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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 149

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Andrei Voznesensky (voz-nuh-SEHN-skee) is known primarily for his lyric poetry; however, he produced a body of experimental work that challenges the borders between literary forms. For example, his long work “Oza” (1964) is a literary montage alternating verse with prose passages and incorporating several points of view. Avos (1972; Story Under Full Sail, 1974), based on the life of the Russian diplomat and explorer Nikolai Petrovich Rezanov, is sometimes classified as poetry, sometimes as prose. Voznesensky’s prose writings include a short memoir, “I Am Fourteen,” which sheds light on his friendship with the famed Russian writer Boris Pasternak; “O” (about), which appears in An Arrow in the Wall, a critical commentary on art and literature; and “Little Crosses,” an essay on spirituality. In addition, he wrote a play, Save Your Faces (pr. 1971), and collaborated on musical and theatrical pieces such as the “rock opera” Iunona i Avos (pr. 1983; Juno and Avos).


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During the early 1960’s, Andrei Voznesensky, like his contemporary Yevgeny Yevtushenko, enjoyed enormous popularity in what was then the Soviet Union. His books sold hundreds of thousands of copies as soon as they were published, and fans flocked to public readings held in athletic stadiums to accommodate audiences of ten thousand and more.

His poetry, which is intellectually demanding, drew critical acclaim internationally as well as within the Soviet Union. His literary awards spanned three decades. Antiworlds was nominated for the Lenin Prize in literature in 1966, and “The Stained Glass Panel Master” won the State Literature Prize in 1978. He was awarded the International Award for Distinguished Achievement in Poetry in 1972, and his collection An Arrow in the Wall, edited by William Jay Smith and F. D. Reeve, received the New York Times Editor’s Choice Award in 1987.


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Airaudi, Jesse T. “Hard to Be a God: The Political Antiworlds of Voznesensky, Sokilov, and the Brothers Strugatsky.” In Visions of the Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Fifteenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, edited by Allienne R. Becker. London: Greenwood Press, 1996. Airaudi provides a sound rationale for Voznesensky’s use of the fantastic to escape from the false, primary world imposed by governments and ruled by ideologies. Airaudi places Voznesensky in the tradition of the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, yet suggests Western readers can best understand Voznesensky in terms of surrealism.

Brown, Deming. Soviet Russian Literature Since Stalin. London: Cambridge University Press, 1978. This well-documented literary history provides a good overview of the complex and ever-fluctuating relationship between literature and politics in the two decades following the death of dictator Joseph Stalin. Voznesensky is referred to throughout the book and is a key figure in the fifth chapter, “The Younger Generation of Poets.”

Carlisle, Olga. Poets on Street Corners: Portraits of Fifteen Russian Poets. New York: Random House, 1968. In this collection of biographical sketches, Carlisle, the granddaughter of noted Russian writer Leonid Andreyev, has included poets who write about and for ordinary Russians living ordinary lives. Her chapter on Voznesensky features lengthy quotations from interviews with the poet between 1963 and 1967. Voznesensky’s comments on the significance of poetry and the role of the poet are particularly illuminating.

Plimpton, George, ed. Beat Writers at Work: The Paris Review. New York: Random House, 1999. Conversations between Voznesensky and American poets Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky provide an entertaining, behind-the-scenes look at the writers as they discuss the poet’s craft.

Porter, Robert, ed. Seven Soviet Poets. London: Gerald Duckworth, 2000. Porter’s slender collection provides a thoughtful introduction, bibliographies, a historical reference guide, annotations, and biographical time lines for Voznesensky as well as other twentieth century Russian poets. These sections are in English, but the poetry is in Russian. For readers who are new to the language, the collection provides a good starting point with a supplemental vocabulary.


Critical Essays