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The Feeling Sonnets

Eugene Ostashevsky

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NYRB Poets
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Slyly funny, inventive, and virtuosic, this new collection from a Russian-American master challenges poetic convention and explores themes of alienhood, translation, and human emotion.

In Eugene Ostashevsky's The Feeling Sonnets--his fourth collection of poems-- words, idioms, sentences, and poetic conventions are dislodged and defamiliarized in order to convey the experience of living in a land, and a language, apart. The book consists of four cycles of fourteen unrhymed, unmetered sonnets. The first cycle asks about the relationship between interpretation and emotion, whether "we feel the feelings that we call ours." The second cycle, mainly composed of "daughter sonnets," describes bringing up children in a foreign country and a foreign language. The third cycle, called "Die Schreibblockade," German for writer's block, talks about foreign-language processing of inherited historical trauma, in this case the siege of Leningrad from 1941 to 1944. The fourth cycle is about translation. The sonnets are followed by a short libretto, commissioned by the Italian composer Lucia Ronchetti, about Ravel's interaction with Paul Wittgenstein over the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.