Nina Murray

Author, Poet

Nina Murray was born and raised in the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv. She holds advanced degrees in linguistics and creative writing. She is the author of the poetry collection, Alcestis in the Underworld (Circling Rivers Press, 2019), as well as chapbooks Minimize Considered (Finishing Line Press, 2018), Minor Heresies (Heartland Review Press, 2020), and Damascus Electric (Pen & Anvil Press, 2020). Her translations from Russian and Ukrainian include Peter Aleshkovsky’s Stargorod, Oksana Zabuzhko’s Museum of Abandoned Secrets, and Oksana Lutsyshyna’s Ivan and Phoebe (forthcoming from Deep Vellum). 

When did you first develop an interest in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies?

As a young person, I dreamed of being a literary translator — it just seemed like the most glamorous job on the planet. When I moved to the United States from Ukraine, in 2003, I started a graduate program in Creative Writing, and while I was writing my own poetry, I also looked for opportunities to translate and to write critically about Ukrainian literature. These interests led me eventually to the ASEEES community and my first ASEEES (AAASS then) convention in Boston in 2004. I have been engaged in thinking, writing, and translating from and about the region ever since.

What support have you received throughout your career (from ASEEES / other societies / federal support / etc.) that has allowed you to advance your scholarship?

As a graduate student, I really benefited from travel grants that gave me the opportunity to attend conferences and present my work. A trip to the Yale graduate student Slavic conference particularly stands out–the airline called me in the middle of the night before my departure day to tell me my flight was overbooked. I took two connections and bus, and got soaked in the rain, but I made it, and it was worth it! Through ASEEES and affiliate societies, I met many wonderful colleagues; most importantly, I felt a part of a greater community, which was important to keep my motivation and focus while studying and researching in Nebraska. Later, when I joined the U.S. Foreign Service, I kept up with the conversations on SEELANGs and ASEEES publications and have shared information about the Association and the opportunities it offers with researchers I met as a U.S. diplomat in Lithuania, Canada, and Russia.

What is your current research/work project?

I write poetry, as well as book reviews, including for Slavic and East European Journal, and take opportunities to translate. This year, I was deeply honored to have Oksana Zabuzhko’s collection of short stories Your Ad Could Go Here, which I edited and helped translate. It was selected as the Best Translation of the Year by the American Association for Ukrainian Studies.
I am in the middle of translating Oksana Lutsyshyna’s novel, Ivan and Phoebe, to be published by Deep Vellum next year.

What does your ASEEES membership mean to you? How has your involvement with ASEEES helped to further your career?

I had the opportunity to serve on the scholarship committee and to participate in the mentorship program as a mentor. Both have been very rewarding experiences.
Working with a mentee has been a great way to step away from my day job. I hope I have been helpful to my mentee. I know I certainly learned a lot about what I know and can share. I think, in the course of our professional lives we come to internalize many skills and strategies so deeply they become invisible to us. Mentoring someone definitely brings these into the light. Suddenly you realize you have the answer to a question you didn’t even know might need to be asked!

What do you believe is the most important impact ASEEES has on the field?

The scholarships that enable students interested in Eastern European studies to take unpaid or low-paid internships are a fantastic innovation from ASEEES. The program very clearly demonstrates how a relatively small amount of funding, managed with intention and clarity, can make a significant difference. This program dovetailed perfectly with my experience with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs which manages federal funding for Russian language study. 

Besides your professional work, what other interests and/or hobbies do you enjoy?

As I am, at the moment, on sabbatical from the State Department, my days are given over to translating and writing poetry. Reading poetry. Reviewing poetry. Sometimes talking on YouTube about poetry.
I do love to spend time with horses, so I continue to ride.
And when I need a visual task for a change, I do a mean cross-stitch.