Valzhyna Mort

Acclaimed Belarusian Poet

Readings &
Lecture Topics
  • The Art of Translation
  • An Evening with Valzhyna Mort

Biography

“Mort is most characterized by an obstinate resistance and rebellion against the devaluation of life. One of the best young poets in the world today.” —World Literature Today

“Mort’s style—tough and terse almost to the point of aphorism—recalls the great Polish poets Czeslaw Milosz and Wislawa Szymborska.” —LA Times

“Through her tightly constructed and original language, and her inspired recreation of familiar mythology, Mort attempts to resist the scourge of forgetting and to achieve immortality for her characters as well as for herself.” —The California Journal of Poetics

Valzhyna Mort, born in Minsk, Belarus, made her American debut in 2008 with the poetry collection Factory of Tears (Copper Canyon Press), co-translated by the husband-and-wife team of Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Franz Wright. She is also the author of Collected Body (Copper Canyon Press, 2012) and her most recent collection Music for the Dead and Resurrected (FSG, 2020).

Mort received the Crystal of Vilenica Award in Slovenia in 2005 and the Burda Poetry Prize in Germany in 2008. In 2010, she received the Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship and the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry magazine. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 2014, New European Poets, and The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, as well as such literary magazines as The Common, Guernica, New Letters, Poetry, Poetry International, VQR and others.

There is an urgency and vitality to Mort’s poems; the narrative moves within universal themes—lust, loneliness, the strangeness of god and familial love—while many poems question what language is and challenge the authority that delegates who has the right to speak and how. The New Yorker writes, “Mort strives to be an envoy for her native country, writing with almost alarming vociferousness about the struggle to establish a clear identity for Belarus and its language.” Library Journal described Mort’s vision as “visceral, wistful, bittersweet, and dark.”

Mort is the editor of Something Indecent: Poems Recommended by Eastern European Poets (Red Hen Press, 2013), a poetic anthology that offers a conversation about how Eastern European poets view themselves, their contemporaries, their century, and the place of their region in the millennia. Together with Ilya Kaminsky and Katie Farris, Valzhyna Mort has edited Gossip and Metaphysics: Prose and Poetry of Russain Modernist Poets (Tupelo Press, 2014), an anthology dedicated to the poetics of the great generation of Russian modernists.

When asked in an interview, “How does the Belarusian landscape factor into your poetic thinking?” She replied, “The village where I spent my childhood summers, away from the city and school, is the landscape that has become my tabula rasa, the primary point of any departure. If I were to strip myself off everything, one onion layer after another, what’s going to be left of me in the end is that village. It’s unbreakable, an atom. Also, it’s the only place where freedom is possible for me. The space is open, endless, and empty, and it demands nothing of you. There is no ocean to bathe in, no mountains to climb. There is flat land, covered by wild grass, and the flat sky above it, and you can walk west, east, south, and north. That’s the greatest freedom I know and want.”

Mort writes in Belarusian and English.

Short Bio

Valzhyna Mort is the author of Factory of Tears and Collected Body (Copper Canyon Press). She is a recipient of the Lannan Foundation Fellowship, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry, Amy Clampitt fellowship, the Gulf Coast translation prize and the Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award. Born in Minsk, Belarus, she teaches at Cornell University and writes in English and Belarusian. Mort is also the author of her most recent book, Music for the Dead and Resurrected.

Videos

Publications

Articles & Audio

Selected Writings

Download Assets

Let’s get started

If you’re interested in this speaker, complete this form to begin the conversation.