18.13 Letters and Statements

No 18 : 5 March 1971

On 5 September 1970 in Butyrka Prison Natalya Gorbanevskaya wrote a letter addressed to Western publishing houses and to samizdat in this country. We are publishing the text of the letter:

“It has become known to me that a book of my poetry has been published in the West. I have naturally been unable to acquaint myself with it, but I know that it includes poetry written between 1956 and 1961.[1] Only a few poems of that period are representative of me as a poet – the rest are simply experiments in quest of my path and my voice, experiments which were often unsuccessful. I consider it unwise to present these experiments to a broad readership.

“I myself have collected my poems in a number of books which exist in samizdat: Poems of 1956-1964, Paradise Lost, Darkness: Poems of 1966, The Wooden Angel: Poems of 1967. [2] I compiled all these books on the basis of careful selection – now, with the passage of time, this selection might be even more strict. My poems of 1968 and 1969 also exist in samizdat in the form of the booklet Uncollected Poems. [3] To this booklet can be added four poems written after my arrest and sent out of Butyrka Prison. [4] Only the samizdat publications I have mentioned can be regarded as genuine authorized texts reflecting my wishes in the selection of verse. I should not wish my position as a political prisoner to become the cause of people taking an interest in the first poems of mine they come across, poems long since discarded, poems which someone has happened to preserve from long ago, despite the fact that I have attempted to destroy them wherever I have encountered them.

“If the interest in my poetry is an interest in me as a poet, and not only in my name, then I ask samizdat, and the Western publishing house which has produced a book of my poetry, to take this statement seriously and not to circulate poetry which I do not regard as my own.”