Breaking Barriers and Earning Territory

  • ANNA HALBERSTADT

F-Letter is an anthology of Russian feminist writing, which includes poetry, written by young and some middle-aged women, writing in Russian, born in the former Soviet Union. These poets and poetesses, as Galina Rymbu calls them, come from different parts from the  former FSU, they come from different ethnic and religious communities. What they have in common is writing in Russian, the domineering language of the former Soviet Union, in the contemporary Putinist Russia, with its glorification of Stalinist past and patriarchal attitudes towards women, now supported by the official Orthodox church.

Despite the fact, that Russian women had access to higher education, and many had become teachers, doctors and engineers, the double standard in family life had remained. Working women continued taking care of most of domestic responsibilities after work, including child-rearing, while a man’s identity was defined by his profession almost entirely. A  double standard remained in sexual relationships and society mores, where the brunt of responsibility for the success of a marriage and survival of a family fell on a woman. If the husband cheated on her or left her for another, it was. because she failed as a wife or a lover, let go of herself, gained weight, neglected the husband or was too demanding.

Feminist poetry gives voice to daughters and grand-daughters of these women, who for the first time talk about their feelings, their bodies and their sexuality, about love, straight and gay, about physical and sexual abuse, endured by generations of Russian women, in their own vocabulary and their own expression. Poets, represented in this anthology, are quite different.

But together, they are weaving a new fabric of poetic expression, reminding me, and influenced, in a way, by  the lineage of feminist American poetry , beginning with Elizabeth Bishop and continued by Adrienne Rich, Eileen Myles, Arianna Raines and others.

Lida Yusupova with her women gaining voices and personhood in bleak and indifferent society,

Galina Rymbu with her wide range, that includes poems of protest, of hungry working class childhood, of a woman’s awareness and her way of talking about her body, giving birth, making love in precise and unembellished “unpoetic” texts, Oksana Vasyakina  with her poems about a father, who dies of AIDS, and shame and lies, surrounding LGBT issues in Russian society, Ekaterina Simonova, who describes an older lesbian couple, two women, who are not young, not sexy, but caring, and invisible in sexist society,  and other authors of F-Letter anthology, present a new and important lineage of feminist poetry, written in Russian.

This poetry is breaking  barriers and earning  territory in Russian poetry.

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F Letter
New Russian Feminist Poetry
ed. Galina Rymbu, Eugene Ostashevsky, and Ainsley Morse.
Published : isolarii
251 Pages.

Authors: Galina Rymbu, Lida Yusupova, Daria Serenko, Lolita Agamalova, Elena Kostyleva, Egana Djabbarova, Oksana Vasyakina, Elena Georgievskaya, Stanislava Mogileva, Ekaterina Simonova, Nastya Denisova, Yulia Podlubnova.

Translaters: Eugene Ostashevsky, Ainsley Morse, Alex Karsavin, Helena Kernan, Kit Egington, Valzhyna Mort, Kevin Mf Platt.

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