Monday, December 13, 2010

Who is this clown?

The one on the right, I mean. Not just any clown, this is Slava Polunin, the renowned inventor of Slava’s Snowshow! After the nightly blizzard that ended his Broadway show back in 2008, it must have been nice to slip into shorter shoes, a dry Martini, and perhaps the Samovar's special blini with caviar. Slava, isn't it time again to treat us to laughter, Russian melancholy, and exciting special effects--in short, to once again take New York by storm?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dual book launch this Sunday at 6pm!

Two new books of poetry make their debut this Sunday: Live Landscape by Andrey Gritsman and No Other Paradise by Kurt Brown. Brown, founder of the Aspen Writers’ Conference and Gritsman, host of a lovely poetry series at the Cornelia Street Café right here in nyc and editor of the international poetry journal Interpoezia, have both done yeoman’s duty (whatever that is) in narrowing the gap between poetry and the people who love her. Looks like an all-English reading, with a focus on heaven and earth instead of the usual Russian Inferno. What better way to round out your weekend? 

Friday, October 15, 2010

“Cardinal Points” Launch Party Oct. 17!

Where, if not from the center of all things cultural, would you launch a literary journal called “Cardinal Points”? The English language version of a fine recent addition to the literary scene (the Russian Storony sveta, masterminded by poets Irina Mashinski and Oleg Woolf), will be deservedly celebrating its impressive inaugural issue you know where, at 6:30pm this Sunday. More broadly conceived than a journal of translation, this issue includes poetry and prose from the leading lights and most interesting new voices of our times, in both original and translated English: Alicia Ostriker, Glyn Maxwell, Polina Barskova, Ilya Kaminsky, Robert Chandler (guest editor of this issue), Annie Finch, and many, many more. It is an issue-cornucopia, and I expect the evening of celebration will match, since many of its contributors will be in attendance.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mikhail Youzhny’s U.S. Open Secret?

Roman and Youzhny

How was it that 12th-seeded Russian tennis start Mikhail Youzhny was able to get the better of “marathon man” Stanislas Wawrinka and surge into the semi-finals of the U.S. Open yesterday (see article here)? It may be that he had the necessary reserves of strength and agility because he eats his kasha—at the Samovar! “It is terrific kasha,” I thought I heard Youzhny commenting to the media. “But that was just getting into semi-finals. I want more.”

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Not just a reading--it's a MULTIPLE book launch! TONIGHT!

This just in, folks: everything you need to know about tonight's reading at the Sammy, complete with varying font shapes and sizes,  a healthy helping of bold, and more white space than you can shake a stick at:

Tuesday, September 7, at 7 PM

Russian Samovar Arts Club

          Please join poets


       for the launch of their recent books & poetry readings


LIVE LANDSCAPE (Cervena Barva Press)

and GREATEST HITS (Pudding House Press) by Andrey Gritsman


ROCK AND DEW by Carmen Firan

Translations into English by Adam J. Sorkin, Andrei Codrescu, Isaiah Sheffer

(Sheep Meadow Press, 2010)



Translations into Romanian by Adrian Sangeorzan;
(bilingual edition English- Romanian,  Scrisul Romanesc Press, 2010)
(Editions Passage St.-Hubert, Brussels) by Richard Milazzo

THE ANATOMY OF THE MOON by Adrian Sangeorzan
Translations into English by Razvan Hotaranu;
 bilingual edition English- Romanian,  Scrisul Romanesc Press, 2010

Russian Samovar
Arts Club, Second Floor

256 W 52nd STREET, by 8 Ave., NEW YORK, NY 10019, 212-7570168

Andrey Gritsman – Russian-American poet and essayist, he has been living in the US since 1981. Author of several collections of poetry in English and in his native Russian.
He edits poetry magazine INTERPOEZIA and runs reading series at Cornelia Street Café in New York City.

Carmen Firan – born in Romania, she has been living in New York since 2000. She has published twenty books including poetry, novels, essays, and short stories. Among her most recent books are Words and Flesh, novellas and essays, Talisman Publishers, 2009 and Rock and Dew, selected poems, Sheep Meadow Press, 2010.

Richard Milazzo – poet, essayist, art critic & curator, editor and publisher, he is the author of many books, including two major monographs ( Saint Clair Cemin, Brent Sikkema Editions and The Paintings of Ross Bleckner, Editions Alain Noirhomme) and volumes of poetry : Small China Moon, Keats Dying in Your Arms, and The Fishmonger’s Door. He lives and works in New York City.

Adrian Sangeorzan - is the author of several books of poetry, fiction, and memoirs, including the poetry books Tattoos on Marble and Over the Lifeline (Spuyten Duyvil Press) and the most recent Vitali, a novel, and The Anatomy of the Moon, 2010. He is a Romanian born living in New York since 1990.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Samovar Set to Simmer in September!

The Russian Samovar, after its annual week-long fall cleaning, is all burnished and shiny and ready to receive you. The post-Labor Day re-opening (Tuesday, September 7) features...that’s right, a poetry reading! This one is in English and Russian, and if I knew who was reading I would tell you. Anyway, it is sure to be festive, and wouldn’t you like to be the first to set foot on the freshly polished dance floor?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tomorrow! Vladimir Gandelsman, 7pm

A rare chance to hear one of the best of his generation reading his own poetry, and, who knows, perhaps some of his beautiful translations into Russian of some of the best English language poets (Auden, Stevens, Lewis Carroll...). Expect the evening to be electrifying--after all, the poet graduated from Leningrad Electro-technical Institute! You can have a look at his own web site here, and see you there.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Joseph Brodsky's 70th Birthday

Start all the clocks!

Hook up the telephone!

Allow the dog to bark without a juicy bone!

Hmmm... Anybody have a really joyful birthday poem? Please let me know, I’d like to read it the next time I’m at a birthday gathering in honor of a beloved person no longer with us.

Joseph Brodsky was not just the poet and co-founder of the Russian Samovar who would have turned 70 this past Monday, May 24th. He was the man who claimed that the rise of free thinking in the Soviet Union began not with Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, but with the series of Tarzan movies that were part of the cache of "trophy films"captured by the Soviets in WWII and subsequently screened all over the USSR. Who authorized that, I’d like to know?! If you have a fresh look at those films, as I have and recommend you do, you may see that they are an object lesson in rejecting the norms of society, retreating to one's individual paradise, living for the present, and returning meaning to language. Johnny Weismuller, as Tarzan, wastes no words: “Jane swim now!” he says. And, of course, "Uhhhh-ee-uh-ee-uhhh-ee-uh-ee-uhhhhhh! (hear it here) as he swings through the air from vine to vine.

Tarzan’s was one lesson Brodsky took to heart. He quit school, went on expeditions to god-forsaken places, devoured every poetic influence he could get his hands on, chased girls, got in trouble with the law, did hard time, emigrated to the United States, taught at Mount Holyoke, became a New Yorker, married a princess, and frequently brooded or laughed in the back corner of the Samovar with friends from all over the world. All while writing poetry and prose, some of which will surely stand the test of time and continue to be read and enjoyed as long as people still do that sort of thing.

On Monday night, the tribute to Brodsky came in poetic and musical forms, from the sound of his own voice recordings to new and old translations of Shelley and Auden, to music by Grieg and Schumann and Bloch. Two Davids, Lehman and Rieff, said neat things about Brodsky. Sunny von Bülow, poor thing, looked in briefly as a mute shade. Vasily Kolchenko performed his own lovely setting of Brodsky’s early “Воротишься на родину” [You come back to your homeland] for bard and acoustic guitar. And with that, more or less, everybody headed upstairs to remember Brodsky in more gustatory fashion. O, the kulibiak (a long pastry filled with cabbage, meat or fish)! O, the shining vodkas and non-alcoholic cranberry drinks! O, the kilometers of salads of every shape, color and form! As Hamlet may or may not have said, depending on which folio we go by, and meaning precisely what, we know not/naught, “O, o, o, o!”

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring got you down?

There is always poetry at the Samovar to cheer you up. This Sunday at 6:30pm, for instance, you can have Ina Bliznetsova's poetry delivered directly to your ears by the means of her very own (incredible, earthy) voice. Wishing you had time to brush up on your classical mythology and art history? Let Ms. Bliznetsova evoke it all for you in sculpted stanzas, while you sip ambrosia. Here's a link to some published work.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bakhyt Kenjeev This Thursday

«We will drown you in a sea of poetry!» Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev is reputed to have exclaimed while banging his shoe rhythmically on a conference table at the United Nations. Those words now seem prophetic, at least when it comes to readings at the Samovar. Next up, this Thursday at 7pm, will be Bakhyt Kenjeev. Let's stop right there: Bakhyt. In Cyrillic letters, even better: Бахыт. These are the letters—the big-bellied Б, the velar fricative X marking the exact center of the name, followed by Russia's impossible vowel Ы (known as «yery» with the accent on the second syllable), which even in Russian is never, never supposed to follow «х» but sometimes does anyway—these are the letters, I say, that inspired children's writer Theodore Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Suess, to write his immortal work On Beyond Zebra. I feel a great kinship with Dr. Suess' unnamed hero in his journey beyond the letters of the English alphabet. He could be speaking for me when he says:

In the places I go there are things that I see

That I never could spell if I stopped with the Z.

I'm telling you this 'cause you're one of my friends.

My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends!

And look at the realm we've reached: Бахыт Кенжеев. How, with a name like that, could you not become a man of letters? If you understand Russian, or love Russian poetry, or just feel like letting Kenjeev's Mandelstam-edged elegaic sound wash over you before you surface for the third and final time, check out the poems on his website and come to his rare New York City appearance this Thursday.

Friday, January 29, 2010

February 4: Elena Fanailova reading

Ugly Duckling Presse (is the final "e" silent?), located in a former can factory in the none-too-scenic Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, hand-typesets and prints many of its beautiful publications on a vintage letterpress (nice NYT article on the press here). To celebrate their latest Swan, presumably from Matvei Yankelovich's East European series, the UDP-e invites you to a reading, (you know where) this Thursday, February 4, at 7pm. Elena Fanailova is: poet, journalist, host for Radio Liberty's "Far from Moscow" program, linguist, teacher and even (my favorite) a graduate of the Voronezh Medical Institute and at one time a practicing doctor! Welcome to your first full-length collection in English translation, Dr. Fanailova! Oh, and the reading will be moderated by the eminent writer, translator, biographer, and co-founder of Columbia University's Center for Literary Translation Michael Scammell, whose own magisterial biography of Arthur Koestler just came out to the most inspired reviews I've seen in years. See you there!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Mountain of Crumbs

See the mountain of books artfully arrayed? It was the debut party this past Thursday for author Elena Gorokhova and her memoir about growing up in Russia during what we used to call the Era of Stagnation (Brezhnev, the eyebrows, the-government-will provide-consumer-goods-if-the-people-will-pretend-to-believe-in-Communism, wink-wink, nudge-nudge).

Simon and Schuster, A Mountain of Crumbs' publisher, put on a terrific spread that included the Samovar's famously satisfying pelmeni (meat dumplings in broth), beef Stroganoff, black bread, smoked salmon, herring and potatoes, beet salad...I could go on and on.

Certainly the waitstaff went on and on, continually bringing more tasty treats until long after I faded into the New York night. No crumbs here, folks. Although I was the only plate-licker (see below).

Ernst Neizvestny came! The famous sculptor who during World War II actually died, but then revived to go on to art school, fame and controversy, has a website well worth perusing (you can begin doing so by clicking here). Neizvestny is pictured here with Gorokhova (all photos of this event by Lauren Perlstein). And here are the foothills of Crumbs:

I wish my mother had come from Leningrad, from the world of Pushkin and the tsars, of granite embankments and lace ironwork, of pearly domes buttressing the low sky. Leningrad's sophistication would have infected her the moment she drew her first breath, and all the curved façades and stately bridges, marinated for more than two centuries in the city's wet, salty air, would have left a permanent mark of refinement on her soul.

But she didn't. She came from the provincial town of Ivanovo in central Russia, where chickens lived in the kitchen and a pig squatted under the stairs, where streets were unpaved and houses made from wood. She came from where they lick plates.

Born three years before Russia turned into the Soviet Union, my mother became a mirror image of my motherland: overbearing, protective, difficult to leave. Our house was the seat of the politburo, my mother its permanent chairman. She presided in our kitchen over a pot of borsch, a ladle in her hand, ordering us to eat in the same voice that made her anatomy students quiver. A survivor of the famine, Stalin's terror, and the Great Patriotic War, she controlled and protected, ferociously. What had happened to her was not going to happen to us. She sheltered us from dangers, experience, and life itself by a tight embrace that left us innocent and gasping for air.

She commandeered trips to our crumbling dacha — under the Baltic clouds, spitting rain — to plant, weed, pick, and preserve for the winter whatever grew under the rare sun that never rose above the neighbor's pigsty. During brief northern summers we sloshed through a swamp to the shallow waters of the Gulf of Finland, warm and yellow as weak tea; we scooped mushrooms out of the forest moss and hung them on thread over the stove to dry for the winter. My mother planned, directed, and took charge, lugging buckets of water to beds of cucumbers and dill, elbowing in lines for sugar to preserve the fruit we'd need to treat winter colds. When September came, we were back in the city, rooting in the cupboard for gooseberry jam to cure my cough or black currant syrup to lower my father's blood pressure. We were back to the presidium speeches and winter coats padded with wool and preparations for more April digging.

Maybe if I hadn't spent every spring Sunday ankle-deep in cold, soggy dirt, I wouldn't have been so easily seduced by the decadent sound of the English language that poured from the grooves of a record called Audio-Lingual Drills, my tutor's pride. I might have gone to medical school, like my mother, or engineering school, like everyone else. I might have even married a Russian...

NY Times review here. Bony appetite!