OLIVER KNOWS OF NO BETTER WAY to introduce this poet and also this remarkable book than to cite from the Foreword written by Andrey Gritsman:
Helen Tzagoloff is a Russian-born American poet who has lived most of her life in the United States. She is an example of a writer with mixed sensibilities: those of an American and of a “genetically” Russian with a childhood rooted in Russia. Listening to the Thunder is unusual both in its artistic approach and its subject matter, which recalls the author’s childhood memories of the Second World War and of the hardships endured by her parents and relatives during that tumultuous period. These early recollections are juxtaposed with the later experiences in the United States. An illustrative example is the excellent title poem:
When it thundered, mother
would draw the drapes, sit silently
away from the windows.
She would ask us to turn off the radio,
hang up the phone, stop washing dishes,
get out of the shower.
She once saw a man struck
by lightning. He was standing
under a tree holding his son’s hand.
When I hear thunder, I turn off
the computer, sit on the sofa, drink
coffee and listen to the thunder.
Gritsman goes on to say that the dual-cultured Tzagoloff “is an American in all respects with a soul reflecting a strange and complex blend of sensibilities that act as a fountain” for her poems, many of these being pieces drawn from “remembrances of events spanning a lifetime.” Reading them, he writes, “is like looking through a vivid and truthful photographic album of an entire life.”
And, indeed, it is.