anna akhmatova ~ part ii

After reading the comments regarding Anna Akhmatova's poem, I thought it might be helpful to post a little bit about her life and work.

Anna was born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1889.  She lived through the Russian Revolution, WWII and Stalinism.  She died in 1966 in Leningrad / St. Petersburg.  She was married 3 times.  Her first husband, Nikolai Gumilyov, was executed by the Bolsheviks in 1921, a few years after their divorce.  To force Anna's silence, their son Lev Gumilyov, was imprisoned in 1938 and lived in prison and prison camps until after Stalin's death.  Lev was released in 1956.  "Requiem" - probably Anna Akhmatova's greatest poem - recounts the suffering of Russians under the rule of Stalin and specifically recalls waiting each day in large lines with other women at the prison's gates hoping to send a message or a small package of food to their loved ones imprisoned inside.  She is said to have been the 'voice' of a silenced generation.  "Requiem" was not published in its entirety in Russia until 1987 - twenty-one years after her death.

Anna's third husband,  Nikolai Punin, was imprisoned in 1949 and died in 1953 in a Siberian work camp.  Anna's writing was banned unofficially from 1925 to 1940, and was banned again after the end of WWII.  She was persecuted by the Stalinist government, was prevented from publishing, and considered a 'dangerous enemy'. However, she was never attacked directly nor did she ever choose to go and live in exile.

   Song of the Last Meeting

 My heart was chilled and numb, 
but my feet were light.
 I fumbled the glove for my left hand
 onto my right. 

It seemed there were many steps,
 I knew – there were only three. 
Autumn, whispering in the maples, 
kept urging: ‘Die with me! 

I’m cheated by joylessness, 
changed by a destiny untrue.’ 
I answered: ‘My dear, my dear! 
I too: I’ll die with you.’ 

The song of the last meeting. 
I see that dark house again.
 Only bedroom candles burning,
 the yellow, indifferent, flame

If you click on her name above her photographic profile in the post below, it will take you to a website that chronicles her life story and provides links to more of her work.



Adullamite said...

Poetry was very important in Soviet life then. Whether it is now I wonder.

red dirt girl said...

Hi Adullamite ~ I know that poetry was one of the ways people used to express their discontent. I've not studied any modern russian poet though I am certain there are plenty.


goatman said...

Makes me wonder what her mind would have created had she not a crappy life to reflect upon?