A Life-Critical Need – interview with Kseniya Rogozhnikova and Mikhail Zemskov, part 2

Students of the Open Literary School of Almaty. Mikhail as a head is observing from the side

— You established the Almaty Open School of Literature in 2009. Mikhail, you told an amazing story of its emergence (and of the school that preceded it) when we talked one day. I would like to ask you to tell it to the readers as well…

M.Z.: The Open Literary School of Almaty actually continued the work of the Musaget Foundation, which existed from 1997 to 2008. Kazakhstani writer, philologist and teacher Olga Markova created the foundation. The major activity of the fund was to hold literary master classes – three-month courses in writing skills, which were held three times a year. Once I graduated from the very first literary workshop in 1998. In addition to the literary courses, the foundation published the literary magazine Apollinarium, maintained a literary portal on the Internet, held various literary and educational events, and later opened a publishing series. The major activities of the foundation were in turn financed by the Dutch foundation Hivos. Olga Markova died in 2008, and the foundation ceased to exist. My wife Ksenia Rogozhnikova and I were living in Moscow at the time, and Ksenia was studying at the Higher Literature Courses of the Institute of Literature. She had also graduated from the Musaget workshop, and that is where we met. We returned to Almaty in 2009 and felt a complete emptiness in the literary life of the city without the foundation and its projects. We really missed the literary events, communication with like-minded people, lectures and conversations about literature. That is why we turned to our friends and acquaintances from the Musaget Foundation, mainly the alumni of the previous master classes, and suggested creating our own literary school, the Open Literary School of Almaty (OLSA). We mainly recruited teachers from Musaget at the beginning, and later we started inviting the most interesting teachers from different Almaty universities. Compared to the Musaget courses we expanded the program, the duration of the course was not three months, but eight. We made it very close to the program of Higher Literature Courses of the Institute of Literature, we expanded the practical seminars, and we launched seminars on dramaturgy and children’s literature in addition to seminars on prose and poetry.  Recently, a seminar on literary criticism was also held. Some time later, in addition to literary courses, the OLSA started launching other projects — various literary events, even up to large festivals, seminars for teenagers. The Almaty Writers’ Residency was launched two years ago. Last year, the Qalamdas literary prize has started.

— By the example of your students, but not only: what do contemporary writers in Kazakhstan care most about, about texts, about meanings? Including the youngest ones, whose two books you’ve published (I’ve held them in my hands and read them; the newest one is quite a weighty volume).

M.Z.: Generally speaking, the concerns range from history to social issues to personal relationships. A lot of young authors write fiction. I’m interested in different periods of history – from pre-revolutionary history of Kazakhstan to events of revolution, Stalin repressions and jute, famine in Kazakhstan in 1931-1933. That seems to me somewhat surprising: I am interested in late-Soviet history – 70-80s of the twentieth century, the related texts  I have met more often than the texts about the 90s, for example, despite the fact that the 90s seem much more dramatic and eventful. At the same time, in 2022, after the January events in Kazakhstan and later events in Ukraine, there was a sharp growth of interest in acute social and historical topics related to the search for one’s own Kazakhstani identity, comprehension of history in terms of imperial/colonial past and post-imperial/post-colonial present, inheriting old behavioral patterns and worldview and their expression in a world that has rapidly changed over the past twenty years.

K.R.: Let me explain right away, or the day after the interview there will be a queue for publications in weighty volumes (smiles). We are talking, of course, about the collections that can be formed of stories written at children’s and youth literary workshops, which are projects sponsored by the U.S. Consulate General in Kazakhstan and Chevron. We accept children and teenagers from 13 to 21 years old to participate in these workshops. Workshops are held once a year in Kazakh and Russian.

I like the fact that there are a lot of Kazakh themes in the texts of teenagers, they write about the legends their grandmothers told them, about occasions that happened in auls, they even write fiction based on Kazakhstani material. The authors at the LitSchool seminars have the same tendency: more stories about us, about Kazakhs and Kazakhstanis.

— I can’t resist asking, where can graduates of your school publish in Kazakhstan? I know about the magazine Daktil, which I am personally very interested in. How important is it to contemporary Kazakh/Kazakh literature. What else is important?

M.Z.: Yes, first of all Dactil. In just a few years this magazine has become probably the main bilingual platform for modern Kazakh literature. In addition, there are Russian-language magazines such as Prostor, a “thick” literary magazine that has survived since Soviet times, another young electronic magazine called Angime, the annual almanac LiterraNova, and Kazakh-language magazines such as electronic magazine Adebiet Portaly, Zhuldyz (also since Soviet times, the official organ of the Kazakh Writers Union), and Kazak Adebieti.

K.R.: In addition to Daktil (www.daktil.kz), where one can publish in Kazakh and Russian, there is also the trilingual Angime (https://www.angime.com/), whose editors try to do translations of texts into English as well. There is also the Alma Review project (https://thealmareview.wordpress.com/), which publishes reviews and articles about Kazakhstani authors in English.

– Ksenia, I managed to read your book Little Quarantine People, published in the covid year of 2020 (which is actually about the covid situation) during my short stay with you. How important was it for you to tell this story for young readers? It’s also about overcoming maybe not fully realized stress, putting anxiety into a playful and entertaining form, which I think is important…

K.R.: “Little Quarantine People” turned out to be a kind of escape from quarantine. I gladly got involved in writing the story so I wouldn’t go crazy at home with two small children and one older one. The three of us wrote the story: Elena Klepikova and I as co-authors and my daughter Lydia as the protagonist. We only had to peek, take notes in time, and give all the quarantine “splashes” and phrases in the style of Chukovsky’s From Two to Five the right facet of the plot and adventures. It is good that this book has performed a double function : first, it helped the authors to pass the forced sitting in four walls, and secondly, it became interesting for children readers.

— This book and The Queen’s Crawl, or Times of Change are co-authored by you and Elena Klepikova, whom you have already mentioned twice. Tell us a little about your co-author. How do you work together? Do you write in fragments or in some other way? How is your collaboration structured?

K.R.: Elena and I met in 2010, and within a year we began teaching at prose and children’s literature seminars at the LitSchool together. After six or seven years of teaching together, we began to feel that we could follow up on any idea each other had in common. That’s when the idea arose to try writing in co-authorship, and our first book was a book of poetry, a book-dialogue called Two Letters, which came out in 2018. For two years, beginning in 2016, we exchanged letters written in the form of tankas, hokkas, tankas, and beatankas-creating a kind of contemporary ranga, poetry dialogue. In 2018, we also edited each other’s books: for Elena it was my novella for teenagers, In the Rhythm of Salsa, and I edited her quest, The Mystery of the Blue Web. It was only in 2019 that we wrote our first teen novel together, The Queen’s Crawl or Times of Change, which was published in Russia by Meshcheryakov Publishing House.

When we realize that we have an interesting story, we can spend hours on end discussing and sketching out the plot, describing major and minor characters, inventing their hobbies, dreams, and inner conflicts. We usually write chapter by chapter, then edit, proofreading and correcting each other’s chapters, and bringing the style to a common denominator. After two or three edits, when we feel that the text has “sung”, we let the story rest and return to it later, engaging beta-readers, after whose comments we arrange the major editing.

Kseniya Rogozhnikova and Elena Klepikova

— As for the stories: how much of it is reality, and how much is fiction?

M.Z.: It depends. There is probably none in which fiction is 100%. But there are no 100% documentaries either. Most of the time it’s about 50%/50%, I guess, but the scale can shift left and right. But what’s funny is that many of those stories that may seem fantastic or readers think they are outright fiction are actually based on real events and details such as the search for the Gospel of John in the steppes of Kazakhstan in Sectarian or the method and techniques of regressive hypnosis in Gabriel Saxophone.

— Your work on the word is also interesting. I was surprised at how stereoscopic the text is. Usually, when I read, I notice extra words that I, as an editor, would cross out. But in your book, the text is sharpened with a sharp blade. Tell me, does this happen to you by itself or do you work with language in a special way? For example, how many edits does your manuscript go through?

M.Z.: I do not like unnecessary words or deliberate “beauties” in the text, I prefer a minimalist style (although I do not consider myself a minimalist). So, yes, I am usually very strict about my text in an editorial way and try to get rid of extra words, superfluous turns and images. After writing a manuscript it usually goes through at least two revisions.

— How do you see the future of Kazakh/Kazakh literature? I mean in terms of language, distribution, and other aspects.

M.Z.: It seems to me that first of all Kazakh literature (both in Kazakh and Russian) will try to make its way to the Kazakh reader, I hope that in the coming years it will be more successful in this than before. For objective reasons connected with the problems of the Kazakhstani book market, which I mentioned above, a wide audience of Kazakhstani readers still knows very little about modern Kazakhstani authors and their works. But small shifts are already observed. Also in the last 2-3 years the growth of interest to the modern Kazakhstan literature by foreign researchers and philologists is noticeable. It is hoped that the rather narrow interest of scholars will grow into a broader interest of publishers and literary journals, and then – of readers. As for the future of the language, it seems to me that the number of books in Kazakh will undoubtedly grow. But literature in Russian will also develop. Ideally, I would like to see an increase in the number of literary translations from Kazakh into Russian and back. This would help both the mutual enrichment of Kazakh and Russian-language literature, and the mutual increase in the readership, and the emergence of new themes and new points of view on the same events.

K.R.: It’s important for Kazakh literature now to be translated into English and other languages, to go to the West, to other countries. But here we have a translation problem. There is an acute shortage of literary translators in Kazakhstan, and their qualifications are often insufficient. We tried to solve part of the problem during our most recent Almaty Writing Residency 2022, where Kazakh-, English-, and Russian-speaking translators worked.

There is good news here as well: a collection of prose by Kazakhstani women writers was published this year in New York by Gaudy boy, and Amazon Publishing has also signed a contract to publish books in English by Kazakhstani children’s writers Lilya Kalaus and Zira Naurzbay.

This interview is translated by Almaty Writing Residency 2022’s translators seminar, namely Yulia Gubanova, Gulsaya Mazhenova, Catherine Petrikova, Meirzhan Kourmanov. Alma Review expresses gratitude to the translators!

Vladimir Korkunov is a poet, translator, critic, editor. Born in 1984 in the city of Kimry, Tver region. He graduated from the Moscow State University of Instrument Engineering and Computer Science and the Gorky Literary Institute. Candidate of Philological Sciences. Co-editor of the journals “Context” (2018-2019) and “Paradigm” (2019-2021). Poems and articles were published in many literary magazines. Author of the book of poems “The Last Concert of the Ghost Orchestra” (2021), the book of interviews “The Urge to Speak: 15 interviews with modern poets about life and literature” (2020), etc.

Kseniya Rogozhnikova (Zemskova) — poetess, children’s literature writer. Kseniya graduated from the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow. Her works have been published in a number of magazines such as “Dactyl”, “Literratura”, “Angime”, “Apollinaris”, Soloneba art-digest, Polutona, etc. She is an author of three and a co-author of four books. Kseniya also holds a workshop on prose and children’s literature in the Almaty Open School of Literature. She is currently based in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Mikhail Zemskov — prose writer, playwright. Born in Almaty, Mikhail graduated from KazGU (Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics) in 1996, and VGIK (Screenwriting Department) in 2003. Mikhail’s works were published in various magazines, including “Apollinaris”, “October”, “Friendship of Peoples”, etc. He was announced Laureate of the Russian Prize (2005) with a collection of novels and short stories named “Alma-Ata Stories”. He is also a Laureate of the mono-play competition called “The Man” (2007). Mikhail is a founder and leader of the Almaty Open School of Literature and author of four books. Currently lives in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  

A Life-Critical Need – interview with Kseniya Rogozhnikova and Mikhail Zemskov, part 1

On literature in Kazakhstan, Open Literary School of Almaty and their own artistic endeavor.  Interviewed by Vladimir Korkunov.

Kseniya Rogozhnikova and Mikhail Zemskov are partners not only in life, but also in literature. They write in almost every genre: children’s and adult poetry, children’s prose, literary criticism (Kseniya), adult prose, dramatic art, and film scripts (Mikhail). With the same loving attitude to all aspects of the family life, they are raising together three beautiful kids.    

Another child of the couple is the Almaty Open School of Literature, which has trained hundreds of young (and not too young) writers in Almaty. And now, thanks to the method learnt during the covid years, number of authors joining from other countries is constantly growing. All the above mentioned constitutes a solid base for an interview, but I was mostly curious to know about what’s happening in the Kazakhstani literature: where it is going, how it is developing, and, of course, who are the stars of our days we should immediately read (from Kseniya’s and Mikhail’s point of view). That is why the interview came out to be ‘multidimensional”, just like the interviewees.  

Kseniya, Mikhail, the way to literature is often paved in a family, e.g., with children’s readings. I suppose, you both grew up in the company of books. How did you find yourselves in literature? 

Mikhail Zemskov: True, there were lots of books in our house. I grew up in a family of city intellectuals: my mother and grandmother were university professors; my father was an engineer. But I must say I became interested in literature “by a reversal of logic” – I didn’t quite like those soviet children’s books I used to read to my little brother. So, I started writing stories for him myself. That’s how it began. 

Kseniya Rogozhnikova: Mother got me a subscription to the Krylov library when I was in the 2nd grade. I ended up going there almost every week till the 8th grade. A couple years ago I had a chance to revisit the Krylovka within the campaign for my book called “In the Rhythm of Salsa”, where I met many adorable schoolkids. 

— Your teachers in literature (I am referring to books here) – are they mostly Russian, or Kazakh? Or, maybe, different ones?

K.R.: As a kid, I used to devour books by Vladislav Krapivin, Yuri Koval, Yuri Tomin. I still love going over and re-reading Fazil Iskander, Jane Austen, and Francis Scott Fitzgerald. I have recently discovered another beautiful author – Narine Abgaryan.  

As for the Kazakh-language authors, I read them only in translation. It is “The Lonely Yurt” by Smagul Yelubai, poetry by Mukagali Makatayev and Ardak Nurgazy. In terms of poetry, as a teenager, I adored the Silver Age poets: Marina Tsvetaeva, early Mayakovsky, Boris Pasternak, Anna Akhamova… Years later, I could get my hands on the uncensored poetry of the Soviet period. 

M.Z.: I would say, it was mostly the 20nd century European literature. I discovered its true nature (I mean the true power of literature – when it gets deeply into you and influences your beliefs, your mindset, your emotional state, etc.) after reading Camus, Hesse, Hamsun, Sartre, Cortazar, Ionesco, and Kundera. And a bit later, through the prism of the 20nd century European literature, I discovered the Russian classic literature in a new light: Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Gogol, and Leskov. 

If we talk about Kazakh and Kazakhstani literature (by the way, tell me which is correct), what key books/authors would you highlight/recommend? Who are the “must-reads” for a Russian reader?

K.R: For sure: Anuar Duisenbinov, Zair Asim, Aleksey Shvabauer, Pavel Bannikov, Yuriy Serebryanskiy. As for Kazakhstani children’s writers: Tonya Shipulina, Adeliya Amraeva, Zira Naurzbayeva and Lilya Kalaus.

The issues of identity are not simple: there can be Kazakh authors, and Kazakhstani Kazakh-speaking authors, similar to Kazakhstani Russian-speaking authors, and Kazakh Russian-speaking authors (some authors are Kazakh by nationality, but write in Russian). It all depends on how one defines oneself.

M.Z.: First of all, I would recommend Abai. He was the first to most fully convey the traditional worldview, philosophy and culture of the Kazakh people. Ilyas Yessenberlin, Abdizhamil Nurpeisov, Mukhtar Auezov, Smagul Yelubai, Rollan Seisenbayev – the classics of Soviet and late Soviet literature. As for the most modern literature, there is a good collection “Read Kazakhstani” (“Читай казахстанское”) available on bookmate.com electronic library. The collection, which was made by the literary school of Almaty as part of cooperation with the website, included the best Kazakhstani literature pieces of the last 30-40 years (available in electronic format).

Mikhail and Kseniya in Almaty’s mountains

I notice that some books released in Kazakhstan are given in bilingual format: in the Kazakh and in the Russian languages. Including yours, Ksenia. What is it done for? Just to draw attention to the Kazakh language?

K.R.: I have always dreamt about publishing my books in Kazakhstan, both poetry and children’s literature, both in Russian and Kazakh. The dream came true in 2020, when our story for children “Little Quarantine People” (I write children’s literature mostly in co-authorship with my friend and colleague Elena Klepikova) won the “Altyn Kalam” award in the “Best Children’s Literature in Russian” nomination and was translated into Kazakh and published with the support of “Chevron” company.

People in Kazakhstan speak fluent Russian only in large cities, and not in all of them. In the West of Kazakhstan — in Aktau, Atyrau — they mainly speak Kazakh, and in the rural areas overall, too. Today, more and more people speak good Kazakh and English, for example, and can hardly speak Russian. Therefore, a bilingual book is, first and foremost, an expansion of children’s reading audience.

How are things with the Kazakh language in general? In Almaty, I heard Russian more often, which, of course, is convenient for me, but on the other hand, it is somewhat sad. How much attention does society pay to the national language?

M.Z.: The situation with the Kazakh language differs depending on the region of Kazakhstan. Now we have more monolingual regions where Kazakh prevails – southern and western parts of the country. At the same time, there are regions where Russian remains the main language of communication – these are the northern regions of Kazakhstan, as well as Almaty and Astana. In general, the situation is changing, especially after February 2022. The events that took place, as I can see, caused an unprecedented wave of patriotism and the search for national identity in Kazakhstan, and this applies not only to ethnic Kazakhs, but also to representatives of all other ethnic groups living here – Russians, Ukrainians, Koreans, Uighurs, Germans, etc. First of all, this can be seen in the attitude to the Kazakh language. Many bilingual people now choose the Kazakh language for communication, many of those who did not know or had a poor command of the Kazakh language before, sign up for language courses, begin to study it on their own. This can be observed everywhere in everyday life. Over the previous 30 years of independence, quite a lot of various state language support programs were launched, but almost all of them stalled and did not bring the expected results. Now this is absolutely a “grassroots initiative”, which is why it should work.

K.R.: I’ve partially answered this question earlier. Now more and more Russian-speaking people in Kazakhstan are learning Kazakh. I hope that one day I will also be able to read books in the Kazakh language. I want to understand the language of my native country.

What about the book market? I dropped into a grocery store the other day — there were many Russian goods. What about the book sector?

K.R.: Unfortunately, it is almost similar. There’s a lot of popular psychology, finance, and business literature being translated into Kazakh. The situation gets worse when it comes to the fiction literature translations. However, as far as I know, Kafka has been translated into Kazakh recently. Though, I think, Joan Rowling’s “Harry Potter” in Kazakh appeared earlier.

Today new Kazakhstani publishers appear, they plan to publish Kazakhstani authors: for example, in children’s literature there is Tentek Publishing, and Zerde Publishing, which was established last summer. Tentek Publishing has already published Tonya Shipulina’s book “The Fly”. Maybe positive changes will happen in Kazakhstani children’s literature as well. Publishing poetry books at the expense of a publisher — is only a dream so far.

M.Z.: Unfortunately, it is very difficult for Kazakhstani publishers to compete with Russian ones because of incomparable distribution and marketing budgets. Large Russian publishers in Kazakhstan can afford much more in distribution, advertising, and other investments than Kazakhstani publishers. That is a big problem for the Kazakhstani book market, because there is a vicious circle: Kazakhstani publishing houses cannot support Kazakhstani authors, authors write less or publish (or try to publish in Russia), and books of Kazakhstani writers do not reach their readers. As a result, it seems like Kazakhstan doesn’t have its own literature, and the easiest way for bookstores is to purchase books from Russian publishing houses, so Kazakhstani publishing houses are left without money and budgets for future publications

— How actively do publishers support authors? Otherwise, do the latter rather have to publish their books at their own expense?

M.Z.: The traditional rules of the book market for fiction do not really work in Kazakhstan, so the support of authors and any publishing projects is mostly done by enthusiasts or with the help of non-standard approaches and solutions —crowdfunding, attracting investors or sponsors, etc. Publishing books at your own expense is also widespread.

 K.R.: Rather at own expense. If we speak of publishing houses and book publishing in Kazakhstan, everything is rather sad. For example, many Russian-speaking children’s writers published their books in Russia until 2022. It is hard to say how events will develop further.

This interview is translated by Almaty Writing Residency 2022’s translators seminar, namely Yulia Gubanova, Gulsaya Mazhenova, Catherine Petrikova, Meirzhan Kourmanov. Alma Review expresses gratitude to the translators!

Vladimir Korkunov is a poet, translator, critic, editor. Born in 1984 in the city of Kimry, Tver region. He graduated from the Moscow State University of Instrument Engineering and Computer Science and the Gorky Literary Institute. Candidate of Philological Sciences. Co-editor of the journals “Context” (2018-2019) and “Paradigm” (2019-2021). Poems and articles were published in many literary magazines. Author of the book of poems “The Last Concert of the Ghost Orchestra” (2021), the book of interviews “The Urge to Speak: 15 interviews with modern poets about life and literature” (2020), etc.

Kseniya Rogozhnikova (Zemskova) — poetess, children’s literature writer. Kseniya graduated from the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow. Her works have been published in a number of magazines such as “Dactyl”, “Literratura”, “Angime”, “Apollinaris”, Soloneba art-digest, Polutona, etc. She is an author of three and a co-author of four books. Kseniya also holds a workshop on prose and children’s literature in the Almaty Open School of Literature. She is currently based in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Mikhail Zemskov — prose writer, playwright. Born in Almaty, Mikhail graduated from KazGU (Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics) in 1996, and VGIK (Screenwriting Department) in 2003. Mikhail’s works were published in various magazines, including “Apollinaris”, “October”, “Friendship of Peoples”, etc. He was announced Laureate of the Russian Prize (2005) with a collection of novels and short stories named “Alma-Ata Stories”. He is also a Laureate of the mono-play competition called “The Man” (2007). Mikhail is a founder and leader of the Almaty Open School of Literature and author of four books. Currently lives in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  

Independent Existence: Davra Collective Poetry Evening

Almaty is vibrant even if you don’t know where to look for cultural events, but it’s even more impressive if you do know where to look. Last weekend, the Central Asian research group Davra Collective hosted a contemporary poetry reading at Dom 36, a social-cultural space in the city. The poetry evening was specifically dedicated to Kazakh and Uzbek young poets, and it got me thinking about the very nature of poetry outside of the existing power structures in local literature.

Poetry evenings in Almaty are not a rare occurrence on their own, but most of them are handled by OLSHA (Open Literary School of Almaty). This results in more or less the same performers (or lecturers, depending on the format) being represented. Most of these people are writers in their forties, with strong and explicit ties to Russia. This often alienates individuals like myself and many more – Asian (and otherwise non-white), queer authors. Having evenings like the one hosted by Davra shows what the alternative might look like.

Tillaniso Nuryog’di was the performer of the night who read poetry in Uzbek. Her poetry is an examination of the way the personal relates to the political in the contemporary Uzbek society. Nuryog’di’s poetry features a lot of action verbs, an invitation to participate directly in the life of the country. In many ways, it reflects the modern attitudes in the country. “Those who say hope // Those who say moral // Make me laugh. // Every kind of weakness // Every kind of violence // […] Looks like going to the toilet.” she writes. Her other works were a personal commentary about womanhood in a culture that has strong ideas about shame and appropriate behavior for a woman. “[…] my manners were not suitable for them. // I learn and am tired a lot. // I am a perfect woman. // I changed the way I walk // But anyway, I am the second one” she writes, “A woman throughout all her life searched for the true and false. // World is divided into hierarchy, // And those who knew became dominant // Over those who did not. // But those who knew knew what?”

The Kazakh poets, including myself, were represented by the Jalanash poetry collective. This group of talented individuals has been covered by Alma Review before and it is as strong as ever after its rebranding. Jalanash poetry now focuses not only on LGBTQ+ representation but also on decolonizing contemporary Kazakhstani poetry, in all the ways that are relevant to its participants. One of the poets of the night, for example, presented a poem that talked about Russia’s predatory political practices while using the metaphor of the Rubik’s Cube. Other poets talked about love, including queer love, and the complexity of navigating it in my big city, especially while being so young. One of the performers was MEREY, a poetess and a singer-songwriter who recently saw major mainstream success with her song Betperde. I was second to last to read my poem, and my work was a homage to one of Bianca Phipps’ poems.

The Q&A session after the readings was arguably as engaging as the performances themselves. One guest in the audience has lived in Uzbekistan for some time and she took great interest in Nuryog’di’s work. The exchange was later translated into Kazakh; the same thing followed all the questions asked in English and the discussion about the nature of modernism that bloomed as a result. Nobody in the audience asked for an interpretation into Russian. Moments like these really bring forth the understanding that Central Asian culture exists independently from contemporary Russian culture, and therefore its forceful interference is not necessary. While the whole event lasted slightly under an hour and a half, it is nights like these that bring us as a community forward.

Almaty Writing Residency 2022 is coming!

A Writers’ Residency is a new format not only for Kazakhstan, but also for the whole Central Asia.

Children’s writers from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan can apply here from July 1 to August 30. The terms of the competition are indicated on the website, and the program of events will be published later. Not only contestants, but also drop-in listeners will be able to take part in the residence. Some events will be held in an open format in the American Space Almaty.

The inaugural residency took place last fall in Almaty and became a great catalyst for Kazakh literature. The two worlds of Kazakh-language and Russian-language literature finally found common ground. The residency was in three languages, which finally allowed the participants to discuss issues without barriers.

Master instructors came from overseas: poet, essayist, and the head of the International Writing Program Christopher Merrill, as well as poet and translator Nina Murray. Together with them, a piece of our culture flew abroad. Just a month after the end of the residency, we launched The Alma Review, a blog about Kazakh literature in English. There have also been shifts on a local scale: the online magazine “Dactyl”, previously published exclusively in Russian, has become bilingual – a Kazakh branch has appeared. In a word, the pilot residence was a success, and we decided to repeat the success.

The Almaty Writing Residency 2022 will be held in the southern capital of Kazakhstan from October 23 to 29. The theme of the residency will be “Multiculturalism in literature for children and adolescents/Children’s literature in the era of change”. The Almaty Writing Residency is a joint international project of the Open Literary School of Almaty named after Olga Markova and the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa. The residence will include a mixed format of events. Participants live together for a week (a ticket to Almaty and accommodation are covered by the program), write and discuss texts, hold panel discussions, and attend master classes. The residency is held simultaneously in Russian, Kazakh and English. This year, the host will be Kelly Dwyer, the author of several books for children and the host of writing seminars.

“In order to talk about multiculturalism in literature for children and adolescents, we decided to invite an American author who is an expert in writing on the topics of multiculturalism, multiethnicity and diversity, with experience teaching creative writing and publications. We asked the IWP to recommend us a partner author, then received several candidates from Christopher Merrill, studied their resumes and experience, and settled on Kelly Dwyer (http://www.kellydwyerauthor.com ), – shares the director of the residence, writer Yuri Serebryansky. – The work of the seminar with Kelly will, as last year, be based on the discussion of the essays of the participants. We will pre-announce the topics to choose from. They are all in the outline of the residency theme. Kelly is also preparing her own program for the participants.”

The main purpose of the writer’s residency is to establish an intercultural dialogue and discuss topical literary issues. It is also an opportunity to show the public that modern literature exists in Kazakhstan and it is much more interesting and deeper than it seems. Not only venerable, but also novice authors are invited to participate in the residency, so it is also a springboard for new names. The organizers have also planned a meeting with Kazakhstani publishing houses that produce children’s literature. There will also be creative meetings with last year’s guests – Christopher Merrill and Nina Murray. In addition, Nina will simultaneously conduct a seminar for translators, the purpose of which is to translate Kazakh literature into English.

Back to the Future: Decolonizing Post-Soviet Studies

In her keynote address at the 2022 BASEES Annual Conference, Dr. Olesya Khromeychuk said: “The historical knowledge of Russian imperialism-and resistance to it-possessed by Ukrainians and others in the region <…> if taken seriously, could have prepared the twenty-first century Europe for Russia’s war better. Maybe it could have prevented it altogether.” The subalterns, she said, know the Empire better than the Empire knows itself.

Back when yours truly formulated a very similar argument, there was no war. Yet. Others, Oksana Zabuzhko among them, have articulated it too, with heart-breaking emotional impact. Zabuzhko’s essay on Brodsky, still untranslated into English, dates back to 1998. And yet, we seem to be having to make the same points repeatedly.

I looked up my old essay just to see if it still seemed relevant. Here’s an excerpt- from Lessons from Ukraine: What Happens When Post-Colonial Poetics Goes East.

In the Eye of the Storm: What Poems Written in January are Silent about

A review by Selina Taisengirova

Translated by Alyona Timofeyeva

Qantar and The Limits of Silence are two collections of poems by Kazakhstani authors who were at the heart of the tragic January events that claimed numerous lives of ordinary people. The Limits of Silence came out on the Dox platform almost in the wake of what happened, and Qantar in the February issue of the magazine “LiTTERAtura”.

In many ways, these collections are similar. The authors are the most notable Kazakh poets who write and publish in Russian and Kazakh. Many of them are represented in both publications. But there is also an important difference: the texts in the “LiTTERAtura” were written during the days of Bloody January, when residents of Kazakhstan were were compelled to shelter at home without communication and Internet, while people were being killed on the streets. The selection on the Dox for the most part includes works by the same authors written much earlier, when it was difficult to imagine that something like that could happen in our country. 

At the same time, an unintended, and therefore even more reliable connection arises between the events of the past and the present, between both publications. There is a thread that stretches from the present back in time, and each author has touched it in his or her own way. For example, Ksenia Rogozhnikova:

they say
loving kindness
has flooded our entire country
go ahead now
to wish yourself
to ask for forgiveness
from your enemy
--"The Limits of Silence"

light-and-sound grenades
traffic lights off
the crowd that walks
down the middle of the street
in the streets of the city
  -- "Qantar", also in full here.

Or, from Irina Gumyrkina:

Only where it's thin--there the fragile ice cracks,
the thread falls apart, and all sound is silenced:
life comes to a stop just like a broken clock.

- "The Limits of Silence"

And it's scary, Lord, it's so scary: 
there's no way to escape this left. 
The tower stands black on the square, 
snow falls to the ground dead. 

- "Qantar"

In my opinion, this connection is especially evident in the two texts that become each collection’s respective centers of gravity. The first is the poem by Yedilbek Duysen “1782 KM” translated by Anuar Duysenbinov, which gave the name to the whole collection “The Limits of Silence”:

an ancient
tentative hope
turned into patience
and perished
somewhere in the limits
of silence...

...you see your nightmare's shadow in daylight when you look over your shoulder and think: 

look, we are all riding one dandelion head
through the heart of the storm
clasping at seed stems

The second is Zair Asim’s poem “We are Silence” in Qantar:

we want to have wishes but it's as if we're not there
we are as out of reach as the dead
it is unbearable this silence...
...we are an empty space
we are the silence

Are there limits to silence, are we there when there is no hope, can we shout over the storm when silence is unbearable? On a physical, emotional and mental level, these texts create probably the most accurate sense of what is happening to people in a situation of global cataclysm in which Kazakhstan finds itself.

At the same time, we see in these collections living notes from shelter or hideaway, reminiscent of  Anne Frank’s diary entries or Sartre’s “No exit”, where “hell turns out to be an ordinary room in which three sinners are locked up forever.” And if the family of Anne Frank was locked up and cut off from the whole world because of the persecution of the Nazis, can we consider the similar predicament of Almaty’s residents truly coincidental? Or are the coincidences not accidental, and life itself throws us secret clues?

Interestingly, there are more than twenty authors in these two collections, and they are all completely different – by age, by self-identification and national affiliation, by the language they think in, and the environment in which they exist. But if you look at the poems written before the January events, then they are all united by the understanding that something has gone seriously wrong at the global level in our country and our life, and the sense of foreboding is overwhelming. of what is coming is insurmountable.

So Aurelia Akmullayeva deconstructs Kazakhstan’s national anthem to compares the hackneyed messages about the eternal Kazakh land and independence with a tranquilizer injection. Its frequent use leads to an overdose and early death, like happened with many stars who are in the sad circle of the “Club 27”. Oral Arukenova paints Kazakhstan’s “end of the world” as cyclical and endlessly repetitive: “here in the middle world without changes, akyr zaman becomes permanent.” And Victoria Rusakova sees her homeland as a mother who has had no milk in her breasts for a thousand years and whose children are fed the same mixture Aurelia calls a tranquilizer injection.

Returning to the “Diary of Anne Frank”: just as in the notes of this ordinary girl, in many texts of the Qantar collection, written directly during the rampant war outside the windows, we see a lot of everyday, completely ordinary and such human details:

my eight-year-old
writes in her journal: 
"We have a war here now
and must stay at home,
but the neighborhood store
is already restocked
with bread 
and potatoes"
- Ksenia Rogozhnikova

The DVD player 
and disks we got down from the shelf
but couldn't find the right
cables -
those movies still rock
- Aleksei Shvabauer

I will hold your hand,
so that you can sleep, 
and you, please, hold my hand, 
so that I can sleep
- Vadim Dergachev

Probably, it is this simple, patient and unpretentious humanity that allows us to hold on in terrible circumstances, that gives us the very hope for which we search in vain in political figures, social movements, and promising reforms. We are constantly losing in the information and political war, becoming victims or tools in someone’s hands. But for now, while remaining completely different, we look at unshakable things in the same way – we will not be the losers in this war.

Selina Taisengirova was born in Almaty, graduated from KazNPU named after Abay. Majored in Russian language and literature. Graduate of Pavel Bannikov Poetry Seminar in the Open Literary School of Almaty (2017-2018). Editor of the criticism and journalism section in the literary magazine “Dactyl”. The author of poetic collections published on “Polutona” and in “Dactyl” magazine. Finalist of the Metajournal literary award in the nomination “Poem of the Year” (2021). Entered the prize list of the Russian literary prize “Poetry” (2021).

‘Get out of the closet, poet!’ or what it’s like to speak one’s mind in one’s native land

Despite being a solitary activity, literature thrives in numbers, especially when numbers in question can coalesce into an institution of any kind. The collectivity and unimity of literary individuals across history helped shape main movements and themes within literature. If every creator existed on his or her own, there wouldn’t be any way to understand or compare works in any meaningful way. So this cooperation, a symbiosis of sorts, between not just specific writers and poets but entire artistic movements is what keeps literature fresh, relevant and accessible. This is why it is a great joy to know that communities such as Closet Poet exist in Kazakhstan. Founded by incredible female poets, Closet Poet is a space that is meaningful in two distinct and equally important ways for the Kazakhstani community and the world as a whole: they help inspire and spread incredible poetry and they are a crucial space for a community.

Literature as an intercultural creative space

Closet Poet markets itself as a bilingual community, welcoming poets who write in English and/or Russian, though poems in Kazakh are welcomed and read quite frequently, as well as partial excerpts that feature words in phrases in other languages. Despite Kazakhstan being a multilingual country, it’s still relatively rare to find a community as welcoming as Closet Poet. English-speaking communities tend to include foreigners  who don’t have immediate means of understanding Russian or Kazakh, while   Russian-speaking communities, unfortunately, tend to fight for the purity of Russian language, rarely allowing additions into it. The diversity of languages (and even dialects) within Closet Poet adds a fresh thematic wave to the participants’ works, allowing the influence of international writing to spread organically from within.

This community also greatly emphasizes the importance of not just what the poem is like but also why and how it was written. After each reading, the poet is encouraged to tell what the background for a particular piece was, and listeners encourage authors to share the details with non-invasive questions and comments. This creates an opportunity to almost live through experiences as a collective, destigmatizing everything the participants go through.

Lack of censorship is another side of the community that makes Closet Poet stand out. It is important for the organizers to make sure every topic that concerns its members can and is spoken about when it arises. This introduces and destigmatizes whole societal levers of concern, not discussed in mainstream Kazakhstani literature. These include, but aren’t limited to homosexuality, (internalized and external) racism and xenophobia, sex, economic class, religion (the Bible being a recurring theme in some poets’ works, challenging the dogma in various ways), war, and much more. This aspect of the Closet Poet intertwines with the wider importance of the community.

Sociopolitical importance of Closet Poet

With Open Literary School of Almaty (OLSHA) being the biggest literary institution in Kazakhstan (it has collaborated with the funding of Russia-based Fund of Socioeconomic and Intellectual Program (Фонд социально-экономических и интеллектуальных программ) and accepts various resources from a few other Russian organizations) at various points in its history, it is important to note that, much like a lot of other institutions run by post-USSR people, OLSHA is not necessarily impartial, especially now during the time of the informational war when every institution must be aware of its public stance on the war; since not being public about it implicitly agrees with the military status quo of the aggressor-country, it feels like. In order to be able to counterbalance the influence OLSHA has on Kazakhstani literary society, it is important to support institutions that allow representation of a different perspective.

Closet Poet does not shy away from LGBT+ authors. In fact, every meeting begins with poets introducing themselves and their preferred set of pronouns, and requesting not to be referred to or not using pronouns is also an option. Authors often write about their romantic and sexual interest in people of the same gender, and some of these poems are featured on Closet Poet’s instagram page.

Similarly, Closet Poet welcomes conversations about the current war in Ukraine and the January revolution in Kazakhstan . There was space for both personal and societal interpretation of events for all members.

Trauma and the experience of growing up are major themes in a lot of the works. There is a very special level of sensitivity surrounding the various ways individuals grow up, which again goes against the morose post-Soviet structures of shame and negligence.

Most meetings of Closet Poet have specific topics that poets are asked to consider when preparing for the poetry evening (though it isn’t a requirement). These themes are often political, like the war in Ukraine, though many others are a lot lighter, for example asking poets to think about colors or alliteration and reflect it in their work. This created a good environment for driving a conversation into a direction without forcing it to go a specific way or even obligating anyone to participate to any degree. IAttending a Closet Poet meeting in no way obliges one to read their poetry —  not just on specific meetings, but ever. Everyone is allowed to take their time before sharing their pieces and only share the work they’re comfortable reading out loud.

Personally, I still cherish the first time I attended a Closet Poet meeting. It was the first time I was in a literary community where, while not being forced to speak, I could have the space to read poetry and to be able to engage with others’ work, explore new voices and ruminate on my own, and – though that sounds incel-y and ruthlessly discrediting – hold a girl’s hand in public. It is thrilling whenever the artistic intertwines with the personal – thus, in a way, coming back to its roots, as all literature stems from human love for storytelling.

Closet Poet can be contacted via their instagram, and meeting times and locations are discussed via their Telegram chat (new users must request to be added). Another way to reach out to them is through their email: closetpoet.kz@gmail.com

A Poem by Ksenia Rogozhnikova

Translated by Nina Murray

loud pops we hear outside
in the new year
is no longer
the sound of crackers

light-and-sound grenades
traffic lights off
the crowd that walks
down the middle of the street
in the streets of the city

we glean news in crumbs
over phone calls
the meager Almaty
of the internet service
never thought
we'd watch news
again on TV

my eight-year-old
writes in her journal: 
"We have a war here now
and must stay at home,
but the neighborhood store
is already restocked
with bread 
and potatoes"

A Poet Being Tamed by Fire: Ksenia Rogozhnikova’s “Swoosh”

Ксения Рогожникова. Чирк /сборник стихотворений/. Алматы: ОЛША, 2021. 64 pages. ISBN 978-601-09-1509-1.

Review by Oksana Trutneva translated by Nina Murray.

What is fire? Light, heat, passion, sacrifice, a symbol, or irreconcilability—fire accommodates so many meanings. In the hands of Ksenia Rogozhnikova, delicately woven into her poetic texts, the metaphor of the fire contains magnitudes of meanings and interpretations. Swoosh, published this year (2021) is a double-sided performance: we see the poet attempting to domesticate, tame the fire that bursts out of her flow of consciousness, and at the same time we see the fire become line, propel the poet and in the process tame her.

This fire is also life—a life that burns brightly and demands attention. Life that is impartial and shows us the outside world in the uneven light of its flickering flame.

It is no accident that the opening poem of the book whispers about the inability to be aligned with the available version of the world, the poet’s inability to conceal her flame, make it smaller:

you could do half-way
turn the flame down

but not at a run
a stranger—you risk 
burning everything down
the town waits for the snow
rain comes

This playing with fire (pun intended) is not something that only happens inside the poet’s mind—it is brought to bear on it by life itself. In the poem “Winter Walks” swoosh (the onomatopoeic word that in Russian conveys not only the sound of rustling, but also bird-noise and the sound made by a match being struck), the sound of intimacy is also an invitation to feel, to sense things:

sleeve against
another passer-by's sleeve
a blank fired
in winter
I am again
at my post
in the streets

the outmost layer
of clothing
might just spark
oh light me
ignite me ignite me
I mean to stand
close to catch fire

And here again the poet is at odds with the world, and just as she is about to accept the rules of the game, to engage the possibility of doing so is foreclosed:

but he frowns
looks down
my passer-by
he goes by
I won't turn
my matches
are broken

There are no rules. The reader, like the speaker, is at a loss as to how to play this game of life, how to tame this fire.

Perhaps this is the reason Rogozhnikova turns to meditation: to imbue the erratic arrhythmia of life with a measure of contemplative peace.

so goes my meditation
it is both light and deep
i wonder if i might escape 
this nirvana somehow
flee the satori
this lemony prickling of tongue
this inability
to become 
the lip of a volcano 

The poet’s meditation here is a contemplation of self from inside the self. Every sensation of the outside world is returned to the inner realm where the poet, as she observes herself, reaches for something more than the ordinary interpretation of meaning:

the washing machine
in the bathroom
twists the bedding
as if 
someone in there
were having a tryst <...>

in the other room
i sit 
on my meditation pillow
breath in—the man
is decisive strong
breath out—the woman
is wide and soft

they come together
a thousand times 
in an hour
the floor
begins to vibrate

The space of the body and the space outside the body constitute another dyad of meaning in Rogozhnikova’s poetry. We often see the body as it transforms itself, as it might be expected to do, in order to reconcile itself to reality:

do not be alarmed
to see me so flattened
to find i move sideways
you have seen the fish
that live
at monstrous depths

Or here: 

out of a girl
with a firm handshake
i turn into a woman
with a soft one

This body-mediated experience of the self contains a temporal aspect as well: one cannot remain unchanged after one lives so acutely and through so much. The speaker remembers being a child and already feeling

as my tightly wrapped throat
a turtleneck
that was too small

or regret, as in “somewhere—my sea goes on living without me.”

Eventually, the larger space takes in the individual body and

holds me by the hand

i stand
on a steep mountainside
at a long blade of grass
and feel 
hold it firmly
my hand


cold comes in 
as if an iceberg
hung zeppelin-like
over the city

Until this immersion in the larger space becomes almost meditative: 

and a line of light
on the wall
like an icon

Ksenia Rogozhnikova’s poetry is a mandala, a sacral geometry of meanings wherein the outmost circle is life, external and internal; the square inside that circle is the inhabited space that shapes the individual body and absorbs it; and the circle inside the square is time whose flow transforms both the body and the space it inhabits. At the center of this cosmos is the fire that powers it.

This colorful, varied pattern drawn as if in colored sand is delicate and can disappear at any moment, blown away by a single breath of a new meaning. If so, Ksenia Rogozhnikova is not afraid to begin painting anew. The poet keeps in mind Karl Jung’s interpretation of the mandala as a symbol of human perfectibility and seeks to better understand her own self. To comprehend the essence of the fire at the heart of it all that both tames everything around—and becomes tamed.

Ksenia Rogozhnikova (Zemskova) is a poet and a children’s writer. She is a graduate of the Maksim Gorky Higher Literary School in Moscow (class of 2009). Her work has been published in literary journals in Russia and Kazakhstan. She is the winner of the Altyn Kalam 2020 award for the best Children’s Book in Russian. Ksenia is the author of two collections of poetry, as well as a middle-grade novel Let’s Salsa! (Almaty Literary Press, 2018).

Oksana Trutneva, Nina Troks

Oksana Trutneva is a poet, fiction writer, and literary critic. She writes under the name Nina Troks. In 2002, she graduated from the master-class sponsored by Musaget; in 2008 she studied with Tobias Hill and Pascale Petit. Oksana teaches fiction workshops at Almaty’s Open Literary School (OLSHA).

The Direction of the Gaze: Aman Rakhmetov on Tigran Tuniyants’ The Edge of Rain

Translated by Nina Murray

The thing is, when you read a really good poet, nothing but images really comes to mind. The images emerge of their own volition because your thoughts, launched off the springboard of each poem, cease being mere thoughts. Some people say, these poems inspire, and these do not. This flight, this swarm of images is inspiration, is it not? 

For me, good poems produce two different experiences. The first is when you read and enter a conversation with every word, every line. You underline, you mark words, you write in the margins. This is awesome. The second is when you read—and find yourself inside a miracle. Then you just put a check-mark at the bottom of this miracle and proceed living a changed person. 

I have seen Tigran Tuniyants live only once in my life, at a lecture at the Almaty Open Literary School. The year was 2019, and his subject was Japanese poetry. He spoke sparsely and concisely, and tipped his chin up every so often. I remembered that mannerism as well as his gaze: piercing, clear, white. He looked at the world the way people without sight do, those who do not care what you look like but do very much care that you listen well, experience things well, contemplate things. Later that day, I looked for Tigran’s poems on the internet. A single, short one was enough to know something important: Tigran Tuniyants is a poet. An incredible, essential poet. His poems come with their own check-marks. 

A kite flies high,
almost out of sight. 
Heaven on a leash!

Finally I got my hands on his collection The Edge of Rain, put out by Musagetes/Мусагет as a run of merely 300 copies. Seen from a distance, Tigran Tuniyants’ book is a cone wherein the base encircles poems in regular meter, and the rest of the shape—Tanka and free verse, squeezed at the tip through the smallest, most exquisite opening, so that the whole book is like a bottom half of an hourglass. A closer reading reveals other, as-yet-unnamed patterns. Nearly every line is informed by the Faustian embrace of opposites. 

the world is taut as 
a droplet
kissed to the rim
a moist globe that comes
from nothing 
and aims nowhere
stretches its delicate neck
a comma of rain
dares not drop
quietly tarries
inside under the dusting
of stars we fall 
of unmade nests

the one-legged heron
of time picks us up

The world is [stretched] taut as a droplet”- what is this?

On one hand, “the world” is huge, heavy, immeasurable, and a droplet is transient, light, momentary. These two opposites are brought into a relationship by the predicate (‘[stretched] taut’), the first in the chain of verbs that links the poem together. Perhaps we are dealing with a poet who is also a philosopher, or a philosopher poet, because every image—the rim of a vessel, a moist ball, a comma of rain, a dusting of stars, the unmade nests—is not just a metaphor but a concept, and all these concepts are linked together by the chain of verbs. The reader hears the rattle of these chains in the music, the soundscape of the poems. The reader begins to share the experience of being manacled that the lyrical speaker attempts to articulate. The reader remembers Prometheus. 

The question is, to what cliffside is the speaker chained? 

Now let’s look at the line from another angle: look at it as a painting, and see, in “the world taut as a droplet,” the outline (albeit cartoonish) of a stork with a baby-bundle in its beak. The last line prompts the association as well. Storks and herons belong to the same family, Ardeidae. Of course, they differ in many important ways, but I’m not an ornithologist—I am a reader. I have come face to face with the poet as painter. All this within the span of a single short poem that I am now rereading—to find the small word ‘we’.

I notice the word occurs nine times over the course of the collection. The symbolism of the number fascinates me. ‘We’ is used sparingly; other pronouns occur much more frequently, ‘you’ in particular. 

“We” appears in the poem “A stroll with our arms linked”. There’s a “we” in when we have found the balance of the curtains. We are a profile pressed against the phone. The metamorphoses of playful lay-bys—where we might not melt when skin elides. We explode into eternity like a potato’s eye. We remain ignorant. We see only the commas. We’ve been trying to be brave since the beginning of time.

The free-verse poems do not include a single ‘we’. Why do I point this out? Because of this manacle business. The lyrical I is not, in fact, chained to anything. The chain this speaker is dragging behind is a token of freedom, a freedom ripped out of rock. 

Back in 2007, Galina Yermoshina wrote about Tigran in the Russian Znamya: “He is just a traveler, a Ulysses of the alphabet and the dictionary. The only thing he knows about his journey is that it is before him. The word sets his route.”

I want to add that in addition to the route, the word defines this poet’s gaze. It’s direction. THis is important. 

Blue trees rustle under the skin. What a stunning, incredible image! Could this be one attempt to look inside oneself? If so, it is nearly unique in this collection, but I could be wrong: this could be  spoken about someone else, someone close to the speaker (the you of which we see so much, much more than of other pronouns). That, however, would be a different story entirely, and I would like to conclude this essay. 

Tigrant Tuniats poetics is the act of directing the gaze. It is both gentle and incisive. 

Because birds fly like double quotes warming up. 

Because the air is flooded.

Because it is not the step that matters but how worn the heel of the breath has become…

Because to molt is human. 

Because crosses on churches are aerials tuned into the channels of grace.

You must not leave a man a riddle. 

Tigran Tuniyants was born in 1979 in Almaty. In 2002, he graduated from the Kazakhstan State Medical University. He is the author of Edge of Rain (2003, currently being prepared for a 2nd edition) and a regular contributor to publications by Musagetes. His work was included in Ulysses Liberated, an anthology of Russophone poetry by writers outside of Russia (2004), and translated into English (In Our Own Words, v. 3, 2001). He writes essays, and reviews books and film. He lives in Almaty.

Tigran Tuniyants

Aman (Amangeldy) Rakhmetov is a poet from Kazakhstan. His poems have been published in literary journals «Новый берег», «Дружба народов», «Плавучий мост», «Крещатик», «Гостиная», etc. “Почти”/”Not Quite” is his first book. He lives in Shymkent.