Sunday, December 18, 2011

Anna Akhmatova - Six Degrees of Separation

Funny how the six degrees of separation will actually work for matters of discovery aside from the usual Kevin Bacon sense. Not too long ago, I purchased a copy of the book A History of Reading by author Alberto Manguel. Being a self proclaimed bibliophile, I've wanted this book for quite some time. After reading a couple of pages, I decided to look up the author for more information regarding his background and discovered his website and even cooler, his 100 favourite books. I read through the list and realized that I barely knew more than half of the authors listed, so I printed off a copy of the list and decided to read these works. Second on the list was The Complete Poems of Anna Ahkmatova, a Russian poet who lived from June 23,1889 to March 5, 1966. After looking her up on the Internet, I had to read her poetry. Thanks to our library system here in Memphis, I was able to check out the complete works. Her voice is pure, clear, frustrated, angry and Russian - a spirit that refuses to expire. So far, I have read about 200 pages of her poetry (the book complete with Bibliography pages is over 900 pages long) and many of the poems are marked for my own reasons; perhaps I liked a poem due to the way she phrased her words, or others due to the imagery in my mind, or even that I could hear a Russian woman faintly speaking in my mind as I mouthed the translated words to myself.

Here is one example of her work:

Can you forgive me these November days?
Lights splinter in the Neva's waterways.
Tragic autumn's meager decorations.
(November 1913, Petersburg)

Here is another:

I asked the cuckoo
How many years I would live . . .
The tops of the pine trees quivered,
A yellow ray fell on the grass.
But not a sound in the cold grove . . .
I am going home now,
And a cooling breeze caresses
My burning brow.
(June 1, 1919 Tsarkoye Selo)

Thank you, Alberto Manguel, for introducing me to this wonderful poet.

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