Poems of Akhmatova

Anna Akhmatova

i lost the comments on this book and a few others around this time. now i can’t remember exactly how i felt about this one.. i do remember liking this edition, which is a good introduction to Akhmatova’s work as it has a good biography as a preface, which puts the poems in context. her subject matter is pretty personal and, while vague enough at time that sometimes the origins and meanings might not be perfectly clear or discernible, some knowledge of her life at the time of the poems is insightful.

she has a nice simple style, which i tend to like in poems. also it’s an interesting look at how the Russian revolution affected people like Akhmatova, a poet who was popular in her own time. for many years her work was basically banned from publication in Russia as a means of politically intimidating her and her family. even though she might have been able to leave the country, she stayed. there is one poem in particular about that, “I am not among those who left our land”:

I am not among those who left our land
to be torn to pieces by our enemies.
I don’t listen to their vulgar flattery,
I will not give them my poems.

But the exile is for ever pitiful to me,
like a prisoner, like a sick man.
Your road is dark, wanderer;
alien corn smells of wormwood.

But here, stupefied by fumes of fire,
wasting the remainder of our youth,
we did not defend ourselves
from a single blow.

We know that history
will vindicate our every hour…
There is no one in the world more tearless,
more proud, more simple than us.

it’s easy to think (as suggested in the preface) what might have been had she chosen to live in exile, how much more and what kind of work might she have produced? yet it’s almost pointless to question that, as despite her absence from the public for a long period, the people remembered her. and when she read some work publicly after many years, she received an extremely rare standing ovation, which apparently enraged Stalin.

well, i guess i remembered more than i thought i did about this book. the internet does help.