Item description for Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg (New Odyssey) (New Odyssey) by Carol V. Davis...
Carol V. Davis is the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants from Russia. Her fascination with Russia, aided by a Fulbright grant, drew her to St. Petersburg in the mid 1990s. Over the next decade, she divided her time between the U.S. and Russia, where, as an American-born Jew, she was an outsider in Russian society. This collection of poems expresses the struggle with language barriers and cultural differences--struggles heightened as Davis helped her children adjust to their new daily life. Inspired by Russia's rich history, its economic changes, and landscape, these poems express a unique perspective of Russia.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.7" Width: 6.2" Height: 0.2" Weight: 0.2 lbs.
Release Date Aug 1, 2007
Publisher Truman State University Press
ISBN 1931112711 ISBN13 9781931112710
Reviews - What do customers think about Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg (New Odyssey) (New Odyssey)?
Song of Russia Feb 2, 2008
A young artist I know was telling me about his mother, bragging really, well I would too, if my mother had won the 2007 T S Eliot Prize. Dave couldn't remember what celebrated figure had loaned his name to the award. "Might be the F. Scott Fitzgerald Prize," he offered, his mouth filled with pizza and enthusiasm. It didn't take long to work out that his mother was Carol V. Davis and within a few days I had the book in my hands. Hands which are now forever Russian, thanks to Ms. Davis' unique alchemy and magical gifts.
I take it that Davis' own family heritage intrigued her enough to seek out employment in Russia, which can't have been easy! Her grandparents on one side hailed from St. Petersburg, and to that legendary city she finagled her entire family, three kids included, while she taught Jewish literature and also contemporary American literature and underwent the experiences she writes about in her book, INTO THE ARMS OF PUSHKIN. She starts with simple culture clash, sights, sounds and smells she never had in Los Angeles. Her kids had never even seen snow. A second theme grows out of the first, the way language mirrors and in fact precipitates the clash of nations. Language has its own economy, she discovers, and just as her children, "set adrift in the unknown," depend on her to buy food for the next day's meals, she finds herself--in a moving passage--laying out the words she will need for tomorrow, "laying them on the desk chair with the folded clothes."
Her aim, she insists, is "I want you to know what it is/ to live without language." She is a pilgrim of poetry, inventing herself and reinventing the long history of her grandmother, Anna, and Anna's foremothers before her, whom she may trace all the way back to original ancestors "at the time of Moses." Everything looks different there, even the colors and the lights. It is the season for hoarding. For the poet and her little dependents, "home" is now an equivocal place and she forgets the word for it in any language. In such a climate, deprived of so much of what passes for knowledge in America, other senses become bewilderingly vivid and life affirming. The pungency of pickles for example. Pickles are everywhere. Just as I was turning a page thinking to myself, "She's got pickles in every poem," I was taken aback by the title of a poem on the far side of the page, "Jars of Pickles, Jars of Beets."
At first I couldn't understand this emphasis on pickles. Then it came to me that they are the talisman of the book, almost an ark of the covenant, in the way the fermenting traps their flavors and keeps their central mystery alive for the future. In similar ways Davis brings out to tell again the famous story of Igor Stravinsky's return to Russia in the early 60s, and she manages to enter the old composer's head and to reveal his simultaneous pleasure, recognition, and alienation from the St. Petersburg he had left, his life in music a mirror of the life he had escaped: "Musical sequence turning Stravinsky/ away from nationalism at home," his compositional practices "deleting" whole sections of the orchestra previously believed sacrosanct," but at the end of his life modernism gives way and the "old/ Russian tone creeps back."
Davis has a way with the brief lyric, and her images are striking when she needs them to be. From her grocery bag, as she walks back to her flat, the "syllables leak from the plastic bag/ staining the sidewalk." But perhaps her most impressive effects come with her longer, eighty or 100 line poems, in which the accumulation of detail leads to one staggering shrug of rhythm after another, a continual ringing of the changes that has a somewhat symphonic effect.
Poetry That Deserves To Be Read Aug 7, 2007
I was transported! Not an American in Paris (familiar as Gershwin's clarinet) but to St. Petersburg - an exotic, strange land - carried by the poetry of Carol Davis as she struggles with the Russian language, loneliness, longing, living there with three children for extended periods as a Fulbright scholar. Her images, her imagination, her vivid words - "the deafening snow," "Encircled in the pencil thin canals" - put me there and as she finds solace in Russian music, local birds, identification with the perservering lives and an appreciation for the slow-won loyalties, I felt rewarded by this accomplished work. I can understand why it was given the T.S.Eliot award...well deserved!