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Belarusian Review

Belarusians Abroad

Mort Wins 2009 Lannan Literary Award

Valzhyna Mort was born in Minsk, Belarus in 1981. Her first collection, I’m as Thin as Your Eyelashes, was published prior to her moving to the U.S. in 2005. Her first US poetry collection is Factory of Tears (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), co-translated by the husband-and-wife team of Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Franz Wright. The book has been translated into Swedish and Russian. It is the first Belarusian-English poetry book ever published in the U.S.

There is an urgency and vitality to her 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,” and Midwest Book Review calls Factory of Tears “a one-of-a-kind work of passion and insight.” Valzhyna writes in Belarusian at a time when efforts are being made to reestablish the traditional language, after governmental attempts to absorb it into the Russian language have been relinquished. She reads her poems aloud in both Belarusian and English.

The Lannan Literary Awards and Fellowships were established in 1989 to honor both established and emerging writers whose work is of exceptional quality. Over the last 20 years, Lannan Foundation, through its Awards and Fellowships program, has awarded 173 writers and poets more than $13 million. The awards recognize writers who have made significant contributions to English-language literature.

This article appeared in
Belarusian Review, Vol. 22, No. 1
---------------------------------------------
Copyright 2010 Belarusian Review
All rights reserved.
Source: Lannan Foundation Web site, www.lannan.org


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