Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation
Elena Shvarts was the most outstanding Russian poet of her generation. Birdsong on the Seabed presents a selection of her later poetry.
Shvarts brought out four new collections in Russian after the publication by Bloodaxe in 1993 of 'Paradise': Selected Poems, the first English edition of her poetry and also a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation. This second bilingual Russian-English selection of her work also includes some poems unpublished in Russia at the time. Sasha Dugdale's translation of Birdsong on the Seabed was shortlisted for both the Rossica Translation Prize and the Corneliu M. Popescu Award for European Poetry in Translation.
Elena Shvarts stood outside all schools and movements in contemporary Russian poetry. She once famously described poetry as a 'dance without legs'. Her own poetry fits this description perfectly, a combination of deeply rhythmic and lyrical dance with the eccentric, perpetual movement of flight.
The world of her poems is strange and grotesque; often the setting is urban, but unrecognisable - towns emptied of the everyday and peopled only by animals, spirits and strange elemental forces. A peculiar religious fervour illuminates these scenes, but her religion is unorthodox and highly individual.
Shvarts’ poetry is visionary. Her vision takes her to the edge of language and rhythm, and she was one of the few contemporary poets brave enough to trust her vision absolutely.
'Elena Shvarts is a miracle, believe me. Her poetry is the purest of creations' – Bella Akhmadulina.
'An explosive book by a dark, free, northern spirit... Bulgakov and Tsvetayeva (and Angela Carter) would feel at home in her violently imagined townscapes and landscapes' – Edwin Morgan, PBS Bulletin.
Currently unavailable: reprint under consideration.