Anna Akhmatova lived through the devastating upheavals of the twentieth century in Russia, including the Russian Revolution, two World Wars, and the terrifying purges and persecutions of Josef Stalin. By the time she died in 1966, she had written close to a thousand poems—at first deeply personal and passionate, later bearing witness to the suffering of her people. Despite her own losses and anguish, she refused to leave the Soviet Union. In 1990, the tiny Boston-based Zephyr Press published The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova, translated by Judith Hemschemeyer and edited and introduced by Roberta Reeder—the first complete collection ever undertaken in either Russian or English. Hemschemeyer had spent thirteen years translating the poems; Zephyr spent seven more preparing the edition for publication. Named one of the “Best Books of 1990” by the New York Times, it was reviewed in some seventy-five publications worldwide. To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the first edition, Hemschemeyer has selected poems to be read by former Zephyr editor Susan Gubernat (who first brought the manuscript to the press), and Zephyr co-directors Jim Kates and Leora Zeitlin will lead a discussion on Akhmatova’s work and the making of this definitive edition. Sponsored by Zephyr Press.
Weave Me a Wreath of White Roses: 30 Years of Publishing Anna Akhmatova in English
Susan Gubernat’s second full poetry collection, The Zoo at Night, won the Prairie Schooner book award and was published in 2017 by the University of Nebraska Press. Her first book of poems, Flesh, won the Marianne Moore Prize and was published by Helicon Nine Editions. Finishing Line Press published the chapbook Analog House: A Cabinet of Curiosities. Her poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gargoyle, Michigan Quarterly, The Pinch, Prairie Schooner, and Pleiades, among other publications. She wrote the libretto for Adam Silverman’s three-act opera Korczak’s Orphans, which has been performed in a number of venues, including at the VOX: New American Composers series of the NY City Opera and by the Opera Company of Brooklyn. She is Professor Emerita of English at California State University, East Bay. She received her MFA from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa and a graduate degree from Rutgers University. Her awards and fellowships include artist’s grants from the states of New Jersey and New York, and residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, the Millay Colony, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She was born in Newark, New Jersey, and now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.
J. Kates is a poet, a literary translator, and the co-director of Zephyr Press. He has been awarded three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, an Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, the Cliff Becker Book Prize in Translation, and a Käpylä Translation Prize. He has published three chapbooks of his own poems: Mappemonde (Oyster River Press), Metes and Bounds (Accents Publishing), and The Old Testament (Cold Hub Press), and a full book, The Briar Patch (Hobblebush Books). He is the translator of The Score of the Game and An Offshoot of Sense (Tatiana Shcherbina); Say Thank You and Level with Us (Mikhail Aizenberg); When a Poet Sees a Chestnut Tree, Secret Wars, and I Have Invented Nothing (Jean-Pierre Rosnay); Corinthian Copper (Regina Derieva); Live by Fire (Aleksey Porvin); Thirty-nine Rooms (Nikolai Baitov); Psalms (Genrikh Sapgir); Muddy River (Sergey Stratanovsky); and Paper-thin Skin (Aigerim Tazhi). He is the translation editor of Contemporary Russian Poetry, and the editor of In the Grip of Strange Thoughts: Russian Poetry in a New Era. A former president of the American Literary Translators Association, he is also the co-translator of six books of Latin American and Spanish poetry.
Leora Zeitlin is a writer, editor, publisher, and award-winning radio host whose professional life revolves around literature and music. She has been an editor, and now co-director, of Zephyr Press since its founding in 1980. From 2005–2010, she organized the poetry series, “The World in Poetry,” which brought international poets and translators to several cities on the U.S./Mexican border for readings and workshops. Since 2000, she has also hosted her own classical music radio program, “Intermezzo,” on KRWG Public Media in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It is the only locally produced classical show in the region, and Zeitlin has received state and national awards for her music-related interviews on it. She has worked in the past as a print journalist, the director of publications for a human rights organization, and a freelance book reviewer. She holds degrees in journalism from Boston University and English literature from Bennington College.