Catherine Ciepiela studies and translates modern Russian literature, mainly Russian poetry. When asked why one should learn Russian, her answer is not “so you can read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky” but “so you can read the Russian poets.” The tradition founded by Alexander Pushkin in the early 19th century reached a peak a century later with the modernists – Osip Mandelstam, Anna Akhmatova, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Marina Tsvetaeva and others – and is experiencing another renaissance in the post-Soviet era. Ciepiela works in all these periods, always with an interest in how Russian poets converse with world poetry. She is currently translating Barskova’s first book of poetic prose, for which the poet won Russia’s top literary prize in 2015. She also is working on a book about Tsvetaeva’s years living as an émigré in Paris (1925-1939). The book frames Tsvetaeva’s writings in the broad context of interwar European culture and politics, with the aim of bringing her into view as a modernist thinker of exceptional interest.
Howard M. and Martha P. Mitchell Professor of Russian; Director, Amherst Center for Russian Culture, Amherst College