James Manteith

James Photograph 20190914

James Manteith is a translator, writer and musician with a Russian muse. Fluent in his muse’s language, he belongs to a community associated with Apraksin Blues, a multidisciplinary magazine nurtured by St. Petersburg’s cultural ferment. He serves as contributing Translation Editor for Apraksin Blues and as Editorial Advisor for Mundus Artium Press, a world literature publisher affiliated with the Center for Translation Studies of the University of Texas at Dallas.

In addition to Tatyana Apraksina’s full California Psalms sequence — including his bilingual introduction and commentary for the Radiolarian Press edition — Manteith’s book credits as a translator include Physics in a Mad World, Under the Spell of Landau: When Theoretical Physics was Shaping Destinies (both World Scientific), Valery Sirovksy’s Thank You, Comrade Stalin, for Our Happy Childhood (Barbaris), and Sasha Nemirovsky’s Sequoia in Bloom (with Andrey Kneller).

His poetry, translations and essays appear in Apraksin Blues and other English- and Russian-language journals including Cardinal Points, International Poetry Review, St. Petersburg Review, Clade Song, caesura, Reality and Subject and convolvulus, as well as in scholarly anthologies.

His writing for Mundus Artium Press engages with the work of contemporary authors from both the West and East.

His essays on culture cover literature, visual art, music, spirituality and other themes.

His translations for singing pay tribute to the Russian and Soviet songwriting canon. His repertoire, with his guitar accompaniment, also includes original songs and bilingual settings of Russian poetry.

Classically trained, he also works with librettos. 

Manteith’s writings on and renderings of works by Tatyana Apraksina stem from a lasting mentorship with the artist, author and Apraksin Blues editor in chief.

He has studied at Middlebury College and its Russian Language School, as well as at St. Petersburg State University.

Manteith’s ideals are cultural agility and attentiveness to diverse minds and voices, ways of hearing and seeing. For him, any culture is concrete. His Russia is specific people, streets, studios, poetry, paintings, with definite content and meanings to impart over time if treated with care. Russian culture has vital hidden threads, with some of which his own life intertwines.

He believes that the gifts of culture should bring benefit internationally. Accordingly, his translations seek to convey the true scope of resonance inherent in a Russian poem of Big Sur metaphysics, in Russian songs of night trolleybus riding, of the fates of a ballerina and a fortuneteller, and of faith equally expressed by prayer to a green-eyed God or by having a smoke before a space flight.

Valuing the revolutionary intuitions of songwriters like Boris Grebenschikov and Mike Naumenko, whose creative paths intersected with his mentor’s, Manteith also draws on many of their influences: Okudzhava, Vertinsky, Dylan, among others. As Mike said of his muse, “All my songs are dedicated to her.”

With a multifaceted calling, Manteith looks to the arts as a means to supporting a muse’s vision.

–  “China’s a Great Big Country!”29. The Career of Freedom
–  Boethius Voiced by “Sequentia” (Blues Report + Interview)28. The Reefs of Conflict
–  Age: Infinity (Blues Report, For the Magazine’s Twenty-Year Anniversary)26. Non-Return
–  Not a Typical Program (Blues Report)25. Of all the…
–  On the “White Snake”‘s Track08. Quint-Progression
–  The Obedient Guard of Club Delights09. Exit Near
–  The Turn of the Brush (part one): Oral commentaries to California Psalms10. Inversion
–  Alvarado12. Registers of Risk
–  Civilized Garden14. Different Game
–  The Time of Ulitskaya15. The Heart of Things
–  Deserts and Fields of Timeliness (Blues report)16. Family and Slavery
–  A Single Tongue, The Chord (Blues report)17. Octave
–  The Dynamo of Experience and Revelation18. Phases of Craft
–  Blues Report: Leonid Kozlov’s Art of Perpetual Motion18. Phases of Craft
–  6IX Group: The Last Art (Blues Report)19. The School of Anonymity
–  On Dylan’s Roads20. Convergent
–  Saigon in Twilight: Reflections on a talk by scholar Yulia Valieva21. Sniper
–  Between the Worlds: Seen & heard at the “Figuration” exhibit21. Sniper
–  Language Junction at the Great Plains’ Edge: Blues Report from the American Literary Translators Association conference21. Sniper
–  Silent Napoleon (Blues report)22. In the Gates
–  The Postmodern Trail of Contemporary Poetry. View from Jerusalem (interview)23. Reverse Perspective