Maria Stepanova Readings

Maria Stepanova Readings

'Holy Winter 20/21 is a powerful book for today that re-uses tales from Ovid, Pushkin, Mandelstam, Baron Munchausen, Dante and Homer’s The Odyssey to construct a quirky edifice that resounds to themes of exile, absolutism, conflict and mortality; and above all, perhaps, the endurance of the human spirit in the face of all those terrifying things.' – Colin Pink, London Grip

Maria Stepanova is one of Russia’s most innovative and exciting poets and thinkers. Her book-length poem Holy Winter 20/21 was published by Bloodaxe in the UK in March 2024, translated by poet and Russian specialist Sasha Dugdale. It was a Poetry Book Society Translation Choice for Spring 2024.

Maria Stepanova was founding editor of, an independent cultural website which engaged with the cultural, social and political reality of contemporary Russia until the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, when all dissenting media in Russia were forced to shut down. As a prominent critic of Putin’s regime, Stepanova had to leave Russia and is now living in exile. has been compared to Huffington Post in its status and importance. 

Her prize-winning meta-memoir In Memory of Memory (Fitzcarraldo Editions) was published in February 2021, followed by her first full English-language collection War of the Beasts and the Animals, a Poetry Book Society Translation Choice, in March 2021.  Both books were translated by Sasha Dugdale, and were both shortlisted for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2021. In Memory of Memory was shortlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize and longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2021. A third book by Stepanova, The Voice Over: Poems and Essays, edited by Irina Shevelenko, was published by Columbia University Press in the US in its Russian Library series in 2021.

Sasha Dugdale’s translation of Stepanova’s book-length poem Holy Winter 20/21 was first published by Bloodaxe in the United Kingdom and Ireland in March 2024. It will be published in the United States by New Directions on 13 August 2024 under the title Holy Winter

Three poems from Holy Winter are featured on the US website

'The moving, polyvocal latest from Stepanova (War of the Beasts and the Animals) is a book-length snowscape sequence that blends voices of fracture and love, evoking Ovid in exile and other historical touchstones, from Baron Munchausen to Hans Christian Andersen. Skillfully rendered by Dugdale, the air in these poems is infused with such dangers as “Airborne particles of frost ash/ Tiny cavalry officers” (noncoincidentally, the book was written during Covid-19 lockdowns). There is a feeling of arrest in these pages [...], but there’s equally a difficult hopefulness, the voices reaching for “that place where misfortune is not known,” however forlorn their searching. It adds up to a finely woven exercise in vocalization that always looks toward redemption, or at least respite, from its shocking precarity: “if time has a pocket then place me in it, gently.” A political undertow [...] adds to the collection’s depth. Bound together by a gently thoughtful steeliness, these poetic utterances are at once plaintive and resolute.' Publishers Weekly, on Holy Winter


An excellent review went online in London Grip on 21 May 2024. Read the full review here.

'In an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, Stepanova said: ‘In a mental theatre, a single person plays all the parts.’ And one very much feels, on reading this book, that one is entering Stepanova’s ‘mental theatre’; the experience is something like looking through a kaleidoscope because the arrangement of voices and narratives keeps shifting, switching and returning, so that it is both disorientating and thrilling.' – Colin Pink, London Grip, on Holy Winter 20/21





Tuesday 19 March 2024, 7pm

Launch reading by Jane Hirshfield (USA) and Maria Stepanova (Russia) with Sasha Dugdale

This free Bloodaxe launch event was streamed on YouTube Live and is now available on this YouTube page:

Jane Hirshfield, Maria Stepanova and translator Sasha Dugdale from their new books, and discussed them with each other and with host Neil Astley.  Maria read in Russian, with Sasha reading her English translations.  An international event of exceptional quality.




A profile of Maria Stepanova ran in The Guardian of 11 February 2021. Read the interview here.

A short extract from War of the Beasts and the Animals can be read in Modern Poetry in Translation here.

Links to interviews, poem features, reviews and major pieces on Maria Stepanova's poetry and prose are on Bloodaxe's news pages here.



BLOODAXE ONLINE LAUNCH EVENT - War of the Beasts and the Animals

Bloodaxe Books launch, Tuesday 23 March 2021, Maria Stepanova (with Sasha Dugdale) and Pia Tafdrup

International live streamed launch reading by Maria Stepanova and her translator Sasha Dugdale, along with Danish poet Pia Tafdrup, celebrating the publication of their new poetry collections. Maria joined the event from her home in Moscow, Pia from Copenhagen, and Sasha from Sussex. Hosted by Bloodaxe editor Neil Astley from his home in Northumberland.
Pia read two poems in Danish in each of her sets, with the rest of the poems in David McDuff's English translations.  Maria and Sasha took turns to read extracts from the long poem 'War of the Beasts and the Animals’ in Russian and English (from 14:40). The readings were followed by a wide-rangng and deeply thoughtful discussion, prompted by some very penetrating questions from the online audience.

[08 March 2024]

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