January 19, 2007
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—The Amherst Center for Russian Culture will host a reading of poems by Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Marina Tsvetaeva and other Russian modernists at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 5, at the Center for Russian Culture (second floor, Webster Hall) at Amherst College. The event will celebrate the publication of Paul Schmidt’s The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems (2006), co-edited by Catherine Ciepiela, professor of Russian at Amherst, and Honor Moore. Contemporary American poets April Bernard, Alexander Chee, Edwin Frank, Daniel Hall, James Maraniss, Honor Moore and Lloyd Schwartz will perform the parts of the Russian poets. Accompanied by cabaret-style music and refreshments, the performance is sponsored by the Center for Russian Culture and the Creative Writing Program at Amherst College.
Paul Schmidt (1934-1999) was a professor of Russian at the University of Texas at Austin. His translations included the plays of Anton Chekhov and the avant-garde writings of Velimir Khlebnikov. Schmidt also had a distinguished theater career, providing translations and performing in collaborations with the Wooster Group, Robert Wilson and Peter Sellars. He also worked with the director and composer Elizabeth Swados on a musical play using famous lyric poems and sequences from the great era of Russian modernism, set in a café – The Stray Dog—where artists and poets gathered. The translations he did for that production are the basis of the anthology The Stray Dog Cabaret. The book is a memorial to the time—beginning around 1906, and concluding after Stalin’s rise to power—when Alexander Blok and Anna Akhmatova created pellucid elegiac stanzas, Osip Mandelstam meditated on existential dilemmas, Vladimir Mayakosky exploded into radical free verse and Khlebnikov obliterated the line between prophecy and nonsense.
April Bernard is a poet, novelist and essayist. She has three collections of poems: Blackbird Bye Bye (which won the 1989 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets), Psalms (1993) and Swan Electric (2002). Her novel Pirate Jenny appeared in 1990. She has been on the faculty of the MFA Writing Seminars at Bennington since 1996.
Alexander Chee has received numerous prizes for his short fiction and the Lambda Literary Award for his first novel, Edinburgh(2001). He is completing a second novel, Queen of the Night, about a 19th-century opera singer. He is currently a visiting writer at Amherst College.
Edwin Frank is a poet and the editor of the New York Review of Books series. Among other books, he has edited Writers Rediscover Literature’s Hidden Classics (2003), with contributions by John Updike, Arthur C. Danto, Toni Morrison, Francine Prose and others.
Daniel Hall is writer-in-residence at Amherst College and author of two books of poems, Hermit with Landscape, which was selected for the 1990 Yale Series of Younger Poets, and Strange Relation (1996). His new book of poems, Under Sleep, will be published this year by the University of Chicago Press.
James Maraniss is a professor of Spanish at Amherst College and the distinguished translator of the novels and essays of Cuban writer Antonio Benitez-Rojo. An authority on Pedro Calderón de la Barca, he wrote the libretto for Lew Spratlan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opera, Life is a Dream (2000).
Honor Moore is the author of three collections of poems, Memoir (1988), Darling (2001) and Red Shoes (2005). She is also the author of The White Blackbird, a life of her grandmother, the painter Margaret Sargent, a New York Times Notable Book in 1996. Her play Mourning Pictures was produced on Broadway. She is currently completing The Bishop’s Daughter, a memoir of her father, Bishop Paul Moore. She teaches creative writing at the New School and Columbia University.
Lloyd Schwartz is Frederick S. Troy Professor of English at The University of Massachusetts Boston, classical music editor of The Boston Phoenix and a regular commentator for NPR’s Fresh Air. His most recent book of poems is Cairo Traffic (2000), and he is currently co-editing the collected works of Elizabeth Bishop for the Library of America. He is the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for his music criticism.