Three Russian Women Poets: Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetayeva, Bella Akhmadulina

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Crossing Press, 1983 - Poetry - 109 pages
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Introduction by Edward J Brown
Introduction by Mary Maddock
Translators Preface

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About the author (1983)

Anna Akhmatova, 1889 - 1966 Poet Anna Akhmatova was born in 1889 in Bolshoy Fontan near Odessa, Ukraine and was the daughter of a naval engineer. She attended a girls' gymnasium in Tsarskoe Selo, Smolnyi Institute in St. Petersburg, Fundukleevskaia gymnasium (1906), law school (1907), and then moved to St. Petersburg to study literature. When she was 21, she became a member of the Acmeist group of poets, led by Nikolai Gumilev, who she married in 1910 and had one son with, Lev Gumilev. They were divorced in 1918 and that same year she married Vladimir Shileiko. This marriage also failed and she was later married to Nikolai Punin until his death in 1958. Her first husband was executed in 1921 for antirevolutionary activities; afterwards, she entered a period of almost complete poetic silence that lasted until 1940. Akhmatova's first collection of poetry was "Vecher" ("Evening"), which appeared in 1912. Two years later, she gained fame with "Chyotki" ("Rosary" 1914). Her next collections were "Belaya Staya" ("The White Flock" 1917), "Podorozhnik" ("Plantain" 1921) and "Anno Domini MCMXXI (1922). For a brief time during World War II in 1940, several of her poems were published in the literary monthly Zvezda. In 1942, her poem "Courage" appeared on a front page of Pravda. In 1941, following the German invasion, Akhmatova delivered an inspiring radio address to the women of Leningrad. She was evacuated to Tashkent where she read her poems to hospitalized soldiers. In an effort to gain freedom for her son who had been exiled to Siberia, Akhmatova's poems eulogizing Stalin appeared in several issues of the weekly magazine Ogonyok. "Poema Bez Geroya" (Poem Without a Hero, 1963) was begun in Leningrad in 1940 and was revised for over 20 years. It is divided into three parts and has no consistent plot or conventional hero. This poem wasn't published in the Soviet Union until 1976. "Rekviem" (Requiem, 1963) is a poem-cycle that was a literary monument to the victims of Stalin's Terror. The earliest poems were dated 1935 and the remainders were written from 1938-40. Requiem is ten short, numbered poems that deal with her personal experiences following the arrests of her husband, friends and son. The last poem reflects the grief of others who suffered loss during that time of terror. Akhmatova was awarded the Etna-Taormina Price, an international poetry prize awarded in Italy in 1964, and received an honorary doctoral degree from Oxford University in 1965. Anna Akhmatova died in 1966.

Tsvetaeva, whose first collection appeared in 1910, ranks among the major twentieth-century Russian poets. Her numerous lyrics and long poems are distinguished by great vigor and passion and an astonishing technical mastery. Her language and rhythms are highly innovative. In subject, her poetry varies greatly, often diarylike but also intensely concerned with the fate of her generation, of Russia, and of Europe. Tsvetaeva did not shy away from controversial topics, often opposing received dogma, be it Soviet or Russian emigre. She frequently subsumed herself in other characters, merging dramatic and lyrical elements. Particularly striking are her long poems Poem of the Mountain, Poem of the End, and Ratcatcher and her later collections Craft (1923) and After Russia (1928). After emigrating from the Soviet Union, Tsvetaeva also seriously turned to prose. Drawing on her past, she wrote a number of striking quasi-autobiographical pieces, deeply exploring problems of literary and artistic creation. Tsvetaeva's husband fought as an officer against the Reds in the Crimea, and she celebrates the White Army in the collection The Demesne of Swans (1957). Following the civil war, she led a difficult and isolated existence in Prague and Paris during the twenties and thirties. Her eventual return to the Soviet Union in 1939, largely for family reasons, ended in tragedy; isolated and humiliated by official Soviet literary figures, she committed suicide in 1941. Her work was first republished in the Soviet Union in the 1960s, and the current period has brought a new wave of interest and new editions. As was the case with her writing from the start, poets are a particularly attentive audience.

Izabella Akhatovna Akhmadulina was born in Moscow on April 10, 1937. She graduated from the Gorky Literary Institute in Moscow. She started publishing her own work in the mid-1950s. Her first volume of poetry, The String, was published in 1962. Her other works include The Chill (1968), Music Lessons (1969), The Garden (1987), Casket and Key (1994), and One Day in December (1996). She was involved in the unofficial collection Metropol' (1979). She received the U.S.S.R. State Prize in 1989 and the State Prize of the Russian Federation in 2004. She died due to a heart attack on November 29, 2010 at the age of 73.

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