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Into the Arms of Pushkin: Poems of St. Petersburg (Winner, T.S. Eliot Prize, 2007) (New Odyssey Series) First Edition Edition
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I take it that Davis' own family heritage intrigued her enough to seek out employment in Russia, which can't have been easy! Her grandparents on one side hailed from St. Petersburg, and to that legendary city she finagled her entire family, three kids included, while she taught Jewish literature and also contemporary American literature and underwent the experiences she writes about in her book, INTO THE ARMS OF PUSHKIN. She starts with simple culture clash, sights, sounds and smells she never had in Los Angeles. Her kids had never even seen snow. A second theme grows out of the first, the way language mirrors and in fact precipitates the clash of nations. Language has its own economy, she discovers, and just as her children, "set adrift in the unknown," depend on her to buy food for the next day's meals, she finds herself--in a moving passage--laying out the words she will need for tomorrow, "laying them on the desk chair with the folded clothes."
Her aim, she insists, is "I want you to know what it is/ to live without language." She is a pilgrim of poetry, inventing herself and reinventing the long history of her grandmother, Anna, and Anna's foremothers before her, whom she may trace all the way back to original ancestors "at the time of Moses.Read more ›
with the Russian language, loneliness, longing, living there with three children for extended periods as a Fulbright scholar. Her images, her imagination, her vivid words - "the deafening snow," "Encircled in the pencil thin canals" - put me there and as she finds solace in Russian music, local birds, identification with the perservering lives and an appreciation for the slow-won loyalties, I felt rewarded by this accomplished work. I can understand why it was given the T.S.Eliot award...well deserved!