of Russian Poets in Washington, DC
A Bit of History
Ground breaking for the Alley took place in 2003. The idea of creating an Alley of Russian Poets belongs to Uli Zislin, curator of the Washington Museum of Russian Poetry, following one of the annual Bonfires he organized in memory of the great Russian poetess Marina Tsvetaeva, when a regular participant of this event, Mark Leybson, suggested a tree be planted to commemorate Tsvetaeva.
Edward D. Lozansky, President, American University in Moscow and head of Russia House in Washington, DC, became a sponsor, and Milton Grossman, Chair, Friends of Guy Mason Center, lent his support. The Guy Mason Recreation Center is located in the Glover Park neighborhood of Northwest Washington, DC, on Calvert Street (3600 Calvert Street), between the US Naval Observatory and Wisconsin Avenue, a short distance from the Washington Cathedral (Calvert Street, by the way, is named after Charles Calvert, Third Lord Baltimore, who had a road to Frederick via Bethesda built in this area at the turn of the eighteenth century). At the beginning of the twentieth century banker Charles C. Glover donated to the District of Columbia several of his large local land holdings. He enthusiastically supported the creation of an extensive park system in the Washington area. (He also was an active supporter of the building of the Washington Cathedral).
The Guy Mason Recreation Center (Robert Haldeman, Director) includes a baseball field, a playground, a fragrance garden, seating benches, extensive lawns, and parking. Walking on Calvert Street from Wisconsin Avenue toward the Naval Observatory you come upon the Center’s brick building on your right. Located in the one-hundred year old building are classrooms, workshops and an auditorium with a small stage. The Center is named after Guy Mason, a member of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. He served seven three-year terms as District of Columbia Commissioner.
Fronting the Center is a large lawn with century-old trees, a flowerbed, and benches for seating. Two walkways connect the building to the street. It was proposed that trees line both sides of one walkway to form the Alley of Russian Poets. Columnar European Hornbeams were suggested by the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (these Hornbeams are related to European birch trees which, sadly, do not thrive in our climate).
America has contributed mightily to the study and promotion of Russian poetry. From 1917 to 2000 as many as 1040 editions of 369 Russian poets have appeared in various US cities.
The Alley’s left side, where trees were planted on April 28, 2003, is devoted to poets of what is known as the Silver Age of Russian Literature. Included are Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelshtam, Anna Akhmatova and Nikolai Gumilyov. These are among the most talented and brilliant poets of the twentieth century and they bore the brunt of the communist regime’s ideological attacks and physical repression.
The left side of the Alley, whose trees were planted on April 26, 2004, reflects the nineteenth century’s Golden Age of Russian poetry, including Aleksandr Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Fyodor Tyutchev, and Afanasy Fet. Also included here is Aleksandr Blok, who, in a sense, bridges the Golden and Silver periods of Russian poetry.
All ten poets are great lyricists. This is what unites them. This is also what makes them great. Each poet’s place is marked by a marble plate. The ten plates and the main one (“Alley of Russian Poets”) were prepared and donated by Vladimir Leytush (Chesapeake Monuments, Baltimore, MD).
Who knows? Some day perhaps this place will be known as Russian Plaza…
Be sure and visit the Alley of Russian Poets in Washington, DC.
The Alley is under the care of the Washington Museum of Russian Poetry