“Olga Sedakova is a writer of global significance. . .the publishing of this collection is a welcome stage in the reception of her exceptional genius in the West.” So writes Rowan Williams in his foreword to this translation of Old Songs.
Born in Moscow in 1949, Olga Sedakova emerged as a leading writer of the late Soviet period. Since 2014, she has been an outspoken critic of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Her writing bears witness to the values of generosity, attention, and non-violence. The poems in Old Songs construct a world shaped by these values, forming a lyric sequence infused with folk wisdom and anchored in moral courage. It is a world brought into being by song, the kind passed down over cradles and on walks through the garden. These poems find their way into your memory and accompany you on your way.
Sedakova is not only one of Russia’s most revered contemporary poets but also a scholar and essayist. Often compared to figures such as Czesław Miłosz, she has, with this volume (according to Rowan Williams), succeeded in “conveying the sense of a forgotten directness of perception and relation—not a lost simplicity, exactly, but a larger and more human world. . . .”
“In these exceptionally fine translations, Martha Kelly has achieved her aim of conveying “a sense of words worn down as smooth as a river rock.” One hears English words anew here, as well as the musical beauty and glorious wisdom of Sedakova’s poetry. To have Old Songs in this new version is a gift.”