Marya Zaturenska Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Zaturenska, Marya 1902–

Zaturenska is a Russian-born American lyric poet. She won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Cold Morning Sky. (See also CLC, Vol. 6, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 13-16, rev. ed.)

Babette Deutsch

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

An almost palpable darkness hovers over many of the lyrics of Marya Zaturenska, which move from the innocent fairyland of a romanticized child's world toward a place peopled by haunted men and women, and their fearful, august companions, demons, angels, sibyls, gods. Her lyricism lacks the austere quality of Louise Bogan's. That she has read the metaphysicals with a fond attentiveness, the epigraphs and the names of her poems bear witness, as does the tone of those religious lyrics which have the quality of pastels. But her dream-charged imagery, twined with roses and with serpents, belongs to another country of the mind. She may briefly recall to us the forgotten beauties in the old book of nature, bid us "Remember Paradise and its perfect climate," more often she will suggest "the Gothic terror". Her poetry has an old-fangled quality, even as she acknowledges the risk we run when we listen to the voice of the past, or glances at the fact that "disaster lies in wait/For the heart and for the state." (p. 267)

Babette Deutsch, in her Poetry in Our Time (copyright © 1963 by Babette Deutsch; 1963 by Doubleday; reprinted by permission of Babette Deutsch), revised edition, Doubleday, 1963.

Robert Phillips

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

It was T. S. Eliot who asserted, "The most individual parts of the poet's work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously." In other words, a healthy tradition is capable of modifying itself continuously in the guts of the living, giving rise to fresh statements and new implications.

This surely is true of the work of Marya Zaturenska, whose new book [The Hidden Waterfall] is firmly rooted in the many conventions of lyric poetry, but which startles with its freshness. In her choice of matter as well as of mode, Miss Zaturenska is a true lyric poet—that is, pertaining to the lyre and relating to madrigals, airs, and sonnets (i.e., "little songs"). It is appropriate that one poem in this, her eighth collection, concludes with the lines, "Renewed are the sea's advances./Resume, resume, the old dances,/And the song with the old refrain,/Renew our life again!" It is a book in which the poet literally sets some of the most serious "old refrains" of traditional poetry dancing new jigs. As such, it is pure Zaturenska. The imagination of Miss Zaturenska has never been lured by the fashionable or the trivial. Instead of the topical, she attempts to write of the timeless. Even her earlier poems involving the Second World War (from The Listening Landscape) were banished when she assembled her Collected Poems eight years ago, as if even that event were but a footnote in the true history of mankind.

Marya Zaturenska has long been one of America's natural sources of power and light; her second collection, Cold Morning Sky, full of magic and mystery, shadow and epiphany, won the Pulitzer Prize when she was a young woman. Even then her work was fully mature. It always gave, for instance, the impression of being directly spoken by the individual poet herself. Her work has never imitated others; her influences are thoroughly assimilated…. Subjective, highly emotional, in even her new adaptations from the Italian, the voice is always that of Marya Zaturenska, not that of some assumed persona.

Because Miss Zaturenska's work is so emotional, and because emotions are rarely sustainable, her poems are relatively brief. The ambitious, extended poem like...

(The entire section is 932 words.)