Under the Sign of the Samovar: poems of seven decades
by Marcia Katz Wolf
My grandmother’s samovar has been an abiding presence in my life. Carried to the United States as she and my great-grandparents escaped the Russian pogroms, it is a reminder of their determination to resist the forces that seek to destroy the human spirit, their courage in leaving behind all they had known. In losing their home, they made it possible for my parents and me to find ours. I have written these poems to tell my children what the samovar has told me:
Marcia Katz Wolf’s fourth collection of poetry, Under the Sign of the Samovar, is a field of thought, a memoir, and a casual bedazzlement. Existing at the intersection of the personal and metaphysical, its distinctive vision finds unity among things diverse and present. Her aunt takes her after Sabbath School to the Emerald City of Woolworth’s to buy moddess. A chimp is taught sign language. Her mother rhapsodizes in her bath about the Russian Revolution and her hero Trotsky. Dresden and other horrors are entered into a theory of suffering, a baffling calculus, that can leave you, as it did me, at the brink. In the final poem, her husband Irving, a figure of gentle healing in this book, brings her tea. The simmering of the samovar must always have been there, a sturdy elegance, a place where a poet, a Marcia Katz Wolf, had no choice but to be a poet.
Whether riffing on Gogol’s “Overcoat,” watching her little granddaughter tricycle down a suburban street, or meditating on questions of truth, identity, memory, grace, or aging, Marcia Katz Wolf takes us to the mystifying center of our human experience. Alternately wry and joyous, humorous and heartbreaking, her poems probe the mysteries and wonders of our lives. Wolf’s uncompromising diction, exquisite phrasing, and startling juxtapositions that find us chuckling and then thrust a knife into our hearts cast a lyrical spell that leaves the reader yearning for more.
84 pages, $14.95
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