Green in a Landscape with Ashes
"In Anna Halberstadt’s second full-length collection in English, Green in a Landscape with Ashes, the poet’s brushstrokes are those of a muralist and miniaturist. Halberstadt illuminates themes of love, loss, and life’s abundance informed by her post-Holocaust childhood in Vilnius amidst a country’s amnesia and silence about its murdered Jews. An immigrant with aging parents and a young son, she leaves a broken marriage, a floundering Soviet state, and a career in psychology for the unknown. There is a god who won’t forgive present in Halberstadt’s work. ‘Where are you/ the beautiful shining angel/to stop Abraham’s knife?’ We follow her pilgrimage through Europe’s cities, the poet marking the continent with her wry, penetrating meditations. Elegant, crafted, and having the authority of Akhmatova, Halberstadt’s virtuosity enables her to embrace life’s suffering as well as its bawdy side with the directness of a Mae West. ‘You can love a man/ who can’t make you come.’ These juxtapositions and discontinuities work brilliantly. Halberstadt’s ‘Café Intelligentia serves madman espresso.’ Enjoy a demitasse. Drink up."
— Stephanie Dickinson
"In an age of uncertainty and humanity denying nationalism, Anna's poems show us the truths of a citizen of the world with empathy, beauty, and compassion."
— Elizabeth Hodges
"Anna Halberstadt’s Green in a Landscape with Ashes is a book of poems about the flux of daily experience set against the imperatives of conscience and the memory of human desperation and suffering. Halberstadt is acutely intelligent about what and how much we might feel on a given day, on a subway platform, on bridges and city streets, in winter or summer light, as the poems search the past and live in the afterlives of tyranny and slaughter. The poems are evocative in their feeling for the textures of memory—a child watching her father from underneath a Biedermeier table with lion paws, another child 'searching for hidden chocolate/in the cupboard.' The speaker dreams of the summer forests of childhood and youth, of mushrooms 'in velvet moss among pine needles and wild strawberry leaves,' of bees in an apiary full of 'buckwheat and clover honey.' But at the end of the journey, we find ourselves in a neglected graveyard 'all overgrown with grass and Queen Anne’s lace,' or standing on a forest floor—a place of prolonged butchery during the war—feeling the shade of pine trees streaming skyward toward the light as if in intercession, on behalf of survivors and witnesses, since the perpetrators themselves 'never repent.' With self-understanding and acuity, and sensitive to the vulnerability and suffering around her, Halberstadt asks, 'Where are you, the beautiful shining angel/To stop Abraham’s knife?'”
— Saskia Hamilton
About the Author
Anna Halberstadt's creative work has been published in over 45 literary journals in English, Russian, and in translation into Lithuanian and Ukrainian. Her collection of poetry Vilnius Diary was published in the Mudfish Individual Poet Series, Box Turtle Press, in the summer of 2014. It was translated into Lithuanian and Ukrainian. Her collection of poems, Transit, in Russian, was published in June 2016 by West-Consulting, Moscow. Her translation into Russian of poetry by Eileen Myles, Selected Selected, was published by Russian Gulliver, Moscow, in 2017. Her translation of poems by Edward Hirsch is forthcoming in the Evgeny Stepanov publishing house series Avantgrandees in 2017. Her poem “I Was Reborn” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2014, and another poem, “You Can Be in Love with a Man,” for the Pushcart Prize in 2016 by Mudfish Journal. Anna Halberstadt was a finalist in the 2013 and 2015 Mudfish poetry contests. She was a finalist in the Atlanta Review International Poetry Competition in 2015 and a semi-finalist for the Paumanok Poetry Award in 2015. Atlanta Review selected her as The International Merit Award winner in the Poetry 2016 International Poetry Competition. She was awarded a Poetry Prize in 2016 by Children of Ra Journal for a group of poems in Russian. Vilnius Diary's Lithuanian translation was named among the TOP 10 best books published in Lithuania in 2017 by the Lithuanian news site Lt.15. She is a member of the PEN American Center.