Selected Poems

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9780882331805: Selected Poems

Anna Akhmatova is identified, along with Osip Mandelstam, Boris Pasternak, and Marina Tsvetaeva, as one of the four leading poets of Twentieth-Century Russian literature. Her poetry, classically rhymed and metered but also laconic and highly elliptical, is deeply engaged with predecessors such as Horace, Dante, Shakespeare, Byron, Dostoevsky, Annensky and above all Pushkin, and also with contemporaries such as Mandelstam, T.S. Eliot, and Gumilev, her husband, who was persecuted and finally executed by Stalin. The poems collected, including the masterworks "Requiem" and "Poem without a Hero," conjure intimations of the infinite and profound emotional depth through meditations on the perception of everyday objects and evocative settings, forming a powerful record of spiritual resilience. With an introductory essay by Walter Arndt, acclaimed translator of Russian literature, and translations by Arndt, Robin Kemball, and Carl R. Proffer, this volume provides the most authoritative and readable versions of Akhmatova’s poetry in English.

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From the Inside Flap:

This volume presents the largest selection of Anna Akhmatova's poetry yet available in English. It includes many poems translated for the first time, and it covers the whole of her career, from the love lyrics and songs which made her famous in the teens of the twentieth century to the long poems which many critics regard as her most lasting achievements.

Akhmatova, along with her contemporaries Mandelstam, Pasternak, and Tsvetaeva formed a "poetic quartet" which many Russian readers think of as the finest representatives of poetry for the last 100 years. They began their careers almost simultaneously, just before World War I. Tsvetaeva would hang herself in 1941, Mandelstam die in terrible Kolyma in 1938. Akhmatova and Pasternak lived out their lives, though not without serious problems from officialdom--Pasternak being railroaded out of the Union of Soviet Writers for winning the Nobel Prize, Akhmatova almost never being published and often being attacked as an "inner emigre," a "bourgeois" a "slut," and so on. Her long poem Requiem, given here in Robin Kemball's translation, was an expression of the vast grief felt by all those Russian women whose loved ones were ground up by GULAG, including Akhmatova's son Lev (her son by Nikolai Gumilev, the Acmeist poet shot to death by the Cheka in 1921).

The other long poem presented here, A Poem without a Hero, is a profound historical and literary meditation on the passing of the whole Silver Age of Russian culture. This poem is highly allusive, so the detailed commentaries provided by Carl R. Proffer are not just useful, but necessary.

But it is Akhmatova's early poems which have had the widest and most loving audience. As Walter Arndt writes in his Introduction: "Among the remaining witnesses of the 20th century's 'remarkable decade' in Russian poetry, 1912-1922, many still speak with animation and awe of the change of air in poetry which was heralded by Evening, Akhmatova's first volume of verse. It was placed beyond doubt two years later by her second, Rosary: a delicate but decisive discharge of lyric directness, authenticity of feeling, palpability of image and phrase." This new collection represents the early period richly.

In addition to the editor's introduction "The Akhmatova Phenomenon," there is a Chronology of the poet's fife. For students who may want to compare the translations to the originals, the Table of Contents provides a key of titles and first fines to the most easily available Russian edition.

Walter Arndt is Professor of Russian Literature at Dartmouth. His translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin won the Bollingen Prize. He is also translator of Pushkin Threefold and Pushkin's Ruslan and Liudmila.

About the Author:

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) is known as one of twentieth-century Russia's greatest poets. She suffered repression under Stalinism and after World War II; her literary achievement was finally internationally recognized in the final years of her life.

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