In Peter France’s elegant translation, English readers can access not only Mandelstam’s formidable ideas and images but also something of his rhythm, rhyme and sound-play…. This book is a portrait of a life crushed by history. But it testifies, too, to the persistence of spirit.
—Alexander Wells, Exberliner

Russia’s foremost modernist master in a major new translation

Black Earth

Poetry by Osip Mandelstam

Translated from the Russian by Peter France

Osip Mandelstam has become an almost mythical figure of modern Russian poetry, his work treasured all over the world for its lyrical beauty and innovative, revolutionary engagement with the dark times of the Stalinist era. While he was exiled in the city of Voronezh, the black earth region of Russia, his work, as Joseph Brodsky wrote, developed into “a poetry of high velocity and exposed nerves, becoming more a song than ever before, not a bardlike but a birdlike song … something like a goldfinch tremolo.”

Peter France—who has been brilliantly translating Mandelstam’s work for decades—draws heavily from Mandelstam’s later poetry written in Voronezh, while also including poems across the whole arc of the poet’s tragically short life, from his early, symbolist work to the haunting elegies of old Petersburg to his defiant “Stalin poem.” A selection of Mandelstam’s prose irradiates the poetry with warmth and insight as he thinks back on his Petersburg childhood and contemplates his Jewish heritage, the sunlit qualities of Hellenism, Dante’s Tuscany, and the centrality of poetry in society.

Buy from:

Paperback (published July 6, 2021)

ISBN
9780811230971
Price US
16.95
Trim Size
5x8
Page Count
168

Ebook

ISBN
9780811230988

Osip Mandelstam

20th century writer.

In Peter France’s elegant translation, English readers can access not only Mandelstam’s formidable ideas and images but also something of his rhythm, rhyme and sound-play…. This book is a portrait of a life crushed by history. But it testifies, too, to the persistence of spirit.
—Alexander Wells, Exberliner
Black Earth brings me closer to Mandelstam the poet than to Mandelstam the mythic figure, and his “ancient language” is rendered into real contemporary poetry in English that succeeds in speaking eloquently to the inner eye and ear. This is all to the good.
—J. Kates, Arts Fuse
In Black Earth, Peter France has made all the right choices….. [His] approach has yielded outstanding results, conveying Mandelstam’s density with an elegance that brings pleasure from the whole, even before the reader fully digests the parts. Much of the future-oriented poetry of Mandelstam’s contemporaries now sounds hopelessly dated; Mandelstam’s poetry, meanwhile, flourished with the passage of time.
—Sophie Pinkham, Poetry Foundation
It seems almost impossible to pay adequate homage to the poetic genius and personal courage of Osip Mandelstam, manifested during a time in the Soviet Union of tyrannical repression and terror. These spirited and meticulous versions drawn from his poetry and prose, however, by the masterful translator Peter France, bring us considerably closer to achieving that goal. They attest to the extraordinary range and depth of Mandelstam’s complex artistic sensibility and intellect. Let us, simply enough, gratefully welcome them.
—Michael Palmer