Zaturenska, Marya Alexandrovna (1902–1982)

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Zaturenska, Marya Alexandrovna (1902–1982)

Russian-born American poet and Pulitzer Prize winner. Born on September 12, 1902, in Kiev, Russia; died of heart failure on January 19, 1982, in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts; daughter of Avram Alexander and Johanna (Lupovska) Zaturensky; educated in New York public schools; attended Valparaiso University, 1922–23; graduated from University of Wisconsin, 1925; married Horace Gregory (a poet and critic), in 1925; children: Joanna and Patrick.

Emigrated to the United States with her family (1909); won the John Reed Memorial Award from Poetry magazine (1922); won the Shelley Memorial Award (1935); won the Guarantors Award from Poetry magazine (1937); won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1938).

Selected writings:

Threshold and Hearth (poetry, 1934); Cold Morning Sky (poetry, 1938); The Listening Landscape (poetry, 1941); The Golden Mirror (poetry, 1944); (with husband Horace Gregory) A History of American Poetry, 1900–1940 (1946); Selected Poems (poetry, 1954); (ed. with husband) The Mentor Book of Religious Verse (1957); Terraces of Light (poetry, 1960); (ed. with husband) The Crystal Cabinet: An Invitation to Poetry (1962); Collected Poems of Marya Zaturenska (poetry, 1965); (comp.) The Silver Swan: Poems of Romance and Mystery (1966); (ed.) Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale (1967); Christina Rossetti: A Portrait with Background (biography, 1970); (ed.) Selected Poems of Christina Rossetti (1970); The Hidden Waterfall (poetry, 1974).

Pulitzer Prizewinning poet Marya Alexandrovna Zaturenska was born in Kiev, Russia in 1902. Polish and Russian folk songs constituted one of her earliest poetic influences, drawn from her mother's Polish heritage and Zaturenska's own Russian ethnicity. In 1909, Zaturenska immigrated with her family and spent the rest of her childhood in New York City. Like many of the city's children, Zaturenska interrupted her education to work in a factory, although she managed to complete high school by attending classes at night. While juggling classes and work, Zaturenska also wrote poetry that was published in national magazines such as Harriet Monroe 's Poetry. Accolades came quickly as she won the prestigious John Reed Memorial Award in 1922 when she was only 20. That same year, she won a scholarship to Valparaiso University in Indiana, where she spent one year before transferring to the University of Wisconsin, graduating in 1925.

After her marriage to poet and critic Horace Gregory in 1925, Zaturenska began to seriously dedicate herself to writing. Her first collection of poems, Threshold and Hearth (1934), won the Shelley Memorial Award. However, it was her second book, Cold Morning Sky, that won her the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1938. Zaturenska's poetry was closely associated with the decadent style, a literary movement that ran its course during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This movement found art superior to nature, and beauty in death and decay. Her interest in the elegance and artifice of this style was also expressed in her well-regarded biography of poet Christina Rossetti , published in 1949.

Zaturenska's identification with the decadents proved a liability to her own work. As the old traditions were supplanted, she failed to alter her style, thus earning a reputation as an "oldfashioned" writer. As time passed, her elaborate musical poems were regarded as antiquated, although critics also noted the grace and artistry with which she carried the old form; and, although Zaturenska never ranked among the major poets, she was considered a gifted craftswoman. She died of heart failure on January 19, 1982, in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.


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Kunitz, Stanley J., and Howard Haycraft, eds. Twentieth Century Authors. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1942.

The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English. Ed. by Ian Hamilton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

World Authors 1900–1950. Ed. by Martin Seymour-Smith and Andrew C. Kimmens. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1996.

Philip Yacuboski , freelance writer, Mocanaqua, Pennsylvania

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Zaturenska, Marya Alexandrovna (1902–1982)

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