A Journal of Poetry and Kindred Prose

Susan McLean

teaches English at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota.

She won the 2009 Richard Wilbur Award for The Best Disguise, a poetry collection that will be published by the University of Evansville Press this coming winter.

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Enemies of the People

Stalin in 1932 decreed
that Soviet art be realist in form
and socialist in content, to be freed
from “formalist” concerns and bourgeois norms.
No landscapes but those changed by human skill
for the people’s good; no scenes from private lives;
no portraits but of workers in a mill
or ruddy peasants holding rakes and scythes.
Impressionist smears and dots were disallowed;
paintings that used such tricks, destroyed or hidden
in warehouses. The ones who’d made them, cowed,
conformed or lost their livelihoods. Forbidden
to paint the scenes that shimmered in their sight,
they groaned in private: “But the light, the light!”