Monday, January 21, 2013

Translator's Challenge: Maria Petrovykh

Georgy Chulkov, Maria Petrovykh, Anna Akhmatova, and Osip Mandelstam (1930s) / Image courtesy of Wikipedia

It was recently announced that this year's Compass Award, organized by the editors of Cardinal Points, will be given for a translation of a poem by Maria Petrovykh (1908-1979), whose name is new to me. I don't think I'm the only ignoramus, either: Stephen Dodson mentioned in a recent Languagehat post that the Wikipedia page for Petrovykh didn't exist until he wrote it. Quite a change from Tsvetaeva, who was this year's poet! But if the award draws attention to a good writer whom we might not otherwise read, then I'm all for it. Here's what the judges have to say about her:
Petrovykh was a poet of exquisite precision and subtlety – a friend of Osip Mandelstam, serving as an inspiration for his famed “Masteritsa vinovatykh vzorov,” and of Anna Akhmatova, who called her “Naznach’ mne svidan’e na etom svete” a “lyric masterpiece.” Yet, unlike her fellow masters, she hasn’t attained universal recognition. In part, this is due to her own humility; she published only one collection in her lifetime, and devoted most of her professional life to editing and translating the work of others. We feel it is high time for Petrovykh's own verse to benefit from the attention of translators as gifted and inspired as she herself was.
I was glad to see that the submission guidelines this year ask for a 400-word commentary from the translator. It's frustrating when you work hard on something only to have others overlook the subtleties of its craftsmanship, but a commentary offers a simple solution to the problem.

Oh, and as always, first prize is a compass. How cool is that?


  1. Thanks for sharing this information! Please write a post about your personal opinion and impressions on Petrovykh' work, it will be hugely appreciated.

  2. Good idea! As I said, her name is new to me, but I could certainly read some of her stuff and post my impressions. I'll add it to my ever-growing to-do list.