Alien Matter: Selected Poems.
Spuyten Duyvil, 104 pages, $10
Regina Derieva is one of the outstanding writers of the contemporary Russian diaspora. Her books have already appeared in English, Swedish, Italian, and French. Her brilliant translations of Czeslaw Milosz, Thomas Merton, Les Murray, and other celebrated poets contribute to her high poetic reputation. Last but not least, she is a profound essayist.
For all that, she has paid a high price. The words of Eugenio Montale, “It’s not possible to exaggerate,” taken by Derieva as an epigraph for her poem “At the Intersection,” would be an appropriate motto for her biography as well. For twenty-six years, she lived in Karaganda, perhaps the most dismal corner of the former Soviet Union—once the center of a vast prison camp universe, later just a gloomy industrial city. Having...