Vera Pavlova was born in Moscow. She studied at the Schnittke Academy of Music, sang in a church choir, majored in the history of music, and three years later launched her literary career with revealing poems that confronted many readers with repressed memories, concealed experiences and latent longings. Pavlova’s poetic persona put an end to the acute division that had previously been prevalent in Russia: high-flown, strait-laced “poetry for the soul” as opposed to lewd street ballads.
The same inclination to build a bridge between black and white is apparent from the titles of her collections of poetry: Heavenly Beast, Worldwide, The Intimate Diary of a Nerd, Wise Morons – though nowhere do Pavlova’s texts seem grey.
She has a thorough command of all registers of Russian and effortlessly inserts outer and inner rhymes in order to get across her living, changing, always surprising message – mostly in an extremely compact form, on paper, in plays or via new media such as text-messaging.
Pavlova’s delivery, unlike Brodsky’s, is not tuneful; rather, it is reminiscent of the measured performances of Tsvetajeva and of the way in which Rachmaninov would deliver the most emotional passages of his own composition as soberly as possible.
Pavlova shuns publicity. To put it in her own words:
I shall never be interviewed:
on my scale that is below my “do”;
nor shall I ever interview anyone:
that would be beyond my “ti”,
for nobody can pose
my questions to me,
and I have but one question for nobody,
but no way to pose it!
(translated by Steven Seymour)
Nor does she need any publicity: her performances pack the halls and she counts both inexperienced readers and prominent literati among her fans. About Pavlova, the controversial conceptual writer Vladimir Sorokin has said, “I’ve got the idea that there is no one like her around, and I think she’s already become part of Russian poetry and thus no longer belongs to herself.”
[Vera Pavlova appeared at the 2009 Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam. This text was written for that occasion.]
Dunya Mikhail and Vera Pavlova interviewed by Don Share, senior editor of Poetry magazine in Chicago, at the 2009 Poetry International Festival
Dunya Mikhail, Vera Pavlova / Don Share