Vera Pavlova was born in 1963, in Moscow (Russia). She is a graduate of the Schnittke College of Music and the Gnessin Academy of Music, where she specialized in history of music and wrote herdissertation on the chamber vocalcycles of Shostakovich. She has worked as a guide at the Shaliapin Museum in Moscow, published several essays on music, and sang in a church choir. Over a period of twelve years Pavlova was carrying out an educational project at the Zodiak Studio, teaching creative writing and poetry to a group of twelve children who were four years old when the project was launched.
She began writing poetry at the age of twenty, after the birth of her first daughter, while she was still at the maternity ward. She first published her poems at the age of twenty-four, in the literary monthly “Yunost’” (“Youth”). Pavlova became a celebrity after no fewer than seventy-two poems of hers were published in a two-page centerfold of the “Segodnia” (“Today”) daily, a unique event in the annals of Russian literature, giving rise to the rumor that she was a literary hoax. Since then, her works have appeared in many newspapers and in most of the major magazines in Russia.
Her first collection, “Nebesnoye Zhivotnoye” (“The Heavenly Animal”), was published in 1997. The second and third collections, “Vtoroi Yazyk” (“The Second Tongue”), 1998, and “Linia Otryva”, (“Tear on This Line”), 2000, were issued by the Pushkin Foundation Publishing House, in its prestigious “Autograph” poetry series. Her fourth collection, “Chetvertyi Son” (“The Fourth Dream”), was acclaimed by the Russian Academy of Letters as the best book of the year and awarded the Grand Apollon Grigoriev Prize, at the time the most prestigious of its kind in Russia.
To date Pavlova has published fifteen collections of poetry in Russian, of which “Vezdes’” (“Here and Everywhere”), 2003, “Ruchnaya Klad’” (“Hand-Carried Luggage”), 2006, and “Pis’ma v sosedneyu komnatu” (“Letters to the Room Next Door”), 2006, were acclaimed as The Best Book of the Year. The latter of these collections is a unique project in book printing: it consists of 1001 poems written out in Pavlova’s hand and illustrated with drawings done by her daughter when the girl was four years old.
As of now, Pavlova’s poems have been translated into twenty-one languages. She has participated in international poetry festivals in Azerbaijan, Belgium, Germany, Greece, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uzbekistan. She has held poetry readings at a number of American schools, including Columbia University, University of Illinois at Urbana, Dartmouth College, Ohio State University, Virginia Tech, William and Mary College, Harvard University, North-Western University, Wesleyan University, Dickinson College, Princeton University, University of Alaska (Anchorage), Boston College, and at some other schools in the United States and other countries.
Pavlova has participated in art projects jointly with painters (“Poetry and Photography” with Vladimir Suliagin, “A Book in Screens” with Sergei Maksiutin, “Woman: A User’s Guide” with the TAFF Design Lab). She has authored five libretti of operas (to the music by Iraida Yusupova, Michael Nyman, AntonDegtiarenko, and Yefrem Podgaits) and two oratorios (music by Iraida Yusupova and Vladimir Genin). She has also experimented with non-traditional ways of disseminating poetry, such as SMS-messaging, postcards, video clips, and audio books. The Kontent Media recording company has released seven audio books with Pavlova reading her selections from the works of renowned Russian poets (Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Pasternak, Mandelshtam, Yesenin, Blok, and Kuzmin). Stage productions based on Pavlova’s works are included in the repertoires of theatres in the cities of Moscow, Perm, and Skopin. Documentary films on Vera Pavlova have been released in Russia and the United States; she is also among the literary figures in documentaries covering contemporary Russian literature, filmed in Germany and France.
To see video from PBS click here
PIn the United States, Pavlova’s poems have appeared in Verse, Tin House, The New Yorker, and Poetry magazines, as well as in The New York Times. One of her poems was selected by the Poetry in Motion program and was displayed as a poster in subway cars in New York City and in Los Angeles buses; it was also issued as a bookmark by the Poetry Society of America. That poem has served as the title of Pavlova’s first collection in English, IF THERE IS SOMETHING TO DESIRE (Alfred A. Knopf Publishing, 2010), translated by her husband Steven Seymour who is a professional translator/interpreter. In December 2009, the book was announced and its author was featured on the PBS-TV “News Hour with Jim Lehrer” program; its presentation was held at the National Arts Club in NYC in February 2010.
Pavlova’s literary output never leaves her readers and critics indifferent. Here are some excerpts from comments and reviews:
“The feeling of flesh, the taste of flesh, the weight of flesh, the flesh of flesh, the music of secretions and belly rumblings as the music of life; the unification of flesh, the inception of flesh, its life, its death, and its metamorphosis as justification of poetry – that is what Pavlova’s poems are about.”
Pavel Belitskiy, "Nezavisimaya Gazeta"
“The system of direct hit impact, used by Pavlova, is unthinkable for the contemporary ‘magazines of good taste’, and it makes the literary critics wary, because critical analysis calls for quotations, but finding at least four lines within the limits of decency is practically impossible.”
Vladimir Novikov, "Novyi Mir"
“In the most literal of senses the world is being examined with the use of the tongue… The world is being licked over with a poem, it is drawn into the text, experienced physiologically, causing shudders… As Vera Pavlova speaks, she uproots the traditional meanings and turns of speech, pronouncing each word with delight, but also with an effort, as if for the first time, carefully listening to the sound and feeling anew her native speech with her tongue…”
Aleksandr Arkhangelskiy, "Vremia MN"
“Many critics and readers had doubts as to whether Vera Pavlova really existed… A hoax would be more in tenor with the kind of boundless freedom of melody and lyrics that abolishes, as it were, the accidental corporeality of any specific individual.”
Igor Shevelev, “Obshchaya Gazeta”
“I will be as bold as to claim that Russian poetry of the twenty-first century will begin with Vera Pavlova.”
Yevgenia Pishchikova, “Izvestia”