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Selected Poems

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  5,964 ratings  ·  100 reviews
An admired contemporary of Rilke, Akhmatova, and Mandelstam, Russian poet Marina Tsvetayeva bore witness to the turmoil and devastation of the Revolution, and chronicled her difficult life in exile, sustained by the inspiration and power of her modern verse.

The poems in this selection are drawn from eleven volumes published over thirty years.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published January 1st 1994 by Penguin Classics (first published 1971)
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Steven Godin
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Under normal circumstances with poetry I always like an in-depth read up on the writer prior to reading if it's somebody that I know nothing about, in the case of Marina Tsvetaeva my knowledge of her was non-existent, but hastily threw myself into the deep end instead of getting my feet wet first, so I had to stop and get the background on the poet first to truly appreciate the poems, it certainly helped.
What another tragic story I learned of for Marina and her family, a life in turmoil as a
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mother-rus, poetshere
And overflowing their rims,
into the black earth, to nourish
the rushes unstoppably
without cure, gushes

This was a necessary refuge, a raft where the sea's bed is murky. There is so much doubt, singed with hunger on these pages, yet there's a human exuberance. There's agency, not tr potlatch, no Cleopatra dissolving a priceless pearl in and drinking the dregs, as Calasso noted. There are quests and memorials. There is rapt ardor even when the soul's been steeped in grief. There's a
Peycho Kanev
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
When in 1941 the Nazis started bombing Moscow, Marina Tsvetaeva and her son were evacuated to Yelabuga, a town in the Tatar Soviet Socialist Republic (now Tatarstan).
She desperately sought work and even applied for a dishwashing position but was refused. On 31 August 1941, Tsvetaeva hanged herself. Marina Tsvetaeva’s exact burial place was never found. Her husband, Sergey Efron, was executed in August 1941 – the same month that she committed suicide. Her 19-year-old son Mur was killed in World
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
List of Collaborators

--I know the truth
--What is this gypsy passion for separation
--We shall not escape Hell
--Some ancestor of mine
--I'm glad your sickness
--We are keeping an eye on the girls
--No one has taken anything away
--You throw back your head
--Where does this tenderness come from?
--Bent with worry
--Today or tomorrow the snow will melt

Verses about Moscow

From Insomnia

Poems for Akhmatova

Poems for Blok

Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
And I won’t be seduced by the thought of
my native tongue, its milky call.
How can it matter in what tongue I
am misunderstood by whoever I meet

(or by what readers, swallowing
newsprint, squeezing for gossip?)
They all belong to the twentieth
century, and I am before time,

stunned, like a log left
behind on an avenue of trees.

from ‘Homesickness', 1934

This is a challenge to review. First, the co-translator Angela Livingstone (who did about half of the literal translations that Elaine Feinstein turned
May 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, russia
Of the great 'silver age' poets (Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Pasternak, Blok, Mayakovsky...) I find myself returning more and more to Tsvetaeva--the expansive emotion is most like Mayakovsky's--explosive--but the she has the control and compressed power of an Akhmatova. They're astonishingly good. She's a great lover, a great hater, sarcastic, vulnerable, more emotionally ragged than Akhmatova. But no less precise as an artist.

I've found a couple of wonderful girls reading Tsvetaeva poems on
Jan 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
her poems feel as if she is drawing a straight line from her guts to your heart. it's almost too much, and i found myself physically buckling at points, snapping the book shut to save myself from the fire. Tsvetaeva brings all of my favorite dinner guests together: unyielding authorial voice, raw honesty and unflinching self-reflection, a keen eye for that porous gauze between the self and the other, she reads as one of the last honest witnesses of human history. i only wish i could read the ...more
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"A weak shaft of light through the blackness of hell is
your voice under the rumble of exploding shells

Tsvetaeva is overflowing with kindness and ruthless beauty.

Her poetry is like being stabbed while she gently strokes your face and tells you she loves you. Not that she is violent, but she threatens it. There's an urgency, a recurring terror and a bleakness to her. And yet incredible beauty, wonder and immense love. A love that stretches out so thin and so wide you think it'll tear itself
Mar 26, 2010 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Mir by: FT
Shelves: poetry
Your name is a -- bird in my hand
a piece of -- ice on the tongue
one single movement of the lips.
Your name is: five signs,
a ball caught in flight, a
silver bell in the mouth

a stone, cast in a quiet pool
makes the splash of your name, and
the sound is the clatter of
night hooves, loud as a thunderclap
or it speaks straight into my forehead,
shrill as the click of a cocked gun.

Your name -- how impossible, it
is a kiss on the eyes on
motionless eyelashes, chill and sweet.
Your name is a kiss of snow
a gulp
Fortuitous timing to be reading the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva on this day, the 127th anniversary of her birth in Moscow.

"Black as - the centre of an eye, the centre, a blackness that sucks at light.
I love your vigilance
Night, first mother of songs, give me voice to sing of you..."

From 'Insomnia' by Tsvetaeva in SELECTED POEMS, translated from the Russian by Elaine Feinstein / original 1916, English 1971.

A tragic life, spanning the Revolution, exile in Paris and Prague, deaths of her husband
Bloodaxe edition, translated by David McDuff
4.5 for the introduction, about a quarter of the book
3 for the poems in translation

I don't think modern rhymed translation necessarily makes poems sound trivial in English, but it needs to be done very carefully so that doesn't happen. Regardless, for me, too much of Tsvetaeva seems to get lost in translation whether rhymed or un. When particular lines, or occasionally whole poems felt most alive, it was different bits in this version and in
Jun 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Wait, I'm confused. The book description above is the same as for the Tsvetaeva collection Elaine Feinstein translated for Penguin, and carries the same reader reviews. The Bloodaxe book I'm holding is translated by David McDuff, and it's awful. It's awful because it rhymes. I know Tsvetaeva in Russian rhymes, and the boxy quatrains he favors are probably hers, too. I know the temptation clever translators feel to stretch their chops and replicate rhyme in English. I know that given the rich ...more
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian-lit, poetry
I'm not normally one to jump into poetry. I could probably count on one hand the number of anthologies I've read. It's not that I have a particular dislike for it, more that I tend to be swayed by context and the sense of progression found in novels. As thats the case, thematic poetry books, absent from any real personal context irk me a bit.

Given the frankly more than ample amount of free time I find myself with recently It felt it right to expand my literary horizons a bit. Tsvetaevna wasn't
Mar 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Tsvetaeva is one tough nut to crack. Her poetry has this searingly personal intensity. Like you're with her in a hermetically sealed room watching her stab wildly out at the dark with a knife. I could never figure out who or what she's trying to confront, her absentee husband? an affair? the stalinist purges? having to put her daughter in an orphanage because she couldn't afford to feed her? She has so much to be burned up and consumed by emotionally. Maybe she's just railing against life ...more
May 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
It's generally agreed that there were four great 20th-century Russian poets: Tsvetaeva, Akhmatova, Mandelstam, and Pasternak. Akhmatova herself, with her characteristic lack of false modesty, acknowledged this fact in her poem "There Are Four of Us." For me, the fact of this tetrad (two females and two males) brings to mind the fact that Leda, when impregnated by Zeus-disguised-as-a-swan, had four offspring: two girls (Helen and Clytemnestra) and two boys (Castor and Pollux). Akhmatova, who was ...more
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I know the truth - give up all other truths!
No need for people anywhere on earth to struggle.
Look - it is evening, look, it is nearly night:
what do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?

The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew,
the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.
And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we
who never let each other sleep above it.
- I know the truth, pg. 1

* * *

Today or tomorrow the snow will melt.
You lie alone beneath an enormous fur.
Shall I pity you? Your
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One doesn't dive into poetry as into a pool. It takes time to get acquainted -- especially if the poet writes in another language, one you don't know, such as Russian. Marina Tsvetaeva hits me between the eyes, for her intensity of feeling, even when seen through the cool filter of the English language. Selected Poems of Marina Tsvetayeva is for me merely an introduction. I shall have to revisit it later, after the yeast in my heart has risen.

The translator of this collection, Elaine Feinstein,
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite poems from the collection:

On Parting

Teasing and tempting and playing
We loved like children, us both
But somebody, hiding a smile,
Set up the ungentle nets -
And here we are at the harbor,
Not seeing the wished-for abodes,
But knowing that I will be yours
In the heart, without words, until death.

You told me of all things - so early!
I guessed them so late! In our hearts
A wound is eternal, a silent
Question exists in our eyes,
The desert on earth is so endless,
The heaven,
Feb 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I first fell in love with her "Poems for Akhmatova":
"Muse of lament, you are the most beautiful of
all muses, a crazy emanation of white night:
and you have sent a black snow storm over all Russia.
We are pierced with the arrows of your cries

so that we shy like horses at the muffled
many times uttered pledge--Ah!--Anna
Akhmatova--the name is a vast sight
and it falls into depths without name

and we wear crowns only through stamping
the same earth as you, with the same sky over us....

I stand head in
May 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two trees want to be with one another,
Two trees, right opposite my home.
The trees are old. The house is old
I am young, or it may well be
I would not pity the trees of others
The smaller one stretches forth its arms,
Like a woman, strains its very utmost -
It is cruel to watch how it strains
To that one, that other one which is
Older, firmer and - who is to know? -
Even more unhappy, it may well be

Two trees: in the flow of sunset
And in the rain, even under snow
Always, always: one to the other,
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
God damn...Marina. God damn. I'm surprised how well the lyricism in these poems comes through in English. Truly a master poet. Although this collection is a bit lacking.
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, poetry, 2019
"To your mad world there is
one answer: to refuse!"
May 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, russia
This is a tiny book of Tsvetaeva poems in Russian, and I've been going through and translating the poems that the girls are reading in the two Youtube videos I think are the best readings of Tsvetaeva on the internet. Even if you don't understand a word, check out:

which are six or seven poems read by this wonderful girl with a high light voice, and another girl, with a graver voice, also exactly the right delivery, doing other poems

Jul 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
What's the Russian for "so much better than David McDuff's rhyming translations I blew kvass out my nostrils with gleeful surprise while reading these?" Hooray for a translator who sees that Tsvetaeva's "consistent adherence to rhyme and to metrical regularity would, if copied in the English poems, probably enfeeble them," and whose worst sin is the venial one of setting the poems to standard plainspoken translatorese. Them's the pitfalls of the trans biz, as Feinstein's the first to ...more
Jun 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I fell in love with Tsvetajeva (the Finnish spelling) years ago while reading a thick poetry anthology. When I saw this collection in a used books store in Paris, I had to have it. These words hold such beauty and meaning, so many different feelings. She makes me feel like all exceptional poets: she knows all my secrets.
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
I wish that I could read these poems in their original Russian. In the introduction, her translator Elaine Feinstein writes:
“All translation is difficult; Tsvetaeva is a particularly difficult poet. No line by line version could catch her passionate, onward flow. And her pauses and sudden changes of speed were felt always against the deliberate constraint of the forms she had chosen.”
Still, I think the translation renders the same feeling that characterizes the Russian psyche, even if some of
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have a new favorite poet, her name is Marina Tsvetaeva and I love how she crushed my heart. Her poetry is considered among some of the greatest 20th century Russian literature and once you read this, you know why. She should be in fact considered among some of the greatest of the 20th century, period. While I love Russian literature, I had yet to find a favorite poet: there she is. My only problem now is that I don't speak a word of Russian and poetry is, in my opinion, the most difficult to ...more
Jason Gignac
May 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Original Review
The first part of the 20th century was the Silver Age of Russian Poetry, the time of many of Russia's greatest poets both inside and outside the Soviet system: Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, Aleksandr Blok, and lots of other folks that we, as Americans have never heard of (except for Pasternak, and that's for his novel, after all). Marina Tsvetaeva was one of these poets. Born into a well-to-do but very unstable family, and coming of age just as the Russian revolution came to
William West
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The biography of Marina Tsvetaeva reads as a Forrest Gump like tale. This one individual seemed to always be in the right (or wrong) place to experience first hand early twentieth century Europe's greatest crisis. Displaced and exiled as a result of WWI she returned to Russia just as the harshest years of Stalinism were descending on the USSR. By the time she hung herself at the age of 49, as the Nazis were invading, she had lost just about everything and everyone she loved. It's not surprising ...more
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Big in Russia but somewhat neglected for other audiences, which is a shame.

Tsvetaeva had a very interesting life and lived a difficult life in ways e.g. through a famine (her younger daughter starved to death in an orphanage - Marina thought she might get food there), the Russian revolution, her husband and daughter were convicted on espionage charges, she sometimes lived abroad, she committed suicide, etc.

Even though I haven't seen anyone else say so, it seems obvious to me that she is
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Марина Цветаева
Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva was born in Moscow. Her father, Ivan Tsvetaev, was a professor of art history and the founder of the Museum of Fine Arts. Her mother Mariya, née Meyn, was a talented concert pianist. The family travelled a great deal and Tsvetaeva attended schools in Switzerland, Germany, and at the Sorbonne, Paris. Tsvetaeva started to write verse in her early childhood.
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“And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we who never let each other sleep above it.” 102 likes
“Somewhere in the night a
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