Anna Akhmatova (1888-1966)

“Pen name of Anna Andreyevna Gorenko, Russian poet. In her youth Akhmatova was strongly influenced by both the French and Russian symbolists. In 1903, she met the poet Gumilev, who included one of her poems in the journal Sirius, which he published in Paris. Akhmatova and Gumilev were married in 1910, and were divorced in 1913. In 1911, Akhmatova became secretary of the Guild of Poets, organized by Gumilev and Gorodetsky.

Akhmatova’s first book, Vecher (Evening, 1912), is notable for its detail and clarity; her unmistakable feminine voice and her beautiful love lyrics won her attention from Russian readers. Also in 1912, the Acmeist literary group formed, and Akhmatova became one of its most prominent members. Her second book of poem, Chetki (Rosary, 1914), made her one of the most popular poetesses of her time. Beginning with her third book of verse, Belaya staya (The White Flock, 1917), Akhmatova’s poetic image changed from that of a contemporary poet who tells of an unhappy love to that of a poet who issues from the tradition of Russian classical verse. In the early 1920s, two more collections of Akhmatova’s poetry appeared—Porodozhnik (Plantain, 1921) and Anno Domini (1922). After that, it became difficult for Akhmatova to publish her poetry. The Soviet government disapproved of her apolitical themes, highly personal love lyrics, and religious motifs, consider her a poet alien to the new order. During this period, she wrote a number of scholarly articles and pieces about Pushkin. In connection with the mass repressions and those of her son and second husband, Akhmatova wrote the long poem Requiem,‘ which was never published in full in Soviet Russia. From 1940 to 1965, Akhmatova worked on her long poem ‘Poema bez geroya’ (translated Poem Without a Hero, 1973), which is dedicated to the second decade of 20th-century Russian culture, the Petersburg Silver Age. In 1946, there began a new round of round of repressions and Akhmatova, along with [Mikhail] Zoshchenko, was the subject of harsh attacks by the Soviet cultural authorities.

With the onset of the thaw under Khrushchev, Akhmatova was again able to publish. During this period she was at the center of a group of young poets, including [Joseph] Brodsky, and was recognized for her contributions to Russian literary culture. Of particular interest are [Lidia] Chukovskaya’s multivolume reminiscences about Akhmatova, Zapiski ob Anna Akhmatova (1967; translated The Akhmatova Journals, 1994). Many translations of Akhmatova’s poetry exist, including The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova (1992), translated by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward.”

Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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