Letter to the Amazon
Author: Marina Tsvetaeva
Translators: A'Dora Phillips and Gaëlle Cogan
Publisher: Ugly Duckling Presse (2016)
Like many of Marina Tsvetaeva’s essays and poems, Letter to the Amazon is addressed to another writer, in this case Natalie Clifford Barney, a wealthy American expatriate in Paris. Though written in 1932, Tsvetaeva’s letter was in response to what Barney said about lesbian relationships and motherhood in her 1920 Pensées dune Amazone (Thoughts of an Amazon). Tsvetaeva uses her essay to emphasize what is to her mind a general truth of lesbian relationships (i.e. they cannot endure because of a woman’s innate desire for a child) and to explore her seemingly agonized feelings about Sophia Parnok, the Russian poet with whom she fell in love in 1914, when Tsvetaeva was twenty-two and Parnok twenty-nine.
"The most individual style in twentieth-century Russian poetry."
–Claudia Roth Pierpont