Day of the Border Guards

Katherine E. Young

KATHERINE E. YOUNG’s Day of the Border Guards (University of Arkansas Miller Williams Prize Series, 2014) is set entirely in Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union. The ghosts of Russian writers Pushkin, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva, and many others wander through these poems, making tea, fighting with their relatives, cursing faithless lovers. Bulgakov’s heroine Margarita describes meeting the Master; Lermontov’s grandmother worries that the young poet is wasting his life. Lady Macbeth is alive and well and living in post-Soviet Georgia. A man falls through the ice into a ruptured hot water pipe, nuclear reactors melt down, an airplane lands on Red Square. Perestroika arrives and departs, like other fashions. A marriage falters. The phone rings in the middle of the night in a Siberian hotel. The corpse of a gypsy king boards a flight for Moscow. Stanley Plumly writes: "Katherine Young’s Day of the Border Guards is very much about crossing borders – those between reality and, in this case, Russia. Which to say she offers us a Russia of direct experience and the transformed country of the imagination. Her text is dense with marvelous detail, dramatic intensity, and intentions that are unmistakable in their insight and judgment. Young chooses to represent both herself and the voices of various personae, sometimes, in fact, as one blended voice: hers and Akhmatova, hers and Mandelstam." Day of the Border Guards was named one of Split This Rock’s “eagerly anticipated” books of 2014, one of Beltway Poetry‘s “Best Books of 2014,” and selected as an Honorable Mention for the North Carolina Poetry Society’s Brockman-Campbell Award.