Launch reading by Jane Hirshfield & Maria Stepanova with Sasha Dugdale

Launch reading by Jane Hirshfield & Maria Stepanova with Sasha Dugdale

 

Do join Bloodaxe for this launch reading by Jane Hirshfield and Maria Stepanova, plus Maria's translator Sasha Dugdale, celebrating the publication of their new poetry books. They will be reading live and discussing their work with each other and with the host, Bloodaxe editor Neil Astley.

The event will also include readings of poems from the new Bloodaxe anthology Soul Feast, which is also published in March 2024 and which features four of Jane Hirshfield’s poems as well as Sasha Dugdale’s translation of a poem by Elena Shvarts.

This free Bloodaxe launch event will be streamed on YouTube Live. Watch live or later on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uV8-QP8bdxg

If you register to attend on TicketTailor by midday the day before the event you will receive reminders by email. Sign up for reminders here: https://buytickets.at/bloodaxebooks/1156294

To order copies of the poets’ books direct from Bloodaxe, please click on these links (available via the Bloodaxe website from early March). If you are in Ireland or elsewhere in the EU, you can pre-order via Books Upstairs in Dublin:

Jane Hirshfield: The Asking: New & Selected Poems

https://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/product/the-asking-1342

Maria Stepanova (trans. Sasha Dugdale): Holy Winter 20/21

https://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/product/holy-winter-20-21-1343

Neil Astley & Pamela Robertson-Pearce (eds.): Soul Feast: nourishing poems of hope & light

https://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/product/soul-feast-1341

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Jane Hirshfield: The Asking: New & Selected Poems

Poetry Book Society Recommendation

Jane Hirshfield is a visionary American writer whose poems ask nothing less than what it is to be human. Both sensual meditations and passionate investigations of our shared and borrowed lives, they reveal complex truths in language luminous and precise. In an era of algorithm, assertion and induced distraction, Jane Hirshfield’s poems bring a much-needed awakening response, actively countering narrowness.

The Asking includes work from her earlier retrospective, Each Happiness Ringed by Lions (2005), as well as drawing upon four later collections, After (2006), Come, Thief (2012), The Beauty (2015) and Ledger (2020), along with a selection of 31 new poems. The book takes its title from the close of one of those new poems: ‘don’t despair of this falling world, not yet / didn’t it give you the asking’.

Interrogating language and life, pondering beauty amid bewilderment and transcendence amid transience, Hirshfield offers a signature investigation of the conditions, contradictions, uncertainties and astonishments that shape our existence. A leading advocate for the biosphere and the alliance of science and imagination, she brings to both inner and outer quandaries an abiding compass: the choice to embrace what is, to face with courage, curiosity, and a sense of kinship whatever comes.

In poems that consider the smallest ant and the vastness of time, hunger and bounty, physics, war and love in myriad forms, this collection brings the insights and slant-lights that come to us only through poetry’s arc, delve and tact; through a vision both close and sweeping; through music-inflected thought and recombinant leap.

With its quietly magnifying brushwork and numinous clarities, The Asking expands our awareness of both breakage’s grief and the possibility for repair.

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Maria Stepanova (trans. Sasha Dugdale): Holy Winter 20/21

Poetry Book Society Translation Choice

The outbreak of Covid-19 cut short Maria Stepanova’s stay in Cambridge in 2020. Back in Russia, she spent the ensuing months in a state of torpor – the world had withdrawn from her, time had ‘gone numb’. When she awoke from this state, she began to read Ovid, and the shock of the pandemic dissolved into the voices and metaphors of an epochal experience.

Her book-length poem Holy Winter 20/21, written in a frenzy of poetic inspiration, speaks of winter and war, of banishment and exile, of social isolation and existential abandonment. Stepanova finds sublime imagery for the process of falling silent, interweaving love letters and travelogues, Chinese verse and Danish fairy tales into a polyphonic evocation of frozen and slowly thawing time.

Following her previous book of poetry, War of the Beasts and the Animals – in part a response to the Donbas conflict – her book’s title is even more prophetic now, echoing a famous patriotic Soviet song from 1941, ‘a holy war is underway’.

Born in 1972, Maria Stepanova – as poet and essayist – was a highly influential figure for many years in Moscow’s cosmopolitan literary scene until its suppression along with civil liberties and dissent under Putin’s latter-day reign of terror. Her first prose work In Memory of Memory established her internationally as one of the most important intellectual voices of contemporary Russia.

Her poetry, which here echoes verses by Pushkin and Lermontov, Mandelstam and Tsvetaeva, is not hermetic. She takes in the confusing signals from social networks and the media, opening herself up to the voices of kindred poets like Sylvia Plath, Inger Christensen and Anne Carson. She has moreover mastered modern poetry’s rich repertoire of forms and moves effortlessly between the linguistic and traditional spaces of Russian, European and transatlantic literature.

In her prose, Stepanova searches for the essence of the moment in the maelstrom of historical time. As an essayist, she traces the reactions of her critical consciousness; taken together, her politically alert commentaries form a powerful chronicle of the troubled present.

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Neil Astley & Pamela Robertson-Pearce (eds.): Soul Feast: nourishing poems of hope & light

Soul Feast is a companion anthology to Soul Food, offering up a further feast of thoughtful poems to stir the mind and feed the spirit, bringing hope and light in dark, uncertain times.

This book’s inspiration – Soul Food – achieved its wide popularity by word of mouth. For many thousands of readers feeling adrift in the early years of the 21st century, the poems in that book offered support and sustenance. What followed has been even more destructive and disorientating: wars, pandemic, oppression, persecution of peoples and minorities, mass migration, dishonest government, financial meltdown, and looming environmental catastrophe.

There are even more voices of hope and healing, of love and tolerance, kindness and compassion, sanity and solace, to be heard and felt in the poems of Soul Feast. This new compilation shows how poetry can help sustain our search for meaning in times of spiritual starvation. All these poems are universal illuminations of the meaning of life, speaking to readers of all faiths as well as to seekers and non-believers.

Drawn from many traditions, Soul Feast includes work by poets ranging from Lal Ded and Tukaram to Pessoa, Borges, Cummings and Langston Hughes, as well as poems by celebrated contemporary poets such as Ellen Bass, Imtiaz Dharker, Jane Hirshfield and Naomi Shihab Nye. This is a book to keep by the bedside or to keep with you when travelling.


[12 February 2024]


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