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Introduction & Overview of Russian Letter by John Yau

This Study Guide consists of approximately 37 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Russian Letter.
This section contains 334 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Russian Letter Study Guide

Russian Letter Summary & Study Guide Description

Russian Letter Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains For Further Reading on Russian Letter by John Yau.


“Russian Letter,” published in 2002, in the collection Borrowed Love Poems, is a quirky little poem that at first seems to promise to offer a deep meaning of life and the passage of time and what all that means to the individual. Then in the middle of this poem, the narrator appears to change his mind. First, the narrator offers a standard philosophical theory about the makeup of the past and the present and how one reflects upon the other. This philosophical theory is offered through some source, referred to in the phrase, “it is said.” Then the poet casts doubt on the theory; the narrator suggests that maybe this philosophical message goes too far. Just as the reader anticipates an alternative statement by the narrator, the poem offers a surprise ending, which neither provides an argument against the theory nor offers a more stimulating one. Instead, the narrator inserts an artistic memory, an image as beautiful as a Rembrandt painting, leaving the reader with a picture to ponder rather than an answer. If there is an answer to the questions in life, this poem hints that those answers cannot be easily handed over like a gift.

Yau’s “Russian Letter” is the first in a series of six poems, all with the same title. Reading all six of these poems does not necessarily offer an easier task of understanding Yau’s poetry, but it might help the reader to relax in the reading of Yau’s poetry. Rather than attempting to make literal sense of Yau’s poems, the reader needs to merely enjoy the images, the individual couplets, and the sounds of the language. Or as Paisley Rekdal, writing for the International Examiner, described Yau’s poetry, his “writing attempts to mimic the effects of abstract painting in that words or sentences become isolated images that are irreducible as narratives: they exist simply as line and color and tone.” Yau’s poem, “Russian Letter” is like a painting, in other words, one that uses language as its medium.

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This section contains 334 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Russian Letter Study Guide
Russian Letter from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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