Nina Kossman

Biography

Nina Kossman was born in Moscow, emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1972, and spent some time in Israel, Ohio, Vermont, California, and Mexico; currently, she resides in New York. She has authored, edited, translated, or both edited and translated more than nine books in English and Russian. She is the recipient of an NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) fellowship and grants from the Foundation for Hellenic Culture and the Onassis Public Benefit Foundation. Her poems have been translated from English into French;  Russian; Spanish; Hebrew; Persian; Chinese, Italian; Bulgarian; Danish; Albanian; Greek, and Dutch, while Behind the Border, her book of short stories about her childhood in the Soviet Union, has been translated into Japanese. In addition to writing in English (her second language), she writes poetry and prose in her first language, Russian, and has an extensive list of publications in major Russian-language journals, in and outside of Russia. In 2021, she became the founding editor of EastWest Literary Forum, a bilingual literary magazine, published in Russian & English.

Literary critic Cynthia Haven writes in The Bookhaven: “Twenty years ago, critic Harold Bloom wrote to the young poet Nina Kossman to tell her that her “intensely eloquent” translations of the poet Marina Tsvetaeva manage to “capture the doom-eager splendor of a superbly gifted poet.” W.S. Merwin wrote that these are “direct, strong, audible translations,” adding, “I hear Tsvetaeva’s voice, more of it, and in a new pitch, which makes something clear in her poems that I had only guessed at before.” 

Poet and literary critic Emma Lee writes in her review of Kossman’s book “Other Shepherds”: “Nina Kossman was born in Russia and is bilingual in Russian and English. Initially, she wrote in Russian because ‘English was the language I had to use in the outside world—at school, in the city, etc. Instead, my poems sprang from the interior world, and at that age, I resisted the outside world and created—possibly at the expense of a comfortable co-existence with my peers—a world of my own.’ The themes of alienation in Marina Tsvetaeva’s poems spoke to Kossman’s experience.”

Canadian culture and literary critic Donald  Brackett writes about Kossman in his review of her book published in Critics at Large: “Alienation and nostalgia are, of course, the bread and butter of most exiles, but in the case of Kossman, displaced in America during its own time of social and political upheaval (one hauntingly like our own era today), those emotional states, shared by the older poet, were intangibles that could potentially damage or even destroy a person if they gave in to them without resistance but which could, as Tsvetaeva herself so clearly demonstrated in a model manner, also transform themselves into the raw material for the art of poetry. Initially, consumed by and consuming what she called this “cocktail of nostalgia, alienation, and immersion in Tsvetaeva” enabled Kossman to embark upon the writing of her own poems, initially in Russian despite the fact that she was now living in English.”

Russian literary critic and poet Daniil Chkonia writes in his introduction to Kossman’s poems in Emigrantskaya Lira, a major Russian poetry journal: “Nina Kossman’s poems … combine ancient Greek myths with modern sensibility…She skillfully interweaves historical/cultural layers with events of our time, creating her own picture of life, in its continuity and unity..”

Aleksey Sinitsyn, a Russian literary critic and novelist, writes in his review of the Russian edition of Kossman’s novel: “…this is intellectual prose of outstanding artistic merit […] The author manages to show subtleties of communication between the individual and the collective, the factual and the mythological, the historical and the personal, and to demonstrate the connection that makes the fate of an individual inseparable from the fate of her people.”

Another Russian critic, Olga Bugoslavskaya, writes in her review of Kossman’s novel “Queen of the Jews”: “…our former compatriot Nina Kossman offers her own version of a love story, set against a backdrop of animosity. … Her novel… is poetic, beautiful and stylistically original. It rehabilitates the concept of the literary use of ideology and points out a fatal mistake we all make when we begin to rely on common cliches, averting our eyes from reality.”

Current City, State, Country

New York, New York, USA

Birth City, State, Country

Moscow (the USSR)

Published Works

Poetry
Poem of the End: 6 Narrative Poems, by Marina Tsvetaeva; Translated by Nina Kossman (Swindon, UK: Shearsman Books, 2021)
Other Shepherds, a book of original poems by Nina Kossman and translations of Marina Tsvetaeva’s poems (Poets & Traitors Press, 2020)
Behind the Border (Japanese. Tokyo: Asunaro Shobo, 1994)
По правую руку сна. Po Pravuiu ruku sna. Poems in Russian. (Побережье (Poberezh’e), 1996)
Перебои (Pereboi), Poems in Russian and English. (Художественная литература, 1990. Нина Косман (Коссман) Moscow: Khudozhestvennaya Literatura, 1990)

Fiction
Queen of the Jews, a novel [NL Herzenberg] (London: Philistine Press, 2015. 2017. In Russian translation –Нина Косман. “Царица иудейская”. Moscow: Рипол / Ripol, 2019)
Behind the Border (William Morrow, 1994. New York: Harper Collins, 1994 (hardcover), 1996)

Plays
Foreign Gifts in Asymptote—performed by “Global Female Voices”, London, April 2018; by The Ventura Court Theatre, Studio City, CA, March 1998; produced by Theatre Arts Department, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, VA, 2017
Водные процедуры in Этажи (Etazhi)
Mirror in Off the Wall Plays—produced by Moonlit Wings Productions, Washington D.C.Art. “Mirror” was produced (among other places) Spag Bol Productions, Ferny Grove State School, Queensland, Australia, 2018
Foreign Gifts in Off the Wall Plays.
One-act plays (From Russia with Gum, The Road to City Hall, Miracles) were produced by The Theatre Studio, 1997-1998
Miracles—produced in New York, New Jersey, and London.

Translated Works
Poem of the End: Selected and Narrative Lyrical Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva. Translated by Nina Kossman (Ardis Publishers, 1998; Overlook Press, 2004; Abrams Press, 2009)
In the Inmost Hour Soul. Vox Humana, Selected poems by Marina Tsvetaeva. Translated by Nina Kossman. (Humana Press, 1989

Edited Books
Gods and Mortals: Modern Poems on Classical Myths, anthology (editor) (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Current Title

self-employed

Author Site

Education

Bennington College, undergraduate
Hunter College, graduate

Video Reading

Links to Sample Works

Languages of Publication(s) and Poets Translated

Russian (Marina Tsvetaeva)

Subject Matter

Genre