The Development of Russian Verse: Meter and its Meanings by Michael Wachtel (Princeton University, New Jersey)
The Development of Russian Verse explores the Russian verse tradition from Pushkin to Brodsky, showing how certain formal features are associated with certain genres and, at times, specific themes. Michael Wachtel's basic thesis is that form is never neutral: poets can react positively in terms of stylization and development, or negatively in terms of parody or revision, to the work of their predecessors, but they cannot ignore it. Keeping technical terms to a minimum and providing English translations of quotations, Wachtel offers close readings of individual poems of more than fifty poets. He aims to help English-speaking readers reconstruct the strong sense of continuity that Russian poets have always felt, transcending any individual age or ideology. Ultimately, his 1999 book is an inquiry into the nature of literary tradition itself, and how it coalesces in a country that has always taken so much of its identity from its written legacy.