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Maria Stepanova

The Guardian

Poem of the week: from War of the Beasts and the Animals by Maria Stepanova

Maria Stepanova is a Russian-Jewish writer, whose first full-length poetry collection in English, War of the Beasts and the Animals, is translated by Sasha Dugdale. It includes fragmented, interrogative sequences on themes of war, memory and reconciliation. The two sections chosen as this week’s poem are from the sequence that gives the collection its title. This work responds to the Russian revolution and the civil war, glances back at the medieval Lay of Igor’s Campaign, takes in the Great Patriotic War against the Nazis and is painfully energised by a more recent and, for Stepanova, personally resonant conflict, that of Russia and Ukraine.
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The Guardian

War of the Beasts and the Animals, and In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova – review

Translated poetry seldom finds its way into this column. It is too high risk: there is the probability the original voice will seem muffled or will not travel. But an exception has to be made for Maria Stepanova, born in Moscow and a leading voice in post-Soviet culture: poet, journalist, publisher and force for press freedom (founding editor of Colta.ru, an online independent site) who has been showered with prizes in Russia but has not, until now, been much known here. She is translated by Sasha Dugdale, a poet herself, whose imaginative instincts serve her tirelessly. Having said this, a sense that we might be playing Russian whispers (I don’t speak the language) cannot be altogether avoided if only because, as Dugdale explains in her introduction, there is much in Stepanova’s challenging writing that does not translate at all. And yet it has been Dugdale’s remarkable project to give Stepanova a parallel life by dextrously furnishing her modernist poems with English examples.
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'Love’s labours should be lost': Maria Stepanova, Russia's next great writer

Stepanova was born in 1972 and raised in Moscow. “I am a Muscovite,” she says “and have been living here for all my life, with short detours to different places.” These include a year-long teaching position at Humboldt University in Berlin, as well as time as a visiting fellow at Selwyn College, Cambridge, just before the pandemic. Her pet corgi has enjoyed the lockdown, she says – but for her, the present circumstances hark back to her Soviet past, when travel freedoms were largely restricted: “I know how privileged I am to bother myself with such petty grievances, but still I’m pushed back to 1984, when seeing London was an impossibility.” From her dacha, she is working on a new book and continuing her work as founder of colta.ru, Russia’s only independent and crowdfunded cultural magazine, sitting somewhere between the Huffington Post and New York Review of Books.
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