I was so happy to attend last night’s book launch party for Marina Blitshteyn’s first chapbook of poetry, “Russian for Lovers,” published by Argos Books. The crowd at KGB Bar seemed to love the work as much as I did.
I know Marina and the three women founders of Argos well through our graduate writing program, but I know that I was blown away by her words, not just excited for the success of a friend.
The poems are an abecedarian, meaning a poem for each letter of the alphabet, in this case, the Russian alphabet of Cyrillic letters. Each poem explores not only the sound of the letter but the implications of its usage, its sense, and the words that use that letter. She weaves a tangle of questions about culture, the ability to understand a beloved whose language and mother country is not shared, the words (inoffensive and offensive ones) that Blitshteyn heard growing up a Jew in her native Moldova.
I can’t express how impressed I was with the works and how thrilled to hear Marina read them out loud. When she was introduced by Argos co-founder Elizabeth Clark Wessel, Wessel reminded us that Marina learned English from cartoons and hip-hop. It’s clear to me that this form of spoken word has clearly influenced “Russian for Lovers” with its bombastic flair. She reads like the best, never a dull moment. It’s all about the sounds of the words.
Since not all of you were able to be there, I recorded Marina’s reading so you can hear these gorgeous pieces come to life. Listen to the audio of the night by clicking here.
And then you can be moved to buy your own copy of “Russian for Lovers” here.