Valzhyna Mort

Valzhyna Mort was born in Minsk, Belarus (former Soviet Union) in 1981. Her first collection, I’m as Thin as Your Eyelashes, was published prior to her moving to the U.S. in 2005. Her first US poetry collection is Factory of Tears (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), co-translated by the husband-and-wife team of Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Franz Wright. The book has been translated into Swedish and Russian. It is the first Belarusian-English poetry book ever published in the U.S.

Mort received the Crystal of Vilenica award in Slovenia in 2005 and the Burda Poetry Prize in Germany in 2008. She has been a resident poet at Literarisches Colloquium in Berlin, Germany, and has received a fellowshiip at Gaude Polonia, Warsaw, Poland. Her English translations of Eastern-European poets are included in the anthology, New European Poets (Graywolf Press, 2008). Valzhyna currently teaches at the University of Baltimore and her next collection, written in English, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press.

There is an urgency and vitality to her poems; the narrative moves within universal themes—lust, loneliness, the strangeness of god, and familial love—while many poems question what language is and challenge the authority that delegates who has the right to speak and how. The New Yorker writes, “Mort strives to be an envoy for her native country, writing with almost alarming vociferousness about the struggle to establish a clear identity for Belarus and its language.” Library Journal described Mort’s vision as “visceral, wistful, bittersweet, and dark,” and Midwest Book Review calls Factory of Tears “a one-of-a-kind work of passion and insight.” Valzhyna writes in Belarusian at a time when efforts are being made to reestablish the traditional language, after governmental attempts to absorb it into the Russian language have been relinquished. She reads her poems aloud in both Belarusian and English.

Prizes, Awards & Fellowships
  • 2009 Fellowship in Literature for Poetry