futurist opera Victory over the Sun by Alexei Kruchenych, performed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Garage Museum of Moscow, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and theaters and universities worldwide. Shmailo also edited the anthology Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry (Big Bridge Press) and has been a translator on the Russian Bible for the Eugene A. Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship of the American Bible Society.

Philip Nikolayev is a Russo-American bilingual poet living in Boston. He is a polyglot and translates poetry from several languages. His poetic works are published in literary periodicals internationally, including Poetry, The Paris Review, and Grand Street. Nikolayev’s collections include Monkey Time (Verse/Wave Books) and Letters from Aldenderry (Salt). He co-edits Fulcrum, a serial anthology of poetry and critical writing.

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