Event Highlights: Russian Voices – A Poetry Symposium and Philosophical Cabaret Event

December 21st, 2013 in Event Highlights, Podcasts

On Wednesday, November 20, with thanks to the Center for the Humanities, the Jewish Cultural Endowment, the Department of Modern Language and Comparative Literature, and Zephyr Press for their generous support, the Center for the Study of Europe hosted Russian Voices, a day-long celebration of Russian poetry, music, and culture. The event coincided with the launch, by Zephyr Press, of Relocations, an anthology of contemporary Russian poetry by Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova, and Maria Stepanova, edited by Catherine Ciepiela, and translated from the Russian by Catherine Ciepiela, Anna Khasin and Sibelan Forrester. We were delighted to bring the three poets together for the celebration, which featured panel discussions with the poets and their translators, a roundtable discussion moderated by local Russian poet Katia Kapovich, and rollicking “philosophical cabaret” performance by Psoy Korolenko and collaborator Alyona Arenkova. Also participating were BU faculty members Olga Livshin, Yuri Corrigan, and Katherine O’Connor; and Jim Kates from Zephyr Press. For the schedule of events, including bios of the participants, please see our earlier event announcement.

If you were not able to attend the symposium, you can listen recordings of the conversation below. And please support our friends at Zephyr Press by purchasing a copy of Relocations.

About the book:

The fall of the Soviet Union released creative energies that have shaped a new Russian poetry. Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova and Maria Stepanova belong to the generation that has led this epochal transformation. Born in the 1970s, they are old enough to have visceral memories of Soviet life but young enough to move adeptly with the new influences, new media and new choices introduced in the post-Soviet era. Together they represent a contemporary Russian culture that reaches beyond national borders: Barskova has emigrated to the US, Glazova is based in Germany and Stepanova is a lifelong Muscovite.

Their generation is also the last one raised on Russian modernism, which these poets are renovating from within.  While they possess the modernists’ erudition, they decline to worship high culture. They have no patience for modernist mythologies of the poet. They have moved beyond the modernists’ death-match with totalitarianism to think critically about politics and culture–Barskova as an historian of Petersburg, Glazova as a theorist and translator of Central European writing, and Stepanova as the editor of an independent online journal. They mistrust lyric emotion, confidently leaving behind Marina Tsvetaeva and Anna Akhmatova as poets of female desire while remaining conscious of themselves as writing women. As this gathering of these poets’ work signals, women are more influential in Russian poetry than ever before.

The poems in the book are presented in Russian and English.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Role of Cultural Diplomacy with Ambassador John Beyrle (12/11/13)

November 25th, 2013 in Event Announcements

Join us for a conversation on “Soft Power in Eastern Europe: The Role of Cultural Diplomacy” with Ambassador John Beyerle.

Russia and its sphere of influence have long been the focus of American public diplomacy, and remain a relative bastion of such efforts today, when funding elsewhere have been slashed. In recent years, Russia has also been trying its hand at ‘Soft Power,’ and yet Joseph Nye–who coined the term in 1990–recently wrote an article in Foreign Policy magazine entitled ‘What China and Russia Don’t Get About Soft Power.’ As Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2008-2012) and to Bulgaria (2005-2008), as well as in previous stints in Moscow John Beyrle was a proponent of American cultural diplomacy, and a great specialist on not only Eastern-European politics, but the region’s culture. This event will explore what works and what doesn’t in the region and why cultural diplomacy matters. The conversation will be moderated by Anna Winestein, Visiting Researcher at the Center for the Study of Europe and Executive Director of the Ballets Russes Cultural Partnership.

Wednesday, December 11
5 to 6:30 PM
Department of International Relations, 154 Bay State Road, 2nd floor

John_Beyrle_officialJohn Beyrle served as an American diplomat for more than three decades, in foreign postings and domestic assignments focused on Central and Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and Russia. He was twice appointed ambassador: to Bulgaria (2005-08), and to Russia (2008-12).   Ambassador Beyrle’s diplomatic service included two earlier tours at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, including as Deputy Chief of Mission. He also served as Counselor for Political and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in the Czech Republic, and member of the U.S. Delegation to the CFE Arms Control Negotiations in Vienna. His Washington assignments included Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for the New Independent States, and Director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs on the staff of the National Security Council.

Ambassador Beyrle received the Presidential Meritorious Service Awardduring the Administration of George W. Bush, and the Presidential Distinguished Service Award from President Obama.  In 2012 Secretary of State Clinton presented him with the Distinguished Service Award, the State Department’s highest honor. He retired from the Foreign Service in 2012.  Amb. Beyrle serves on the Board of Directors of the US-Russia Foundation and Eurasia Foundation, and provides consulting services to non-profit and corporate clients.

This event is organized by the The Ballets Russes Cultural Partnership and co-presented with the Center for the Study of Europe. Attendance at this special event is limited. Kindly RSVP to eamrien@bu.edu by Monday, December 9.


The Ballets Russes in 1913 (10/10/13)

September 27th, 2013 in Event Announcements

Join us for a talk by Center for the Study of Europe Visiting Researcher Anna Winestein. The Rite of Spring, which premiered one hundred years ago this year, was one of the seminal choreographic and musical compositions of the 20th century, and centenary celebrations have been taking place around the world. But 1913 was an important turning point for the Ballets Russes in other ways. This talk explores some of the other developments of that year for the most influential performing company in history, whose legacy transformed dance, music, visual art and performance in Europe, the US and the world. A special focus is on The Tragedy of Salomé, the other ballet premiered by the Ballets Russes in 1913.

Salome - portrait of Tamara Karsavina by G Barbier, 1914

Salome – portrait of Tamara Karsavina by G Barbier, 1914

Thursday, October 10, 2013
5 to 6:30 PM
Department of International Relations, 154 Bay State Road, 2nd floor

Anna Winestein, Visiting Scholar at the CSE and Executive Director of the Ballets Russes Cultural Partnership, is an historian of Russian art and theater and a cultural entrepreneur. She is a BU alum, graduate of CFA, CAS and GRS.


Russian Voices Symposium and Philosophical Cabaret (11/20/13)

July 11th, 2013 in Event Announcements

112013RELOCATIONSJoin us on Wednesday, November 20, for Russian Voices: Readings and Conversations with contemporary Russian poets Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova, and Maria Stepanova. This event celebrates the release by Zephyr Press of Relocations, a new anthology of Russian poetry, and brings together the three poets whose works are collected in the book and two of their English language translators: Catherine Ciepiela and Sibelan Forrester. Also participating are local poet Katia Kapovich; BU faculty members Olga Livshin, Yuri Corrigan, and Katherine O’Connor; and Jim Kates from Zephyr Press.

The symposium features individual panel discussions with each of the poets and a concluding roundtable, to be moderated by Katia Kapovich (see schedule below). The poetry sessions will be followed by a “philosophical cabaret” performance featuring Russian Jewish singer and songwriter Psoy Korolenko and musical collaborator Alyona Alyonkova, a reception, and a book-signing. The performance, entitled “Russian Riches,” contains compositions based on texts by Russian poets of the 20th century. The project, as Psoy Korolenko describes it, attempts to realize the cultural and spiritual connection between generations:

We consider this repertoire to be a certain kind of “edutainment” project, and see those involved in Slavic and Russian studies abroad as an important target audience. In 2007, ”The Cardboard House’’ based on Mikhail Kuzmin’s poem became a certain kind of a musical logo for Kuzmin’s readings at UCLA. And now that our new CD is released the same year with the Relocations book, we feel honored and lucky to be with Russian Voices at BU.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Boston University Photonics Center, 8 St. Mary’s Street, 9th floor


11:30 – 11:45 AM Welcome Katherine O’Connor (Boston University) and Jim Kates (Zephyr Press)

11:45 AM – 1 PM Panel I Polina Barskova and Catherine Ciepiela

1 – 2 PM Lunch

2 PM – 3:15 PM Panel II Anna Glazova and Olga Livshin

3:15 – 3:30 PM Break

3:30 – 4:45 PM Panel III Maria Stepanova and Sibelan Forrester

4:45 – 5 PM Break

5 – 7 PM Roundtable: Polina Barskova, Catherine Ciepiela, Anna Glazova, Olga Livshin, Maria Stepanova, Sibelan Forrester, and Yuri Corrigan. Moderated by Katia Kapovich

7 – 9 PM Reception, book-signing and “Russian Riches performance with Psoy Kolorenko and Alyona Alyonkova

All events are free and open to the public. Join us for all or part of the celebration!

Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Europe and the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature, the literary journal AGNI and Zephyr Press. With support from the Center for the Humanities at Boston University and the Jewish Cultural Endowment.

Participant Bios

112013BARSKOVAPolina Barskova, who was born and raised in St. Petersburg, emigrated to the United States in 1998 after graduating from St. Petersburg University with a degree in Classics; she went on to receive a Slavic PhD from UC Berkeley and now teaches at Hampshire College. She was a child prodigy, publishing her first book at age fifteen, and since then has continued to develop and publish at an amazing rate, with some eight books of poetry to her name (including The Lamentable City [Tupelo, 2010] and The Zoo in Winter [Melville 2010]). Her poems are often autobiographically based but they are not, in any simple sense, confessional; for her, quotidian scenes are occasions to magnify experience with the full power of the mind and senses, leading one critic to describe her as a Romantic.

112013GLAZOVAAnna Glazova has a similar life trajectory to Barskova’s. She received her earliest education in the Soviet system, moved to Frankfurt, Germany to study comparative literature at the Goethe-Universität, then received a PhD from Northwestern University. Her first book of poetry, Let Water (Pust’ I voda) appeared in 2003, followed by Loop. Unhalved (Petlia. Nevpolovinu) in 2008. If Barskova is interested in moving the past into the present, Glazova pushes Russian poetry along another axis, toward another cultural tradition. A specialist in modern German literature, she has done major translations of German authors into Russian, including Robert Walser, Unica Zürn and, most importantly, Paul Celan.

112013STEPANOVAMaria Stepanova continues to reside in her native Moscow. She is a founder and editor of the online journal openspace.ru, an opinion-maker for young intellectuals, and she is a well-known cultural commentator. Since 2003 when her first three books of poems appeared, she has published new work regularly and to acclaim. She combines a journalistic attention to contemporary politics and social problems – her poem “the Aviator” references the war in Chechnya – with wildly inventive, phantasmagorical scenarios. She is most famous for plot-driven “ballads” that she describes as a kind of prose, hence the title of her famous long poem “Prose of Ivan Sidorov” (“Proza Ivana Sidorova”).

112013KAPOVICHModerator Katia Kapovich is a bilingual poet writing in English and Russian. Born in Kishinev, Moldova, she emigrated from the Soviet Union, where she was a member of a literary dissident movement, in 1990. She is the author of five collections of Russian verse and of a book of English language poetry, Gogol in Rome (Salt, 2004), shortlisted for the Jerwood Alderburgh Prize 2005 in England. Her English poems have also appeared in the London Review of Books, The New Republic, The Independent, Harvard Review, Ploughshares, The American Scholar, The Antioch Review, Jacket, and numerous other periodicals. She received the 2001 Witter Bynner Fellowship from the US Library of Congress. In 2007 she was Poet-in-Residence at Amherst College. With her husband, the poet Philip Nikolaiev, she co-edits Fulcrum: an annual of poetry and aesthetics.

112013MUSICPsoy Korolenko is the stage-name of well-known Russian songwriter, singer, performer, critic and slavist, Pavel Eduardovich Lion. Performing primarily on keyboard instruments like the Casio sequencer in accordion timbre, Psoy experiments with various song traditions while singing in seven different language, including Russian, Yiddish, English and French. He draws musical inspiration from Tom Lehrer, Tiny Tim, Russian bard songs, Jewish street musicians and Russian rock music. Psoy is often compared to a modern skomorokhs – a medieval East Slavic actor who sings, dances, plays musical instruments and composes their own music and dramatic performances. His live show uses elements of artistic conceptualism and authentic folklore tradition and is described as a deep psychological process and an existential experience.

112013ALYONAAlyona Alyonkova (real name Alyona Arenkova) is a prize winning pianist, composer and arranger. She lives and works in St. Petersburg. In collaboration with Psoy Korolenko, she has released two CD’s of ”Russkoe Bogatstvo” (Russian Riches) programs.

The “Russian Voices” symposium is organized in tandem with our “European Voices” series – an ongoing series of conversations with artists and writers, activists and intellectuals exploring questions at the intersection of politics and culture, generously funded by the European Commission Delegation in Washington DC. It addresses similar questions of language, culture, nation, history, and the role of the poet in society.


Center for the Study of Europe Launches Russian Film Series (Fall 2013)

July 8th, 2013 in Event Announcements

During the fall of 2013, our focus at the Center for the Study of Europe is on Russia. The Russian Voices Film Series is intended to complement our forthcoming Russian Voices Symposium and Philosophical Cabaret. The poets, musicians, and filmmakers featured in the series are each, in their own way, engaged in re-thinking oppositions such as ”classic vs pop,” ”serious vs. light,” ”official (Soviet) vs. dissident,” ”national vs. international,” and ”mainstream vs. alternative” in the Russian culture of the late 20th century and in re-contextualizing these oppositions in the 21st century via unorthodox and innovative genres, linking poetry to theater, music and performance art. The Russian Voices program is being organized in the context of a larger “European Voices” series, which is funded by the European Commission Delegation. It addresses similar questions of language, culture, nation, history, and the role of the artist in society, and targets a similar broad audience of students, faculty, and members of the public. Our interest in both programs is in facilitating “conversations across disciplines.”

The Russian Voices Film Series is jointly sponsored by the Center for the Study of Europe and the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature, which welcomes two new Russian language faculty this fall: Yuri Corrigan, Assistant Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature, and Olga Livshin, Lecturer in Russian.

Monday, September 30 @ 6 PM
Film Screening: Stilyagi (“Hipsters”)

101413STILYAGIPlease join us for a screening of Valeriy Todorovskiy’s 2008 film Hipsters!

Featuring an all-starcast, dynamic script and slick cinematography, Stilyagi takes the viewer on an epic joy ride through 1955 Moscow, two years after Stalin’s death. At the height of the Cold War in the Soviet Union, the titular stilyagi were a bunch of Western-oriented hipsters who loved jazz, exhibited questionable morals and enjoyed dressing with style. Mels (Anton Shagin), a seemingly brainwashed member of the Communist youth group Komsomol, falls in love with Polza (Oksana Akinshina) while raiding an illegal underground nightclub . Polza invites Mels to join her and her friends on “Broadway” and Mels is dumbfounded when he shows up to the party dressed plainly and looking apologetic. Striving to win Polza’s attention, Mels utimately abandons Komsomol and joins the stilyagl, chasing after Polza comically throughout the rest of the film as he learns to play the saxophone, dance jazz,and dress like a movie star.

Introduced by Anna Winestein, Visiting Researcher, Center for the Study of Europe

Monday, October 21 @ 6 PM
Film Screening: Svadba (“The Wedding”)

093013THEWEDDINGPlease join us for a screening of The Wedding (2000), directed by Pavel Lungin!

In a small mining village near Moscow the wedding of Michka and Tania is being prepared. Tania, Michka’s child love, is back from Moscow. In the family of Michka, this wedding does not delight anybody. The father, hero of the village, sees all the guests he’ll have to feed. The grandfather sees, him,with an evil eye “this creature” entering the family and the mother cries for the fate of her son. But the wedding starts, without money, maybe without bride… A true spectacle where all is possible, whereas worst or best, where the limits vanish, where the drama is as close as happiness.

Pavel Lungin: This project was born from questions which torment me and for which I have no answers. How does the Russian people survive in year 2000 ? I do not speak about great misfortunes : war, the Maffia or the corruption, but about the everyday life. What became the family, love, childhood, friendship ? Did people change ? Can they change ? I’ve desired to paint through situations sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, the collective portrait of a mining provincial town, that of Lipki, a small borough 200 kilometers from Moscow. There, the time seems to be stopped : socialism era is over and the new life hasn’t started yet. The main actors are surrounded by the inhabitants of Lipki, images of these people forgotten by their government, the artists and the whole world. These million Russians lost in the middle of their country. The main character of film, Michka, is ingenuous, “idiotic” in the sense of Dostoïevski, someone for whom sacrifice is as natural as breathing. In Russia, a proverb says : “Without a right man, a village cannot exist.” This is the key sentence of this film, because as long as in Russia the force and the kindness of people like Michka will remain, this country will always have forces.

Introduced by Yuri Corrigan, Assistant Professor of Russian & Comparative Literature.

Monday, October 28 @ 6 PM
Film Screening and Director Talk: “My Perestroika” with Robin Hessman
Reception to follow

102813MYPERESTROIKAJoin us for a screening of My Perestroika and a conversation with Director, Producer, and Cinematographer Robin Hessman. My Perestroika follows five ordinary Russians living in extraordinary times — from their sheltered Soviet childhood, to the collapse of the Soviet Union during their teenage years, to the constantly shifting political landscape of post-Soviet Russia. Together, these childhood classmates paint a complex picture of the dreams and disillusionment of those raised behind the Iron Curtain. [More about the film]

Robin Hessman graduated from Brown University with a dual degree in Russian and Film. She received her graduate degree in film directing from the All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow (with a “red diploma” of honors). She received an Academy Award® in 1994 – with co-director James Longley – for their student film, Portrait of Boy with Dog. During her eight years living in Russia, Robin worked for the Children’s Television Workshop as the on-site producer of Ulitsa Sezam, the original Russian-language Sesame Street. [More about Hessman]

The Russian Voices Film Series is jointly free and open to the public.
Screenings take place at 6 PM in the Boston University Photonics Center, 8 St. Mary’s Street, Room 206

[Download flyer]