Though we know Vladimir Nabokov as a brilliant novelist, his
first love was poetry. This landmark collection brings together the best of his
verse, including many pieces that have never before appeared in English.
poems span the whole of Nabokov’s career, from the newly discovered “Music,”
written in 1914, to the short, playful “To Véra,” composed in 1974. Many are
newly translated by Dmitri Nabokov, including The University Poem, a sparkling
novella in verse (modeled on Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin) that constitutes a
significant new addition to Nabokov’s oeuvre. Included too are such poems as
“Lilith,” an early work which broaches the taboo theme revisited nearly forty
years later in Lolita, and “An Evening of Russian Poetry,” a masterpiece in
which Nabokov movingly mourns his lost language in the guise of a versified
lecture on Russian delivered to college girls. Subjects range from the Russian
Revolution to the American refrigerator, taking in on the way motel rooms,
butterflies, ice-skating, love, desire, exile, loneliness, language, and poetry
itself; and the poet whirls swiftly between the brilliantly painted facets of
his genius, wearing masks that are by turns tender, demonic, sincere,
self-parodying, shamanic, visionary, and ingeniously domestic.
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