SONYA THE DOLL WIFE
Poem by Susan Terris
ABOUT THE BOOK
Several years ago, when I read Sonya Tolstoy’s amazing diaries and her autobiography, I was determined to write something about her. Then, reading a collection of her husband Leo Tolstoy’s short stories, I came across a very short one that had originally been written as a letter to Sonya’s younger sister, a letter about the day Leo awoke and claimed he discovered his wife had been turned into a porcelain doll that, ultimately, he let fall off the table and be carried away in the mouth of a dog.
That was my “aha!” moment. Tolstoy, the great man, the great writer, who expected Sonya to do everything: run his estate, bear and raise 13 children, hand-copy his manuscripts, photograph him and his friends, be his financial manager and act as his business agent. In Tolstoy’s later years, when he decided to turn his back on wealth, and live like a peasant,
he preached on the subject of celibacy yet claimed Sonya
and her body when it suited his desires.
The story of the doll contrasted with Sonya’s own bravely hopeful diaries provided me a way to frame my poem. I used short excerpts from the diary and interspersed them with poetry about the realesh-and-blood passionate woman I felt Sonya was. This was a way to express the anger I felt at the way she had been treated, using the metaphor of the discarded, abandoned porcelain doll that Tolstoy wrote about in a letter to Sonya's sister.
—Susan Terris (poet)
The clamshell box and hardcover book are covered in burgundy Japanese bookcloth and lined in fine Japanese
decorative paper. Text is digitally printed on Stonehenge paper, hand sewn. Two end sheets, one clear-white vellum and the other Japanese lace paper. Inside of the box are two compartments to house book and a small, original, miniature antique bisque dolls from the poet. Each box has a unique doll.
Box: 10" w x 4.5" d x 1.625" h (in.)
Book: 7" w x 3.75" h
Bisque doll: 4 in. tall (authentic period dolls in period dresses.)