Katia Kapovich (1960) is a bilingual Russian poet. Born in Chişinău, the capital of Moldova, she later lived in Moscow and St Petersburg. Unable to publish her work in the former USSR because of her participation in a samizdat dissident group, she emigrated, moving in 1990 to Jerusalem, where she published her first collection, and then in 1992 to the USA. In 2001, US Poet Laureate Billy Collins selected her for a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, and she has also been Poet-in-Residence at Amherst College. Kapovich now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she co-edits Fulcrum: an annual of poetry and aesthetics.
Kapovich writes in both Russian and English. Her poems are often quasi-narrative in nature, suggesting stories and events of which the precise details remain untold. The émigré poet and friend of Joseph Brodsky, Lev Loseff, has written that for Kapovich “a life that can’t be described poetically is not worth living”. Yet as she writes in ‘Hero’, “Sometimes truth necessitates madness, and beauty is hidden / behind obscure details.” And so her poems, with a wry sense of humour, address and meditate on the lives of those who have survived – or have tried to endure – war, terror, loss, injustice, trauma, displacement and marginalisation. The people described in her poems are on the move, from one country to another, from one job to another, one street to the next. Night watchmen, political dissidents, panhandlers, draftees, ticket-takers – all are outcasts and virtually homeless, pinching themselves to see if they are real. Yet her work fights off despair at every turn; although life can be arduous and disheartening, as she writes in ‘People versus Trees’, one eventually learns that “only through a lack of leisure can one perceive / the beauty of creation”.
Katia Kapovich was a guest at the 41st Poetry International Festival. This text was written for that occasion.
Gogol in Rome, Salt, Cambridge, 2004
Cossacks and Bandits, Salt, Cambridge, 2008
Richard McKane (translator), Poet for Poet, Hearing Eye, 1998
Richard McKane (editor), Ten Russian Poets, Surviving the Twentieth Century, Anvil Press Poetry, London, 2003
Poetry 180: A turning back to poetry (ed. Billy Collins), Random House, New York, 2003
180 More: Extraodinary Poems for Every Day (ed. Billy Collins), Random House, New York, 2005
Best American Poetry 2006 (ed. David Lehman), Simon & Schuster Inc., New York, 2006
New European Poets (ed. Wayne Miller and Kevin Prufer), Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, 2008
День Ангела и ночь (The Day of and Angel and the Night), 1992
Суфлер: Роман в стихах (The Prompter), 1998
Perekur, Pushkinskii Fond, St. Petersburg, 2000
Прощание с шестикрылыми (Farewell to Six-Winged), 2001
Перекур: Стихотворения (Smoke-break), 2002
Веселый дисциплинарий (Merry Disciplinary Ward), Novoe Literaturnoe Obozreniie, Moscow, 2005
Свободные Мили (Free Miles), Argo-Risk, 2007
Милый Дарвин (Dear Darwin), Издательство Московского Клуба Икар, 2008