Larissa Shmailo (Fiction, Poetry, Translation) | New York, NY
Larissa Shmailo is a poet, author, translator, and critic. Larissa’s new novel about a young woman’s search for identity, Patient Women, has been called a “a brutally honest wrestling match of truth-telling and sex” and “the best book . . . about this period of life in NYC since Patti Smith’s Just Kids.” Larissa’s poetry collections are #specialcharacters (Unlikely Books), In Paran (BlazeVOX [books], and the chapbooks A Cure for Suicide (Červená Barva Press) and Fib Sequence (Argotist Ebooks). Her poetry CDs are The No-Net World and Exorcism (SongCrew); tracks are available from Spotify, iTunes, Muze, Deezer, Rhapsody, Amazon, and CDBaby. Larissa translated Victory over the Sun for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s celebrated reconstruction of the first Futurist opera; the libretto is now available from Červená Barva Press. She has also been a translator on the Russian Bible for the American Bible Society and the editor of the acclaimed anthology, Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry. Larissa’s work appears in Measure for Measure (Everyman’s Library / Penguin Random House), Words for the Wedding (Perigee / Penguin Putnam), Contemporary Russian Poetry (Dalkey Archive Press), FULCRUM, the Atlanta Review, Barrow Street, Drunken Boat, the Battersea Review, Plume, and Sensitive Skin. Visit her Wikipedia page and her website at www.larissashmailo.com.
- Fib Sequence (Argotist Ebooks, 2011). Poetry.
- A Cure for Suicide (Červená Barva Press, 2006). Poetry.
- Bibliography of Bible Translations in the Languages of the Russian Federation, Other Countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the Baltic States (American Bible Society, publication pending)
- Victory over the Sun by Alexei Kruchenych (Červená Barva Press 2014)
Press & Reviews
Larissa Shmailo’s Patient Women tells the story of Nora, a gifted young woman who comes of age in New York against heavy odds. Her Russian mother is demanding; the young men around her are uncaring; and her dependence on drink and sex leads her to a shadowy life filled with self-made demons. Yet Nora’s intelligence pulls her through the difficult times—there are even moments of (very) dark humor here. As well, an appendix of poems attributed to Nora lets us into the corners of her heart and mind.
—Thaddeus Rutkowski, author of Haywire
Larissa Shmailo’s novel, Patient Women (and the title is absolutely meaningful, in so many ways), is a brutally honest wrestling match of truth-telling and sex. I had to put this book down and walk away from it more than once; it was a bit like holding a hot coal in my hands. And even though the subject matter is over the top, the writing is stylistically brilliant. Absolutely recommended!
—Ron Kolm, author of Suburban Ambush and editor of the Evergreen Review
Larissa Shmailo’s Patient Women explores the intersection of mind and body, posing several compelling philosophical questions to the reader: Is gender biological or do we inscribe these social categories through our use of language? Is it possible to separate one’s intellect from one’s physical being? To what extent is language itself tactile and embodied? As Shmailo teases out possible answers to these questions, she utilizes a variety of literary forms, which include diary entries, appendices, poems, and vignettes. Formally adventurous and engaging, Shmailo’s book is as artfully written as it is thought-provoking, offering us stylistic innovation that is both daring and meaningful.
—Kristina Marie Darling, author of Scorched Altar: Selected Poems & Stories 2007–14
Larissa Shmailo’s newest work, Patient Women, is an unflinching exploration of the lasting damage some people can inflict on their children. Nora, Shmailo’s protagonist, evolves as she struggles to understand and heal her own self-hatred and her on-going self-destructive choices. Slogging one’s way through a morass of denial and repression is a strong trope throughout this raw, honest book. Nora is fiercely vulnerable and the sympathetic hero of her own salvation. This novel is dark, but there is hope that even the pain one lives through can cause one to create, finally, lasting and beautiful art.
—Joani Reese, author of Dead Letters (Červená Barva Press ) and Night Chorus, forthcoming from Lit Fest Press
Nora, born to a holocaust survivor mother, finds herself, at the threshold of adolescence in “boring Queens.” Lying about her age, her first transgression from her mother’s iron rule, she begins a series of ill-fated attempts to put distance between herself and the familial web she so desperately wants to disentangle from. She reels from one dysfunctional relationship to another, druggies, pimps, losers, and masochists, searching for her lovable self. This novel unfolds in a whirlwind that is sometimes dream, sometimes nightmare, yet, at its core, is an honest tale of one woman’s coming to terms with her past in order to claim her present. Be ready to have your heart broken and then made whole.
—Bonny Finberg, author of Kali’s Day
Christ-figures are likely to be cross-dressers in this engaging bildungsroman (Patient Women), which takes us on a wild ride through NYC nightclubs of the 1970’s, rock-bottom blackouts, a whorehouse, and the slogan-filled rooms of recovery. Surreal and lyrical, then bawdy and riotous, then plainspoken and tragic, Patient Women had me rooting hard for its lovable, drowning heroine to keep her head above water and let in grace.
—Anne Elliott, author of The Beginning of the End of the Beginning
“(#SpecialCharacters) is a thrilling book of femininity and magic. When it comes to capturing the intimacy of pain, Larissa Shmailo is among the most daring poets of her generation. When speaking of human rights, she is a human flame. ”
“At one point in #specialcharacters, Larissa Shmailo declares: ‘Mother Kali, you have made me what I am: feminine, brilliant, entirely without fear’—and the rest of the poems in this collection prove this true. They run the gamut from being outspoken to outrageous, irreverent to downright heretical, taking gleeful pride in knowing exactly how far is too far—and then going even further. I see this work as a continuum in a long tradition of radical writing practices from Futurism, to Dada, to Oulipo, to Pussy Riot. Read it when you wish to be empowered. Read it when you wish to be entertained. Read it to rid yourself of the precious and polite.”
“With #specialcharacters—where even the title is special—Shmailo has managed to split language into its common & least common denominators/principles: sound, meaning, symbol, feeling (text/ure) as well as providing us with a range of voices from child to adult & male to female within a range of styles & mannerisms from the ultra-experimental to quirky ‘innocent’ rhymes like her sexy riff on ‘the 12 days of Christmas’ in her classic ‘The Other Woman’s Cunt.’ Her knowledge of the WORD & how to use it extends from darkly humorous to warm, lyrical, tender & painful. She explores every facet of lives lived, be it endangered turtles, abused women or battered men. Her passion & compassion know no bounds. ‘Between cause & effect…choose this’ BOOK, at times a ‘woeful bedtime tale’ & ‘a light in the bedroom’ or any room, any space anywhere in the world. It is a book of verse one should return to ‘again & again.’ A book about ‘creation,’ ‘alive as snow,’ these poems ‘glisten like apples in the dying sun.’ When Shmailo refers to ‘Steven’s old bones’ this ‘unorthodox jew’ can only think of the pleasure his old bones derive from reading these rejuvenating pages. This is a major work by a major poet.”