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Review: Guests of Eternity, by Larissa Miller

These concise, delicate poems, translated with impressive lightness of touch from the Russian, relish the small-scale, the fragile:

be quiet and white, white and quiet
at least between the lines, between the work.

They celebrate moments of safety, of exhilaration, when the grander structures, the larger mechanisms of history and politics seem momentarily cast aside. Written from the 1960s through to the 90s, Miller's poems are remarkable for their directness and apparent simplicity:

Everything happened that could
and which it was impossible to believe.

And, at times, her extraordinary lyrics seem to conjure the experience of a whole generation -

They waited days, they waited years
for the right weather, for freedom,
they waited, believing in miracles

- the poem building to its bleak finale:

and while we were waiting for heaven
the damp earth awaited us.

The writing throughout, however, is sustained by an optimism, a determination to find possibilities, no matter how faint and elusive, beyond the constant sense of danger.