23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Jelena Schwarz

Elena Schwarz was born in 1948 in St. Petersburg, where she still lives today. She wrote her first poems at the age of thirteen. After finishing her studies at the Leningrad Institute for Drama, Music and Film in 1971, she worked as a translator, poet and essayist. She has issued her texts in the Samizdat underground scene since the 1960’s, because she was not allowed to publish a single line until the collapse of the Soviet Union. The censors were wary of the metaphysical-mystic themes, which, however, could not prevent her experimental lyric and epic verse poetry from enjoying an ever-increasing, though secret, popularity.  Owing to the fact that her texts could be published in western periodicals, Elena Schwarz became acknowledged outside Russia from early on. It is not surprising therefore that her first volume of poetry in Russian ‘Tanzuyushzy David’ (1985; Engl: Dancing David) came out in New York and not in her native country.  The following volume ‘Stichi’ (Engl: Poems) was published in Paris and Munich in 1987. When finally in 1989, Perestroika made it possible for her first volume of poetry to be published in the Soviet Union, ‘Storony svieta’ (Engl: Four Quarters of the Globe) was sold out the day of its appearance.  Since then, she has published one book of poems a year.  In 1999, Elena Schwarz was awarded the renowned Northern Palmyra prize for literature. Four years later, she received the Triumph Prize for her collected poetry in two volumes ‘Sochinenia Eleny Schwarz’ (2002; Engl: Works of Elena Schwarz). Elena Schwarz’ writing is characterised by a combination of counterpoint elements. Her power of imagination creates a unique relationship between the ordinary and the mythical.  Her poetry has its roots in the lyrical-religious tradition as well as in the ludic experiment. Its structure and theme are both simple and complex, its mood and diverse imagery both poetical and ironic-grotesque.  “Like in a shelter in the Taiga, the wanderer should also find in poems all his basic requirements: matches, bread, salt, an axe, and a nearby well.  But then it so happens he can imagine and discover the unexpected in it.” Though she calls her poems very close and personal “aphoristic descriptions of life”, she is well aware that they have a life of their own: “Poems are living beings, they fly away, very far away.” Her texts have been translated into several European languages. Her poems are available in German in two volumes, ‘Ein kaltes Feuer brennt an den Knochen entlang…’ (1997; Engl: A Cold Fire Burns along the Bones…) and ‘Das Blumentier’ (1999; Engl: The Flower Animal).

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