Polina Barskova & Mike Young

Thursday, March 3, 2011, at 7:00pm, poets Polina Barskova and Mike Young will read as part of the fourth season of the Collected Poets Series. Mocha Maya’s Coffee House, 47 Bridge Street, Shelburne Falls, MA. ($2-5 suggested donation)

Polina Barskova

In her homeland of Russia, Polina Barskova is considered a prodigy, one of the most accomplished and daring of the younger poets. Born in 1976 in Leningrad –now called St. Petersburg, as before — she began publishing poems in journals at age nine and released the first of her six books as a teenager. She came to the United States at the age of twenty to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, having already earned a graduate degree in classical literature at the state university in St. Petersburg. This Lamentable City (Tupelo Press, 2010), her first collection to be published in the U.S., was  edited and translated by Ilya Kaminsky, with Kathryn Farris, Rachel Galvin, and Matthew Zapruder; her new collection, The Zoo in Winter (Melville House), was published this year. Barskova now lives in Massachusetts and teaches at Hampshire College.

Mike Young

Mike Young is the author of We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough, a collection of poems, and Look! Look! Feathers, a collection of stories. He co-edits NOÖ Journal, runs Magic Helicopter Press, and writes for HTMLGIANT. He lives in Northampton, MA. Find him online at http://mikeayoung.blogspot.com.


TO A.K. / Polina Barskova

Are you still frightened, my clueless devochka?
Take a morsel of the Lord’s bread (and a spoonful of wine, no?),
Imagine how we will reside in Paradise, in the skies,
And how we (finally) will see every thing —
Our currency, all we have lost or stolen on Earth
Will glitter below: like the minute droppings of an iron bird.
And the proud angels, those tall sexless bitches,
Will again blend into their ruthlessness the sweetest honey,
Which they will pour down your throat, your exquisite throat.
And you are now mute and cautious, now small and tranquil,
Now you will forget what you desired. Now,
Who you were. Now, this lamentable city
Where we have lived together.
Are you still frightened, girl? Already
I am a bitter stranger.

— translated by Ilya Kaminsky with Kathryn Farris and Rachel Galvin

(“To A.K.” from This Lamentable City: Poems of Polina Barskova ©2010. Reprinted by permission of Tupelo Press. All rights reserved.)



There’s nothing wrong with being quietly astonished.
Feta baked right into the bread, the woman who steals
chalk with her thumb, cute girls in wheelchairs and
librarians at the disco. Barry? He’s an emperor of
cheese and a Mickey D’s apologist, which is great,
like my roommate bought these jeans off eBay
but they didn’t fit her, so she gave them to me.
Little cares whether you do, but it’s hard to shrug
authentically, the world moving in bengal tigers and
hyperthyroids, like one person will demand you shave
and someone else will break a shot glass in your sink.
But weather is the opposite of history. And / or
March is great for seeing people you  met in a bar
fight and thinking: Wait, I sort of punched that guy,
they look nice, I wonder where they got that
sweater, isn’t it too hot for sweaters, what a terrific
wind, maybe I will say hello and we can reach in
to graffiti exclamation marks and emoticons over
our memories. Maybe this will be the day I finally like
metal music because it’s so nice out and I can’t
think of the reasons why it’s so tricky to just like
everything. There must be some. I’ll let you know.

for Barry

(“Motivational Naivete” from We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough ©2010. Reprinted by permission of Publishing Genius. All rights reserved.)