By Alina Pleskova
Toska derives its title from the Russian word which denotes a melancholic longing without a singular cause, longing for a better world than the late-stage capitalist hell we live in.
Publication Date: June 13, 2023
Toska explores a sense of rootlessness and a sort of anti-nationalism; how the pervasive sense of being an immigrant or "in but not of" a place never quite dissipates, particularly amid the dissonance and alienation felt within U.S. culture gunning towards a vision of imperialist capitalist white supremacist hegemony. Still, within this bleak reality, there's an insistence on documenting and noticing the multivalence of desire — its delights and pitfalls alike. These poems come to the weary conclusion, time and time again, that sexual liberalism/liberation and hedonism are only one sort of revelation — that this sort of openness and exploration isn't enough to save anyone from despair or the existentially weary feeling of toska from which the title takes its name. But desire is not just Eros — the poems carry a strong desire for a different world, for everyone.
Alina Pleskova is a poet, editor, and Moscow-born immigrant turned proud Philadelphian. She co-edits bedfellows magazine and is a 2020 and 2022 Leeway Foundation grant awardee. Her chapbook, What Urge Will Save Us, was published in 2017, and her writing has appeared in American Poetry Review, Thrush, Peach Mag, the tiny, and elsewhere.
"Pleskova's poetics is deliciously generous, even in its moments of ambivalence; reading Toska is like chatting with your best friend about pursuing and evading pleasure while the American project unravels. These poems don't just see to the heart of queer and immigrant subjectivities; they enact them." —Raena Shirali, author of Summonings and GILT
"Toska is a book of the immigrant daughter in her not-quite-own world, and a book of contempt for striving and capitalism...Pleskova, generous and funny and modern, is a poet of forthright intimacy." —Niina Pollari, author of Path of Totality
"Reading Toska was a spiritual and whole-body experience. I laughed, I screamed, I teared up, I nearly bought a one-way ticket back to Moldova, I called my mom. No one captures the poetics of eros and diasporic longing amid our late-stage capitalist hellscape like Alina Pleskova. 'Assuring various robots / that I'm not a robot several times daily' does not prevent our speaker from 'stockpil[ing] intimacies almost too ephemeral to clock.' And what a gift this book of intimacies is. Toska is a tender and wry instruction manual for navigating desire and the void. I will follow Alina Pleskova anywhere." —Ruth Madievsky, author of All-Night Pharmacy