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The Only Question: Yekaterinburg-Iowa City – Ekaterina Simonova and Jacquelyn Bengfort

The Ulyanovsk UNESCO City of Literature Program Directorate continues publishing The Only Question - new international project - materials. 40 authors from 18 UNESCO literary cities (or related cities) participate in the project.  Authors from Yekaterinburg and Iowa City – Ekaterina Simonova and Jacquelyn Bengfort  – are the new guests of the project.

The organizers invited writers, poets, playwrights, translators from UNESCO literary cities to imagine they have the opportunity to ask just one question to an author from any other literary city. The initiative will help to introduce the authors from the literary cities to each other and establish their dialogue. The project will also let to understand what issues are of concern to authors from different countries today. Besides, it will provide an opportunity for readers to get to know new writers and poets.

Questions and answers by the authors (in Russian and English) along with a short biography of each participant and links to their publications will regularly appear on the Ulyanovsk UNESCO City of Literature Website, other literary cities' websites, and social media, etc. Writers' dialogs will also be offered for publication on the project partners' platforms (literary magazines, libraries, literary media, and mass media). As a result of the project, in summer 2022 an online anthology will be released (in Russian and English) with all the conversations.

Yekaterinburg and Iowa City – Ekaterina Simonova and Jacquelyn Bengfort

Ekaterina Simonova

Dear Jacquelyn, what is your ideal poetry book (your book or someone else's book)? 

Jacquelyn Bengfort

It is difficult to single out a book of poetry as my ideal, though I often return to Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón. It is a collection largely about love, death, and horses, which all seem to me to be excellent topics for poetry. It's a book that helps me to sing my own songs. The poets I first fell in love with in high school were T.S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath. I performed two of Plath's poems for the speech team, and I wrote a long paper about Eliot, covering everything from Prufrock to Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. I have a few of Shakespeare's sonnets by heart, as well as Pushkin's Я вас любил in the original Russian, which I memorized perhaps seventeen years ago as an undergraduate student studying the language. Poems that speak to longing, to time, to the mystery of life on earth--these are subjects that enchant me.

Ekaterina Simonova

A topical issue for the Russian poetry scene (we’re all worried about the "tradition of the rhymed poem"): did you write syllabotonic, rhymed texts? If not, why not? If so, what did this experience give you?

Jacquelyn Bengfort

I do sometimes experiment with form, although in English I think the iambic pentameter line continues to be most dominant. I have written sonnets that strictly adhere to the rhyme scheme and meter of these traditional poems, and I have also experimented with blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) as well as looser interpretations of the sonnet that focus more on syllable count rather than stress and the overall argumentative structure of the form, which requires at least one "turn" in the argument. I find that working in form can sometimes allow me to access surprising patterns or insights, although like most poets working in English I tend to work primarily in free verse.

Ekaterina Simonova

What do you guess the visualization of the text gives ( does it explain your poem or give it additional meanings? Does color matter? 

Jacquelyn Bengfort

I think of my collage poems as illuminated texts. The images help create the tone, emphasize elements of the written word, and provide context for the reader/viewer. When I create a poem that is displayed across multiple panels, I do try to keep the panels within a consistent range of colors so that they operate as a complete unit. I hope someday to experiment with the combination of poetry with other visual styles, creating short films or virtual reality environments for my work.


Jacquelyn Bengfort

Photo of Jacquelyn Bengfort

Jacquelyn Bengfort is a writer and collagist living in Iowa City, Iowa. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Oxford and a recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship and the Truman Scholarship, she has received poetry fellowships from the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Jacquelyn is the author of the Ghost City Press micro-chapbooks Navy News Service and Suitable for All Methods of Communication and serves as an editor for HOOT Review. She is currently pursuing an MFA as a Rona Jaffe Graduate Fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.,, 

Photo of Ekaterina Simonova

Ekaterina Simonova is a Russian poet, organizer of cultural events, author of six poetry books. Born in 1977 in Nizhny Tagil. Graduated from the philological faculty of the Nizhniy Tagil Pedagogical Institute. Laureate of the actual poetry festival "New Transit". Winner of the tournament of poets "Естественный отбор" (Yekaterinburg, 2002), the Big Ural poetic slam (Yekaterinburg, 2009). Laureate of the Ural magazine award 2014, Finalist of the "Московский наблюдатель" Prize (2017). Laureate of the Poetry Prize (2019). The Short-list of the Andrey Bely Prize (2020). Laureate of the "Новый мир" magazine Anthologia award (2020).

Poems were translated into English, Slovenian, Ukrainian, Spanish, Greek. Since 2013, she has been living in Yekaterinburg. Since 2019, she has been working at the Sverdlovsk Regional Universal Scientific Library named after V.G. Belinsky. Curator of the Turenkov Readings (2015-2016), one of the curators of Yekaterinburg poetry readings, the poetic series InVersiya curator, etc  

Previous issues:

  1. Heidelberg-Ulyanovsk – Şafak Sariçiçek and Sergei Gogin
  2. Melbourne - Heidelberg – Christopher Raja and Klaus Kayser
  3. Calgary-Mannheim - Kelly Kaur And Claudia Schmid
  4. Melbourne And Ulyanovsk - Rijn Collins and Gala Uzryutova
  5. Heidelberg - Nottingham – Ingeborg von Zadow and Leanne Moden
  6. Durban-Ulyanovsk – Adiela Akoo and Sergei Gogin
  7. Heidelberg-Ulyanovsk|Moscow – Şafak Sarıçiçek and Irina Bogatyryova