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By Julia Cimafiejeva

Translated by Valzhyna Mort & Hanif Abdurraqib

A poetry collection where personal is inevitably political and ecological, Motherfield is a poet’s insistence on self-determination in authoritarian, patriarchal Belarus.

Publication Date: 11/22/22

Paperback: 9781646052257
eBook: 9781646052516 


Julia Cimafiejeva was born in an area of rural Belarus that became a Chernobyl zone when she was a child. The book opens with a poet’s diary that records the course of violence unfolding in Belarus since the 2020 presidential election. It paints an intimate portrait of the poet’s struggle with fear, despair, and guilt as she goes to protests, escapes police, longs for readership, learns about the detention of family and friends, and ultimately chooses life in exile.

But can she really escape the contaminated farmlands of her youth and her impure Belarusian mother tongue? Can she really escape the radiation of her motherfield? This is the first collection of Julia Cimafiejeva’s poetry in English, prepared by a team of co-translators and poets Valzhyna Mort and Hanif Abdurraqib.

Biographical Note

Julia Cimafiejeva is a Belarusian poet and translator, and the author of four poetry collections in Belarusian. Her work has been translated into many languages and appeared in different projects, anthologies and magazines, including Poetry International, Literary Hub, Financial Times, Lyrikline, and others. Cimafiejeva translates from English and Norwegian. She is the winner of Carlos Sherman prize for the translations of poems by Stephen Crane. She currently lives in Graz, Austria with her husband, where she has been since 2020 at the invitation of the Kulturvermittlung Steiermark.

Valzhyna Mort is a poet and translator born in Minsk, Belarus. She is the author of three poetry collections, Factory of Tears (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), Collected Body (Copper Canyon Press, 2011) and, mostly recently, Music for the Dead and Resurrected (FSG, 2020), named one of the best poetry book of 2020 by The New York Times, and the winner of the International Griffin Poetry Prize.

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. He is the author of multiple award-winning and New York Times-bestselling books, including poetry collections The Crown Ain't Worth Much (Button Poetry, 2016) and A Fortune for Your Disaster (Tin House, 2019) and nonfiction collections They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Two Dollar Radio, 2017), Go Ahead in the Rain: A Tribe Called Quest (University of Texas Press, 2019), and A Little Devil in America (Random House, 2021).


"A dual-language publication, Motherfield reads like a testament to the innate multilingualism of Belarus. And after all, what Belarusians say matters just as much as what language they say it in. . . In Motherfield, Cimafiejeva has proved herself to be a bad student of fear. She wields her flexed, forceful verses like that mightiest of muscles — the tongue." —Jennifer Wilson, The New York Times

"Julia Cimafiejeva’s Motherfield is a minefield of memory. I close my eyes, recall the events that unfolded in my own country in 2020 and 2021. The similarities of our recent histories—the stun grenades, rubber bullets, beatings, and detentions—are striking. Still, there’s no mistaking Motherfield’s singularity, which is to say Cimafiejeva’s dexterity." —Nicole Sealey, author of Ordinary Beast.

"Cimafiejeva’s is a voice not to be silenced, and her translators render the power of that Belarusian voice with equal power in English." —Robin Davidson, Arrowsmith Press

"This book is a sword; its poems cut through so much clutter to the white-hot wire of social, political, and personal injustice—warranted, searingly expressed, and yet somehow also nondogmatic, intuitively right, and artistically original. These poems speak volumes; to an astute reader, they can also serve as a warning. It is a voice that deserves and rewards our attention—hopefully you can give it yours." —Andrew Singer, World Literature Today