This LitFest event features Professors Polina Barskova and Catherine Ciepiela ’83, in conversation with Christopher Benfey, Sven Birkerts and Jonathan Galassi about the prose works of the Nobel Prize Winner and 5-Colleges Literature Professor Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996). This event is hosted in partnership with the Amherst Center for Russian Culture.
Polina Barskova is a poet and a scholar, author of 12 collections of poems and two books of prose in Russian. She has also authored a monograph, Besieged Leningrad: Aesthetic Responses to Urban Disaster (2017), and edited three scholarly volumes. Her collection of creative nonfiction, Living Pictures, received the Andrei Bely Prize in 2015; it was published in German by Suhrkamp Verlag and is forthcoming in English from New York Review Books. Barskova edited the Leningrad Siege poetry anthology Written in the Dark (Ugly Duckling Presse) and has four collections of poetry published in English translation: This Lamentable City (Tupelo Press), The Zoo in Winter (Melville House), Relocations (Zephyr Press) and Air Raid (forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse). She has taught at Hampshire College, Amherst College and Smith College. Starting in 2021, she will be teaching Russian literature at the University of California, Berkeley.
Catherine Ciepiela ’83 is a scholar and translator of Russian poetry who teaches at Amherst College. She is the author of The Same Solitude, a book on Marina Tsvetaeva and Boris Pasternak; co-editor, with Honor Moore, of the anthology The Stray Dog Cabaret; and editor of Relocations: Three Contemporary Russian Women Poets. Her translations have appeared in The Nation, The Massachusetts Review, Seneca Review, The Common, Pequod and elsewhere. Her translation of Polina Barskova’s book of poetic essays will appear in the coming year from the New York Review of Books.
Christopher Benfey is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College. He is the author of five books about the American Gilded Age, including A Summer of Hummingbirds, which won both the 2009 Christian Gauss Award of Phi Beta Kappa and the Ambassador Book Award. A frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, Benfey is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2013, he won the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which is given to a writer whose work merits recognition for the quality of its prose style.
Sven Birkerts is the author of 11 books, most recently an appreciation of Nabokov’s Speak, Memory (Ig Publishing). He co-edits the literary journal AGNI at Boston University, and was for many years the director of the Bennington Writing Seminars. He interviewed Joseph Brodsky for The Paris Review.
Jonathan Galassi has been at Farrar, Straus & Giroux since 1986 and currently serves as president. His most recent publication is a translation of Eugenio Montale’s selected poems (part of the Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets Series, 2020).