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Letter to the Amazon
Letter to the Amazon

Marina Tsvetaeva

translated by A'Dora Phillips, Gaëlle Cogan

Nonfiction/Essay | $12 $10
Spring 2016
Buy"The most individual style in twentieth-century Russian poetry."
Like many of Marina Tsvetaeva’s essays and poems, Letter to the Amazon is addressed to another writer, in this case Natalie Clifford Barney, a wealthy American expatriate in Paris. Though written in 1932, Tsvetaeva’s letter was in response to what Barney said about lesbian relationships and motherhood in her 1920 Pensées dune Amazone (Thoughts of an Amazon). Tsvetaeva uses her essay to emphasize what is to her mind a general truth of lesbian relationships (i.e. they cannot endure because of a woman’s innate desire for a child) and to explore her seemingly agonized feelings about Sophia Parnok, the Russian poet with whom she fell in love in 1914, when Tsvetaeva was twenty-two and Parnok twenty-nine.

With an introduction by Catherine Ciepiela.Excerpt ˇ


I have been thinking of you since the day I saw you – has it been a month? When I was young, I was eager to explain myself to others, I was afraid of missing the wave rising from within to carry me toward the other, I was always afraid of loving no more, of knowing no more. But I am no longer young, and have learned to let almost everything pass—irrevocably.Close ˆ

About the Author

Marina Tsvetaeva
Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) was one of the most renowned poets of 20th-century Russia. Her life coincided with years of extreme turbulence in Russian history. She left Russia in 1922 with her daughter and her husband, Sergei Efron. In 1925 the family settled in Paris where they lived in poverty. In 1939 Tsvetaeva returned to the Soviet Union. Following the arrest of her husband and daughter, she hanged herself on August 31, 1941.

About the Translator

A’Dora Phillips holds an MFA in Fiction from UMass Amherst and is currently pursuing a PhD in English (Creative Writing Fiction) at the University of Cincinnati. She taught writing for five years at UMass-Amherst and currently serves as an associate mentor in the City University of Hong Kong’s low-residency MFA program. In addition to writing, she studied traditional drawing and painting for many years, and has made her home in such places as Turkey, Romania, Italy, France, and the Czech Republic – experiences that inform her translation and writing.
Gaëlle Cogan
Gaëlle Cogan holds an M.A. in American Literature from the Université Paris IV-Sorbonne and a diploma in Literature and Languages from the École Normale Supérieure (Paris). She also studied Physical Therapy at the University of Health Sciences in Lausanne, with a particular interest in musicians' health. She currently lives and works as a physical therapist in Switzerland. Letter to the Amazon is her first translation.

Other Contributors

Cathy Ciepiela
Catherine Ciepiela is a scholar and translator of Russian poetry who teaches at Amherst College. She is the author of The Same Solitude (Cornell 2006), a study of Marina Tsvetaeva's epistolary romance with Boris Pasternak, and co-editor, with Honor Moore, of The Stray Dog Cabaret (NYRB 2007), an anthology of poems by the Russian modernists in Paul Schmidt's translations. She also edited the recent anthology Relocations: Three Contemporary Russian Women Poets (Zephyr Press 2013) featuring the poetry of Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova and Maria Stepanova. Her translations of Marina Tsvetaeva and Polina Barskova have appeared in The Nation, The Massachusetts Review, Seneca Review and elsewhere. She is currently working on translations of Polina Barskova's poetic prose.

Advance Praise

The most peculiarly excitable and brilliant and perhaps the most individual style in twentieth-century Russian poetry.—Claudia Roth Pierpont, New Yorker