Anna Akhmatova ate the metaphorical tangerine

"'Who can refuse to live his own life?' Akhmatova once remarked in answer to some expression of sympathy. Her refusal not to live her life made of her one of those few people who have given dignity and meaning to our terrible century, and through whom and for whom it will be remembered.


Pushkin was the closest of the friends she did not meet even once in her life. He helped her to survive the 1920s and 30s, the first of Akhmatova's long periods of isolation and persecution. Dante, too, was close. And there were friends whom she could meet, including Mandelstam and Pasternak, whose unbreakable integrity supported her own. But no-one could have helped, through thirty years of persecution, war, and persecution, if she had not herself been one of the rare incorruptible spirits.

Her incorruptibility as a person is closely linked to her most fundamental characteristic as a poet: fidelity to things as they are, to 'the clear, familiar, material world'....In all her life's work, her fusion with ordinary unbetrayable existence is so complete that only the word 'modest' can express it truthfully. When she tells us (In 1940), 'But I warn you,/I am living for the last time', the words unconsciously define her greatness: her total allegiance to the life she was in...Her poetry be a transparent medium through which life streams."

– D.M. Thomas


odessa 10/17/2011 7:09 PM  

indeed. i have yet to read her story but i love her poetry. and the fact that she was born in my city namesake already makes her a hero in my book. :)

p.s. i saw mary oliver at the herbst theater. she is precious and very, very sharp. her side comments were too adorable, i can't even remember any of it now but i was smiling and tearing at the same time.

Holly 10/18/2011 12:23 PM  

odessa - I do too. It doesn't surprise me to read this kind of thing about her; after all she was almost as much an influence on me in 2009 as Thich Nhat Hanh (the one who wrote about eating a tangerine). "A transparent medium..." -- such a clear articulation of what I want when I write.

I am so happy that you had the opportunity...the perfect gift for you, sounds like.

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