The List: Poetry

Available titles A-Z by author


Gennady Aygi
Selected Poems 1954–94

Gennady Aygi, a potent underground presence for three decades, is now accorded leading status in Russia and many Eastern and Western European countries. Born in the Chuvash Autonomous Republic, he was encouraged by Pasternak to write in Russian in the late 1950s, since when he has lived and worked, often precariously, in Moscow. ‘Like Hopkins with English,’ Edwin Morgan has written, ‘Aygi forces the Russian language to do things it has never done before.’ The language of his free verse is disjunctive, subconscious, anti-rational. His poetry is at the confluence of avant-garde European modernism and the traditional culture of his near-Asiatic homeland. His themes – stillness, communion between human and non-human worlds, memory, birth, sleep – provide room for deeply felt responses to both private and public events . . . More


Pierre Corneille

Corneille’s Horace (1640), together with its author’s Le Cid, launched French classical tragedy. It is a darkly gripping play which speaks directly to our own time. Corneille takes his plot from pre-Republican Roman history – the legendary episode of the triple combat between two sets of brothers to decide a war between Rome and Alba. Horatius’s sister, Camilla, is betrothed to his opponent Curiatius, and his wife Sabina is Curiatius’s sister. The scene is set for a clash between heroic male commitment to state interests and female values which give prime place to individual feeling. . . . More


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Iphigenia in Tauris

The leading Germanist Roy Pascal’s translation of Goethe’s moving version of the Iphigenia-Orestes story was first broadcast on BBC radio in 1954 in a production by Val Gielgud (with Maria Becker, Marius Goring and Donald Wolfit) and again in 1966 in a production by H.B. Fortuin (with Irene Worth, Denys Hawthorne and Michael Hordern). It is now published for the first time. ‘This translation could have been written today,’ writes Martin Swales in his Introduction. ‘It has stood the test of time, and in that sense it is a classic.’ . . . More


Heinrich Heine
Deutschland: A Winter's Tale

T. J. Reed’s translation – first published in 1986 – of Heine’s satiric masterpiece is the only English version to shape up to its outrageous rhymes and rhythms with anything like matching vigour and conviction. It is reissued with facing German text and updated further reading, with the introduction and notes of the first edition succinctly and entertainingly summarising the issue of Heine’s time and his comic achievement, and with added comment on his place in a new united Germany . . . More


Georg Heym

January 2012 marks the centenary of the death, by drowning at the age of 24, of one of the major figures of early German modernism – the poet and short story writer Georg Heym, a member of the brilliant ‘Expressionist’ generation that included the painters Emil Nolde, Franz Marc and Wassili Kandinsky and the young poets who were to die in the First World War like Alfred Lichtenstein, Ernst Stadler and Georg Trakl . . . More


Vladislav Khodasevich
Selected Poems


Vladislav Khodasevich (1886–1939), deleted from literary history in the Soviet era because of his emigration in 1922 with his partner Nina Berberova, has since been welcomed in Russia into its 20th-century pantheon of poets, where he was long ago placed by Vladimir Nabokov . . . More


Fernando Pessoa
The Surprise of Being

Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935), Portugal’s greatest poet since Camões, is a central figure of European Modernism and its perception of a collapse of the post-Romantic ‘I’ and of Western culture. Deeply introspective, seeking objectivity through ‘depersonalisation’, he wrote in various distinct personae. This selection is the first in English to concentrate entirely on poems written in Pessoa’s own name. Jaime H. da Silva writes in his Introduction: ‘The translators have poetically presented a faithful version of the most confounding of Pessoa’s personae. Moreover, they have organised a collection which is representative of Pessoa’s themes and styles, and shows an evolution in his poetry and a summing-up . . . More



Alexander Pushkin
The Gypsies & other narrative poems

Alexander Pushkin’s reputation as Russia’s greatest poet rests on more than Eugene Onegin. This selection of five of his finest narrative poems displays his essential qualities – his stylistic fluency, ironic poise, parodic playfulness and endless ability to surprise, his creation of poetry out of everyday language.

The Gypsies, the anti-Romantic tale of a city-dweller whose search for ‘unspoiled’ values among gypsies ends in tragedy, is modern Russian literature’s first masterpiece – and a source for Bizet’s Carmen. The ballad The Bridegroom turns this Romantic genre into a whodunit filled with sexual dread and subconscious terror. Count Nulin, a deliciously comic tale of country life, stands Shakespeare’s Rape of Lucrece on its head – what would have happened if Lucrece had slapped Tarquin’s face? . . . More


Alexander Pushkin
The Return of Pushkin's Rusalka

Pushkin’s last verse drama, Rusalka, first written two years after the Little Tragedies (Mozart and Salieri and the three other miniature dramas), in his most mature blank verse, has hitherto been taken as a near-complete fragment. The main lines of the plot are familiar from the operas and operettas popular in Russia and elsewhere in Europe from those that swept St Petersburg in the first decade of the nineteenth century to Dvořak’s Rusalka of 1901. In Pushkin’s storyline a wandering prince gets a village girl pregnant and abandons her, and she throws herself into the river. Years later the prince passes by again and a water-sprit . . .  More


Georg Trakl
Poems & Prose 

An undeniable aura surrounds the name of Georg Trakl, whose admirers included Rilke, Heidegger, Kraus, Kokoschka and Wittgenstein and the composers Berg, Webern and Hindemith who set his poems. He is the sombre visionary of the modern age; the autumnal, melancholy moods that predominate in his poetry herald the calamity of the First World War and its consequences. Neo-romantic, early modernist, his dense, vitally sensuous poetry marks the transition from Impressionism to Expressionism, transcending both categories . . . More


Marina Tsvetaeva
Phaedra: A drama in verse with 'New Year's Letter' and other long poems


Marina Tsvetaeva’s verse drama Phaedra is perhaps the most extraordinary of all literary treatments of the Phaedra legend. It is primarily about female passion, and its most powerful figures are the female ones. Dangerously high voltage runs through all of them – Phaedra herself; her Nurse from childhood; and even the offstage Antiope, Amazon queen and mother of the young hunter Hippolytus (son of Phaedra’s husband Theseus) with whom Phaedra falls in love and who represents a powerful counterforce of chastity. Phaedra, completed in 1927, is written with sustained emotional pressure throughout its nearly two thousand short but saturated lines and its shimmering variations of rhythm, rhyme and assonance . . . More


Marina Tsvetaeva
The Ratcatcher: A lyrical satire

Marina Tsevetaeva (1891–1941) is acknowledged as one of the greatest of Russian poets. Like much of the most original Russian literature written since 1917, however, her narrative poem The Ratcatcher remained unpublished in Russia for some decades.

Tsevetaeva wrote this extraordinary work, which she subtitled ‘a lyrical satire’, in Prague and Paris in the mid-1920s. Using the story known to us as ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’, she pits Art against Philistinism in a critique of all social search for material prosperity (including that of the Bolsheviks). Even for the innovative Tsvetaeva, this is quite a new kind of writing . . . More