Russian Poetry at Dickinson College
The Russian faculty at Dickinson has always tried to cultivate love for poetry in their students. Hosting contemporary Russian poets at Dickinson is a great way to get our students exposed to the world of Russian poetics. In the last few years, the Dickinson Russian Department has invited such poets as Dmitri Alexandrovich Prigov, Vera Pavlova, Alexei Tsvetkov, Lev Rubinstein, Tatiana Shcherbina, Psoy Korolenko, and Kirill Medvedev. Most came as participants of Semana Poetica, the Annual International Poetry Festival at Dickinson.
During the events of the Festival, poets participate in poetry readings and workshops. They visit Russian language and literature classes, discuss various issues related to poetry and Russian culture, lead workshops in translation and critique students’ translations of their work. Students particularly appreciate when poets attend Russian table dinner gatherings, sing and have informal chats with them. It is quite a special experience to hear famous poets read their own work.
In their research Russian faculty at Dickinson have often focused on poetry. Such poets as Vyacheslav Ivanov, Marina Tsvetaeva, Anna Akhmatova, Mikhail Kuzmin, as well as the conceptualists Dmitry Prigov and Lev Rubinstein have been the focus of study by previous and current Russian faculty at Dickinson. In her research of the poetry of Mikhail Kuzmin, one of the most significant Russian poet of 20th century, Prof. Duzs investigates the tension between Kuzmin’s traditionalism and his poetics of experimentation. Her latest project deals with the Kuzmin’s interest in visual arts. Prof. Duzs has also worked on the conceptual poetry, especially that of Lev Rubinstein.
Throughout their academic work, students of Russian study poetry. Their studies teach them to appreciate the nuances of Russian language. In introductory language courses, poetry often serves to illustrate certain grammatical points or idiomatic expressions. Students particularly appreciate when poetry is used for phonetic drills. As part of their Russian 104 (first year) studies, students have worked to write and record podcasts on famous Russian poets: Matt Brashears ‘11 and Kirsten Brents ‘14 focused on poet Fyodor Tyutchev, while Eli Blumenthal ‘14 and Jared Skitt ‘13 chose Konstantin Batyushkov. In their advanced courses, the faculty leads students’ research on various aspects of Russian poetic tradition. Lucas Stratton'04 is a good example of someone whose interest in Russian poetry developed while working with Russian faculty here at Dickinson and in Moscow. Luke’s honor’s thesis explored the links between Russian Symbolist poetry and the French poetic tradition (his second major being French). Now, as a graduate student of Russian Literature in Berkley, CA, Lucas continues to study the poetry of the Russian avant-garde, focusing on Vladimir Mayakovsky and Mikhail Kuzmin.
During their study-abroad in Russia, students enjoy visiting poets’ memorial museums, such as Pasternak’s in Peredelkino, Mayakovsky’s in Moscow, Yesenin’s in Konstantinovo, and Pushkin’s memorial estate in the Pskov region. Students also learn about trends in contemporary Russian poetry by attending poetry readings, books presentations and gatherings at literary coffee clubs. Often they get a chance to see and hear those same poets who have come to Dickinson for Poetry Festivals. Because poetry is such an essential part of Russian culture, hosting poets and studying Russian poetry at Dickinson has been highly inspirational for students and faculty.