Desert Candles (2019) & Aching Miracle (2015)
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Elina Petrova's "Desert Candles" burns with an inner light, as if every poem was lit from within. These wide-ranging poems confront political borders, psychological boundaries, and address graphic artworks that inspire transformative lyrics. The poems frankly confront faults, but also find blessings. For instance, in “Seraphim” she writes: “There is the galaxy / of my vices between us / yet there is grace / that persists." Ah, that we might all find such hard-to-obtain-but-revelatory balance in our own lives and art!
David Allen Sullivan,
Strong-Armed Angels, Every Seed of the Pomegranate, Black Ice, Seed Shell Ash
Desert Candles opens into a church somewhere in the desert Southwest. With Elina Petrova deftly in control as our guide, we absorb the textures of an American landscape, then time-travel to scenes from her native Ukraine—memories of her childhood, her parents, the grueling hardships endured in a country ground down by war, a childhood unfolding in the heart of conflict, as in this image, from “Donetsk Winter,” of a bombed apartment building: “A fuzzy blue slipper / dangled on the edge of the precipice / facing my school, in whose courtyard / I fed doves and famished cats, calling them / in Russian: guli-guli and kis-kis-kis.”
Petrova is the consummate observer, the consummate traveler, ever aware of dissonances—between momentary luxuries and sudden deprivations, between surface comforts and her persistent awareness that perhaps Bosch was right about the world wrought by humans. I sense an implicit message in Desert Candles’ seven chapters: our lives demand attention. These poems demand attention—and reward it. More often than not, when you reach a closing line, your eyes will move back to the opening. That’s the gift of reading Elina Petrova—poems that beckon from the shelf.
Managing Editor, Dos Gatos Press
These poems pull you into the dust and beautiful desolation of Far West Texas—a separate state where many are concerned—and leave you dying to risk visiting there yourself. Elina Petrova sings hymns to this hard land, one of the last outposts of true silence, and its cactus-needle-edge of survival. She then seamlessly transitions to the rugged and war-torn fringes of Southern Russia and East Ukraine. She keeps us suspended between these two worlds until, finally, we realize we’re all sipping Irish Coffee together in one big-but-small, beautiful-but-harsh world. And that we’ll either save it together … or not.
Oklahoma Poet Laureate 2013/2014, Winner of the Oklahoma Book Award
Once again the cosmopolitan and erudite Elina Petrova hosts us on a magic carpet ride of the breezes, vistas, and landmarks of the world. Dusty boots usher us to shrines, factories of filth, and everywhere in between. We learn to “pray with … skills of (y)our hands.” Earthly creatures teach us renewal and resurrection. We fight wars and enemies, passing on what endures. We take pride in and give thanks for our honest bread, discovering peace and solace in aging. In our final days, we pine for “a glass of Chablis and someone tender to lie with one last time.” With wonder and gratitude, we visit Nice, Helsinki, Paris, Venice, Prague, Asheville, Brooklyn and the boroughs, singing songs of all genres, celebrating and quaffing fruit of the vine. We commute, keep time, and save time with pedestrians in the inner cities, lounge around in the southern sun, accepting, nay, celebrating, that “poetry is an unauthorized fire.”
Editor-in-Chief of Panoply magazine
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In Aching Miracle, Elina Petrova traces threadroots that burrow into her past. I recall the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times, as she juxtaposes deprivation and abundance, hope and disillusion, love and abandonment, death and the human soul. Rich with imagery and deft allusions to classical music, literature, art, mythology, and European politics, as well as Texas culture, her confident word choice and precise diction make this a book you will savor, in all its amazing complexities. Perhaps, Petrova sums it up best herself with a beautiful metaphor in the book’s final poem, “Glow,” which opens with the words, “There is nine times more dark matter than stars,” and ends with the denouement, “This world is an aching miracle/ whose touch no war can deaden – / sunshowers in the orchard of unsolved equations,/ the symphony of dark/ light years between the stars.”
Editor, Illya’s Honey
Having seen war and hell and forgiven the passions that created them, Elina Petrova writes as a solitary poet exploring the depth of Creation. She lets you in the world she knows and understands, carefully, with music to guide your journey through her reflective mind. She uncovers human nature, its toils, troubles and needs, without passing judgement. In Aching Miracle we see the strangeness of a miracle slowly happening to us, and we feel the sudden touch of surrender. Petrova’s poems have always stunned me for their worldliness, their longing for escape while staying centered to the world’s circle, and the colorful language of this book will stun the reader and awaken the pulse that comes from the heart; to search, to know destiny, to grow, is an aching miracle.
Publisher, Transcendent Zero Press
This is Elina Petrova’s first collection of poems published outside Russia and Ukraine. As with her performances, you can almost touch the vivid language and feel the electrical fizz of her thoughts. The poems have an honesty and subtlety of emotion that gradually reveals itself. She covers a wide diversity of subjects and metaphors, the poems layering up to create a rich, alternate world for us to explore.
Poetry editor, FreeFall, Canada’s Magazine of Exquisite Writing
Elina Petrova, far removed from her native Ukraine, has been in the States for only eight years in what she calls her “second life.” Aching Miracle is her bittersweet goodbye to the earlier life with an astute eye to her new life in Houston. Eloquent and surprising images abound in these wild multi-cultural poems you won’t soon forget.
Publisher, Texas Poetry Calendar
Elina Petrova’s first volume of poems in English is as beautiful as watching a figure skater smoothly execute axel jumps and death spirals and then viewing a slow motion projection of the constant jarring and collisions of those sharpened blades appear to glide.
Houston Public Poetry
Elina Petrova brings us poetry snugly fitted to the fast moving, globally connected, romantic realism of our times. We travel the world to heal our hearts and find that peace can show itself in unexpected places – like the scarlet tufts of a backyard cardinal, a final scene in an art house movie, and the green boots kept by a love-struck fiancé’. We also find a narrator who helps us face the unease of happiness found after the escape from a burning world where we leave family and friends behind, and clamor to not live in the past while not losing the important lessons that brought us to the here and now. Savor these poems.
Editor (Spiky Palm) and environmental scientist.
This is the book I go to when I have a small moment of time, and I want to savor a beautifully written piece of poetry. Petrova's images are striking, wrought with color, and substance. With lines like, "love is the water we must pay for," she cuts fresh images into the reader's mind. She speaks of love, death, war, family, and the limbo of the immigrant American with such vibrancy, that I always want more.
Woman Looks Into an Eye
Petrova’s clear, concrete imagery and attention to craft make her poems both emotional and memorable. The fact that these great poems are written in English (not her native language) further demonstrates her skill as a writer. I use several of her poems in my high school class.
Colliding with Orion
The power of Petrova's voice lies in her fearless fragility as she strides toward truth. Reading her collection left me longing for it to continue, as she puts it, "to strike the bright match of me."
Kelly Ann Ellis,
Chain Links, Marrow