Anna Akhmatova is my favourite poetess. Her poetry is uncodified, almost startling, and finely attuned to suffering but with a restraint that is, while stoic, far more poignant than unbridled expression.
Akhmatova's work was condemned and censored by Stalinist authorities and she is notable for remaining in Russia, acting as witness to the atrocities around her. For long periods she was in official disfavour and many of those who were close to her died in the aftermath of the revolution.
You invented me. There clearly is no such earthly being,
Such an earthly being there could never be.
A doctor cannot cure, a poet cannot comfort —
A shadowy apparition haunts you night and day.
We met in an unbelievable year,
When the world's strength was at an ebb,
Everything was in mourning, everything withered by adversity,
And only the graves were fresh.
Without streetlights, the Neva's waves were black as pitch,
Thick night enclosed me like a wall ...
That's when my voice call out to you!
Why it did — I still don't understand.
And you came to me, as if guided by a star
That tragic autimn, stepping
Into that irrevocably ruined house,
From whence had flown a flock of burnt verse.
August 18, 1956
Trans. Judith Hemschemeyer