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Factory of Tears

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"Mort...strives to be an envoy for her native country, writing with almost alarming vociferousness about the struggle to establish a clear identity for Belarus and its language." ?The New Yorker

?Valzyhna Mort . . . can justly be described as a risen star of the international poetry world. Her poems have something of the incantatory quality of poets such as Dylan Thomas or Allen Ginsberg. . . . She is a true original.??Cuirt International Festival of Literature

?[T]he searing work of Valzhyna Mort . . . dazzled ...

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"Mort...strives to be an envoy for her native country, writing with almost alarming vociferousness about the struggle to establish a clear identity for Belarus and its language." —The New Yorker

“Valzyhna Mort . . . can justly be described as a risen star of the international poetry world. Her poems have something of the incantatory quality of poets such as Dylan Thomas or Allen Ginsberg. . . . She is a true original.”—Cuirt International Festival of Literature

“[T]he searing work of Valzhyna Mort . . . dazzled all who were fortunate to hear her [and] to be battered by the moods of the Belarus language which she is passionately battling to save from obscurity.”—The Irish Times

"(Mort) is most characterized by an obstinate resistance and rebellion against the devaluation of life, which forces her to multiply intelligent questions, impressive thoughts, and alluring metaphors, while her rhythm surprisingly arises as a powerful tool for the most dramatic moments of her verses....One of the best young poets in the world today."—World Literature Today

Valzhyna Mort is a dynamic young poet who writes in Belarussian at a time when efforts are being made to reestablish the traditional language in the aftermath of attempts to absorb it into Russian. Known throughout Europe for her live readings, Mort’s poetry and performances are infused by the politics of language and the poetry of revolution, where poems are prayers and weapons.

when someone spends a lot of time running and bashing his head against a cement wall the cement grows warm and he curls up with it against his cheek like a starfish . . .

Valzhyna Mort is a Belarussian poet known throughout Europe for her remarkable reading performances. Her poetry has been translated into several languages, and she is the recipient of the Gaude Polonia stipendium and was a poet-in-residence at Literarisches Colloquium in Berlin, Germany. She currently lives in Virginia.

Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright earned an MFA in translation from the University of Arkansas. Franz Wright won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his book Walking to Martha’s Vineyard.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The 26-year-old Belarusian Mort has made a big splash in Europe. With help from the popular, Pulitzer-winning Franz Wright, this thin, uneven, but decidedly exciting bilingual first U.S. edition shows how Mort's energies work. Some poems last just a few lines; others stretch out across pages of fast-moving prose, and the best bring into disturbing collision the difficult circumstances of Eastern Europe (crowds, relative poverty, bad weather) and the recent results of globalization (suicide bombers, teen culture, game shows with telephonic "life lines"). Mort says of her compatriots in "Belarusian I," "we gorged on dirt thinking it was bread" and calls "our future/ a gymnast on a thin thread of the horizon." Later poems reflect her move to the U.S. (she now resides in Virginia), and contemplate those who have made the same move before: of "Polish Immigrants," she asks, "how do they break away from the land/ where even stones take root." At her best, Mort shows a ragged power Americans might not otherwise know: she writes in a crackling prose poem, "I protest against everything: low-quality goods in supermarkets, pigs in the subway, and those who protest against pigs in the subway... this is the only way to survive." (Apr.)

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Library Journal

Celebrated in Europe for her dynamic performances, Mort, a 26-year-old Belarusian poet, is a fireball, and her American debut collection, nothing short of phenomenal. This bilingual publication, cotranslated by the husband-and-wife team of Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Franz Wright, features 36 works, including the blistering prose piece "White Trash," "Polish Immigrants," and "Belarusian II." Mort's vision is visceral, wistful, bittersweet, and dark. In "Music of Locusts," the narrator laments, "Everything belongs to me but hope" while "the whole colorful universe/ appears like the deep/ hole in the sink" in "Hospital." Mort takes an unflinching look at a violent world, referencing homeless dogs, dead men, terrorist attacks in Chechnya, stinging memories, bloody bodies, and forced silence. Personal, political, and passionate, Mort's poetry will surely sustain many reading audiences. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
—Miriam Tuliao

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556592744
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Language: Belarusian
  • Series: Lannan Literary Selections Series
  • Edition description: Bilingual
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 782,348
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Valzhyna Mort was born in 1981 in Minsk, Belarus. Her poetry has been translated into many European languages and published in various literary magazines and anthologies. A dynamic reader, in 2004 she received the Crystal of Velenica Award in Slovenia, which is awarded for reading performances. She currently lives in Virginia. Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright's translations of Zafer Senocak, Zehra Cirak and other contemporary German poets have appeared widely in literary magazines and anthologies. She received an NEA Fellowship for Poetry Translation in 2003 and is German-language contributing editor for the forthcoming anthology New European Poets (Graywolf). Franz Wright is the author of several volumes of poetry, including Walking to Martha's Vineyard (2003), which received a Pulitzer Prize. He has also translated poems by René Char, Erica Pedretti, and Rainer Maria Rilke. He lives in Waltham, Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

Belarusian I 3

for A.B. 7

A Poem about White Apples 11

Grandmother 13

"maybe you too sometimes fantasize" 15

A Portrait of a Mother in Fall 17

Juveniles 19

Marriage 23

Hospital 25

"was it a hair you lost" 27

Music of Locusts 29

Lullaby 33

in memory of a book 37

"i'm as thin" 41

White Trash 43

"your body is so white" 61

"memory" 63

On a Steamer 65

Fall in Tampa 67

From Florida Beaches 69

Polish Immigrants 71

Cry Me a River 75

"the memory of you" 77

Password 79

"You see your life as something borrowed" 83

Promised Land 87

for Rafal Wojaczek 89

Berlin-Minsk 91

New York 93

Men 95

Alcohol 99

for I. 101

Teacher 103

Origin of Tears 105

Belarusian II 107

Factory of Tears 113

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Language battles

    Factory of Tears by Valzhyna Mort, poetry
    Translated by Elizabeth Oehikers Wright and Franz Wright

    Valzhyna Mort is a Belarusian poet whose voice is unapologetic and smart. She doesn't mess around trying to beautify what is not...and yet, she finds beauty in unexpected places. Her poetry doesn't back away from the controversial. This collection is the first book of Belarusian/English poetry published in the US, for which Copper Canyon Press can be very proud.

    Belarus has a rich and sometimes violent history as part of the former USSR, and a place where the matter of national language is still debated. Most residents speak Russian, and one source states that only 11% of the population actually speaks Belarusian. Proponents of each side don't appear to have any agreement in sight*. And yet, there are those, such as Mort, working hard to maintain the historical language of Belarus. In any case, Russian and Belarusian are similar and with additional borrowed Ukrainian and Polish words, the language of the country is rich. Mort even addresses such complexity in one poem, where she considers "how do two languages share one mouth/like two women in one kitchen"?

    In this language that reflects history and culture, Mort writes equally reflective poetry. "In memory of a book":

    books die

    out of dark bedrooms
    where the only road
    paved by a yellow lamp
    led to their pages
    they are stuffed in every corner of a house
    thus turning it into a huge book cemetery
    those whose names do not ring any bell
    are taken to the attic
    where they lay-twenty books in one box-
    a mass grave

    books become windows

    in empty apartments
    nobody's heart beats above them
    no one shares with them a dinner
    or drops them into a bathtub

    nobody watches them
    lose their pages
    like hair
    like memory

    books age alone

    In one entitled "For A.B.", she paints a parallel between children and identity as well as heritage:

    it's so hard to believe
    that once we were even younger
    than now
    that our skin was so thin
    that veins blued through it
    like lines in school notebooks
    that the world was like a homeless dog
    that played with us after class
    and we were thinking of taking it home
    but somebody else took it first
    gave it a name
    and trained it stranger
    against us

    and this is why we wake up late at night
    and light up the candles of our tv sets
    and in their warm flame we recognize
    faces and cities...

    Somehow I picture the typical wornout world map, with its faded blue background and the mysterious lines, as a background for this poem. How strange to live in a place where the lines have moved, often inexplicably!

    There is a moodiness to the poems that lends itself to topics of dreams, life, and death. Humor is sprinkled throughout and she uses images of tears, hair, and children to personalize the mysteries of belonging and believing. Her youth is evident in crisp words that are magnified by the enjambment so that we feel the anxiety and confusion.

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