Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova, and Maria Stepanova belong to the last generation of Russian poets formed by the Soviet experience. Born in the 1970s, they are old enough to have visceral memories of Soviet life but young enough to move adeptly with the new influences, new media, and new choices introduced in the post-Soviet era. Educated in Soviet, European, and U.S. universities, they share a cerebral firepower they exercise in their chosen professions—Barskova and Glazova as scholars, teachers, and translators, Stepanova as an influential online journalist. Together they represent a contemporary Russian culture that extends beyond national borders: Barskova has immigrated to the U.S., Glazova is based in Germany, and Stepanova is a lifelong Muscovite.
I grew up in Alaska, where one thing after another was constantly threatening my young life. Floatplanes stalled. Grizzlies ate our camping supplies. A moose wandering through our backyard got angrier than expected when a kid from school threw a rock at its knees. I wouldn’t say I was cavalier or brave about these experiences, but I didn’t need much time to recover from them. I was a child. My conclusion was almost always the same: I was still alive, and so was the rest of my family. We could all eat a granola bar and keep on fishing.
I am a sixth-generation Texan who married a fiercely native New Yorker, which means I have a keen appreciation for the ways in which places shape lives. When I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in the dead of winter last year, it was an odyssey that once again challenged my sense of identity. Cincinnati is worlds apart from both Texas and New York, and unlike those proudly parochial states, this city can lay a strong claim as the heart of America. It was settled in 1788 on the banks of the Ohio River, and at the turn of the century, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow named it “the Queen of the West”:
The Faroe Islands are not the rural, subarctic archipelago you imagine. Like their distant peers on the Danish mainland, the Faroese are thoughtful, progressive city-builders. To connect their dispersed communities, their highway system tunnels through basaltic mountains and under North Atlantic waters. Fast ferries and helicopter taxis run between remote points. With such transit infrastructure, this might seem like a maritime metropolis, if only they had the population. But more people live in Portland, Maine, than on the eighteen Faroe Islands.
Peaks and Valleys: Klaksvik City Center, Faroe Islands