The modern world is a crucible of risks and pressures. Katia Kapovich’s new poetry collection, Cossacks and Bandits, addresses a coherent range of cultural, aesthetic, psychological, philosophical, social and political issues relevant to the complexities of modern life. How does one survive war, terror, loss, injustice, trauma, displacement, marginalization and other hurtful experiences without embracing cynicism or indifference? What resources of strength must we rely on in a society that is ideologically and economically fluid and at times cynical and indifferent, where mass culture, institutional religion and national belonging have only weak and doubtful remedies to offer? The book focuses on the personal histories of men and women who are survivors of sociopolitical and economic distress. To Kapovich such individuals are the true modern hero and heroine. They show that at the limits of experience, survival and dignity depend on creative thinking, on a leap of imagination, as in the Russian children’s game of Cossacks and bandits. Set in the US, Eastern Europe and the Middle East—regions that the poet knows intimately, having spent a considerable part of her life in each—this volume is a poetic survival guide to cultural and geographical displacement, alienation and marginality. With feeling and mastery, with sadness and humor, Kapovich fuses a diverse polyphony of voices and themes into original, full-blooded, lyric American verse of great general and literary interest.
‘Poems that chatter and sing at the same time. Melodic stories. Lyrical gossip. Writing which makes itself heard.’ —Simon Armitage
‘Katia Kapovich’s new book of poems retains all her familiar virtues – her marvelous sense of story, her fearless but elegant use of form, her wit and delight in the world – but shows evidence of a new confidence in her adopted language. She moves with new lyric ease between Cambridge and Russia, between sensuous apprehensions of American life and memories of friends and family left behind. Some of the poems, especially those written in a tone of wry lament, and from a position of difficult exile, are absolutely heartbreaking.’ —James Wood
‘Katia Kapovich’s work combines the delight and wisdom of Russian form with the wild soliloquy of American freedom, and the consequence is wonderful.’ —Glyn Maxwell
‘Katia Kapovich possesses one of the freshest, most arresting poetic voices I have heard in a long time. She can sway effortlessly from the most common detail into zones of sheer imaginative wonder. That she offers a rare view of a poet’s daily life in Soviet Russia only adds to the broader significance of her writing. Gogol in Rome is a powerful gathering of her best work in English.’ —Billy Collins
‘Katia Kapovich’s indelible vignettes introduce us to the eerily desolate landscapes of the post-Glasnost Soviet Union, often through the filter of that dream-like, transitional consciousness peculiar to the recent émigré to America. Her poetry is singularly vivid, poignant, and manages to capture in miniature what Babel and Chekov achieve in their finest tales.’ —August Kleinzahler