If we had to say what writing is, we would define it essentially as an act of courage. - Cynthia Ozick
Anna Andreevna Akhmatova
(Real name: Anna Andreevna Gorenko)
(1889 - 1966)
The Russian Soviet poet Anna Andreevna Gorenko was born on June 11th, 1889 near Odessa, in Bolshoy Fontan. While still very young, she was taken to Tsarskoe Selo, which later came to be called the city of Pushkin. She lived there until the age of 16, and it is there that she composed some of her first poetry.
She later graduated from the Fundukleevsky Institute in Kiev, and it is here that her childhood romance with former Tsarskoe Selo schoolmate Nikolai Gumilevi finally culminated in marriage. During this time Anna had already written about 200 poems, some of which were selected for publication in her first book in 1912. The book, which was entitiled "Evening," brought her public recognition as well as critical praise.
In 1914, Akmatova's second book, entitled "Rosary," was published. These first two compilations primarily contained romantic poems. When reading these poems, you can see Akhmatova's distinguished use of dramatic style and heartfelt emotional expression.
From the book "Evening" (only russian)
From the book "Rosary" (only russian)
Selected poetry (english/russian) - 17 poems
Akmatova's third poetic compilation, "White Wall" was published in 1917, during WWI. In this book, her sharp, ringing voice expounds upon the theme of her native land, Russia.
At that time, a large portion of Akhmatova's social relations, including close friends, began emmigrating. The situation worsened, and Anna suffered a personal drama when she and Gumilevi were divorced. Her only income was beggarly. In August 1921, Blok died, and Anna learned that Gumilevi had been shot and killed. The shock was very deep. Anna wrote very little during this period, and it seemed to her that "The muse has completely abandoned my home" (from "The diary of A. Akhmatova"). At this time, Anna began studying History. She especially studied the history of architecture and art during Pushkin's time.
In the 1930's, the "mysterious gift of song" came back to her quickly, and with a renewed strength. These years of her life were filled with great misfortune. Her son, Lev Gumilev, was arrested and exiled due to a false accusation. Many changes are noticeable in her poetry at this time. Drawing from the breadth of her experience, Akhmatova's poetic vision became much sharper and bolder. The collections "Reed," "Seventh Book,' "Requiem," and "Shards," were published during this time.
During WWII, Akhmatova wrote "Poem without a Hero," which saw publication in 1946. Later, a comprehensive compilation entitled "The Race of Time. Poetry (1909 - 1965)," was published.
In1964, Anna was given the international poetic award "Etna Taormina," in Italy, and her historical research earned her an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Oxford University.