If There Is Something to Desire: One Hundred Poems [NOOK Book]

Overview

I broke your heart. / Now barefoot I tread / on shards.

Such is the elegant simplicity—a whole poem in ten words, vibrating with image and emotion—of the best-selling Russian poet Vera Pavlova. The one hundred poems in this book, her first full-length volume in English, all have the same salty immediacy, as if spoken by a woman who feels that, as the title poem concludes, ...
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If There Is Something to Desire: One Hundred Poems

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Overview

I broke your heart. / Now barefoot I tread / on shards.

Such is the elegant simplicity—a whole poem in ten words, vibrating with image and emotion—of the best-selling Russian poet Vera Pavlova. The one hundred poems in this book, her first full-length volume in English, all have the same salty immediacy, as if spoken by a woman who feels that, as the title poem concludes, “If there was nothing to regret, / there was nothing to desire.”

Pavlova’s economy and directness make her delightfully accessible to us in all of the widely ranging topics she covers here: love, both sexual and the love that reaches beyond sex; motherhood; the memories of childhood that continue to feed us; our lives as passionate souls abroad in the world and the fullness of experience that entails. Expertly translated by her husband, Steven Seymour, Pavlova’s poems are highly disciplined miniatures, exhorting us without hesitation: “Enough painkilling, heal. / Enough cajoling, command.”

It is a great pleasure to discover a new Russian poet—one who storms our hearts with pure talent and a seemingly effortless gift for shaping poems.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One of Russia's bestselling contemporary poets, Pavlova is the most recent international darling to break into the American literary scene, first in the New Yorker and now with this first full-length collection to appear in English. Almost always less than 10 lines each, the collection's 100 poems explore universal themes like love, sex, and motherhood. That they have been translated by Seymour, Pavlova's husband, adds intrigue and intimacy to the collection, which has its share of “semen,” “saliva,” and “wild strawberries,” as well as “placental slime and blood.” Throughout, Pavlova works to combine registers of the sublime and the everyday. Because of the brevity of the poems, a tremendous amount rides on the impact of these quick juxtapositions. They often fall short of transcendence: “Armpits smell of linden blossom,/ lilacs give a whiff of ink.” The collection's success depends heavily on one's personal response to Pavlova's voice, including ungainly phrasings like “two gays smooching on a bench” and tell-it-straight lines like “Death from depression seems/ a bit ridiculous.” Some poems, however, quietly achieve a surprising depth, such as number 50, which reads in its entirety: “I have brushed my teeth./ This day and I are even.” (Jan.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307957580
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/10/2012
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 128
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Vera Pavlova was born in Moscow. She is the author of fourteen collections of poetry, four opera librettos, and numerous essays on musicology. Her work has been translated into eighteen languages. She is the recipient of several awards and is one of the best-selling poets in Russia.Steven Seymour is a professional interpreter and translator of Russian, Polish, and French. His English translations of Vera Pavlova’s poems have appeared in Tin House and The New Yorker.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Read an Excerpt

7

If there is something to desire,
there will be something to regret.
If there is something to regret,
there will be something to recall.
If there is something to recall,
there was nothing to regret.
If there was nothing to regret,
there was nothing to desire.


9

I broke your heart.
Now barefoot I tread on shards.

11

Let us touch each other while we still have hands,
palms, forearms, elbows . . .
Let us love each other for misery,
let us torture each other,
mangle, maim,
to remember better,
to part with less pain.

16

Whose face and body would I like to have?
The face and body of Nike.
I would fly past all those Venuses,
would have nothing to do with Apollos.
With the wind chilling my shoulder
I would leave behind forever the hall of plaster copies!

71

Self-Portrait in Profile

I
am the one who wakes up on your left.

76

Am I lovely? Of course!
Breathlessly I taste the subtle compliment of a handmade caress.
Chop me into tiny bits,
caress and tame my soul,
that godly swallow you love to no end.

78

Basked in the sun,
listened to birds,
licked off raindrops,
and only in flight the leaf saw the tree and grasped what it had been.

91

dropped and falling from such heights for so long that maybe
I will have enough time to learn flying

From the Hardcover edition.

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