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If There Is Something to Desire: One Hundred Poems
     

If There Is Something to Desire: One Hundred Poems

by Vera Pavlova, Steven Seymour (Translator)
 

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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

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; out 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 diciplined 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.

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.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307272256
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/19/2010
Pages:
112
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

If There is Something to Desire

One Hundred Poems
By Vera Pavlova

Knopf

Copyright © 2010 Vera Pavlova
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780307272256

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

Baskedin 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

Continues...

Excerpted from If There is Something to Desire by Vera Pavlova Copyright © 2010 by Vera Pavlova. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

VERA PAVLOVA is the author of fifteen collections of poetry, and the librettos to five operas and four cantatas. Her poems have been translated into twenty-one languages, and she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Apollon Grigoriev Grand Prize (2001). Her poetry has appeared in several U.S. publications, including The New Yorker and Tin House. If There Is Something to Desire is Pavlova's first collection in English.

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