Mari­na Blit­shteyn is the author of the new poet­ry chap­book Russ­ian for Lovers. She will be blog­ging all week for the Vis­it­ing Scribe.

It was my first semes­ter in the MFA pro­gram and I was hav­ing a hard time, as can be the case. I was in the show­er one day and it occurred to me I want­ed to write an alpha­bet book to help my Amer­i­can lover learn Russ­ian faster.

He’d been express­ing inter­est in the lan­guage, pick­ing up some words and phras­es here and there, so I fig­ured I could work out a lit­tle side-project from all the MFA work I was sup­posed to be doing. I planned on going let­ter by let­ter, mak­ing each poem revolve around the sound of that let­ter so he could learn it better.

I start­ed com­pos­ing A in the show­er. I want­ed to have the let­ter A be the only vow­el in the piece. Need­less to say, when I put it to the page it didn’t look as good as it sound­ed in my head while it was being sham­pooed. So I scrapped that idea and allowed oth­er vow­els in. A end­ed up hav­ing many dif­fer­ent ver­sions; I had to go back and re-do the begin­ning a bunch of times.

Russ­ian for Lovers was orig­i­nal­ly only about love; it was sup­posed to be about a long-dis­tance rela­tion­ship and a com­mu­ni­ca­tion divide. Soon enough I start­ed think­ing about larg­er ideas like the fact that we speak Russ­ian in my house, my family’s jour­ney to the States, my own rela­tion­ship with my place of birth.

Inter­est­ing­ly, I’d nev­er writ­ten poems about these ques­tions before. And then Love in Moldo­va” came out of me, and it sound­ed angry and hurt and I fig­ured there was an emo­tion­al core to this project that extend­ed beyond a per­son­al rela­tion­ship to a loved one and into more polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al concerns.

Mari­na Blit­shteyn is the author of Russ­ian for Lovers. Come back all week to read her blog posts.