Russia: Poetry Underground

In Russia, no poet need starve if he can hack out odes extolling "socially useful" goals. In revolt against sloganeering paeans that read like Pravda set to rhyme, hundreds of Soviet writers privately turn out poems about lovemaking, maladjustment, and other concerns of the soul neglected by seven-year plans. They call such extracurricular outpourings "poetry for the desk drawer," because it is unproletarian and unpublishable. Yet one of the most revealing aspects of Russian evolution since Stalin has been the growth of the desk drawer.

There seems to be a vast and...

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