Clare Cavanagh wins literary award for ‘Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics’

Clare Cavanagh’s illuminating exploration of poetry and national life in Poland and Russia from 1917 onwards has won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.

As the name suggests, the National Book Critics Circle awards are decided by literary critics themselves, and aim to honour the best literature published in English in six categories—autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland and the West picked up the prestigious American award in the Criticism category.

Clare Cavanagh is an acclaimed translator and critic, and her book  acts as a corrective to recent trends in criticism. Cavanagh’s book offers a comparative study of the poetry of the Eastern and Western sides of the “iron curtain,” and an examination of these topics in light of Western postmodernist philosophical theories.  Cavanagh demonstrates how the practice of the personal lyric in totalitarian states such as Russia and Poland did not represent an escapist tendency; rather it reverberated as a bold political statement and at times a dangerous act. Among the poets discussed are Blok, Mayakovsky, Akhmatova, Yeats, Whitman, Frost, Szymborska, Zagajewski, and Milosz; close readings of individual poems are included, some translated for the first time. Cavanagh examines these poets and their work as a challenge to Western postmodernist theories, thus offering new perspectives on twentieth-century lyric poetry.

The full list of award-winners and finalists on can be found on Critical Mass, the blog of the NBCC. Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland and the West is available to buy now from Yale University Press.

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