texts of despair

September 5, 2019

Many poets develop a sense of positive loss, like Clarice Lispector, or Anna Akhmatova, in whose poetry we read of something never lost at the very bottom of loss, or Marina Tsvetayeva, in whose texts the stakes are something that she never had. Theirs are all texts of despair, that is, of hope. Elsewhere I have shown how the same happened in a much more novelistic way, fleshed out in the work of someone such as Karen Blixen.

Helene Cixous
Poetry passion and history: Marina Tsvetayeva
The Inscription of passion in writing (Chapter four)

Poems arise. I can’t say I’m going to write a poem now. I always have four or five on the go, a phrase or a sentence with richness. Unlike with a novel, or a biography, where the story carries me along, in a poem you must be more passive. Anna Akhmatova talked about waiting for the Muse to come, but for me it’s not so grand. The poem just rises. I catch a few words and write them down in a little notebook when I travel, and on the computer, at home, but in the end I always write poems by hand. I can do it anywhere, in trains, or travelling.

How do I know a poem is alive and good? It’s like jazz – you always know.

Elaine Feinstein
Interview by Vivian Eden for Haaretz

chaos and poetry

March 3, 2019

I am in the middle of it: chaos and poetry; poetry and love and again, complete chaos. Pain, disorder, occasional clarity; and at the bottom of it all: only love; poetry. Sheer enchantment, fear, humiliation. It all comes with love

Anna Akhmatova
The Akhmatova Journals: Volume I 1938-1941

To Death

January 27, 2019

You’ll come regardless – why not today?
I await you – life is very hard.
I’ve killed the lights, cleared the way
For you, so simple, such a marvel.
Take on any shape you wish,
Burst in like a poisoned shell,
Sidle in like a slick bandit,
Or a typhus germ from hell.
Or a fairy-tale you’ve invented,
Always sickeningly familiar –
Where I see policemen’s heads,
And a concierge white with fear.
It’s all one now. The Yenisey swirling,
While the Pole star’s alight.
And in final terror closing
Blessed eyes, blue and bright.

Anna Akhmatova
(Anna Andreyevna Gorenko)
Trans. A.S. Kline

Lot’s Wife

December 9, 2018

The righteous man followed God’s luminous angels
And hurried after them over the hill.
But his wife heard an anxious voice that whispered:
“It isn’t too late, not yet; you can still
Look back at the towers of the town you came from,
At the street where you sang and the room where you spun,
At the empty windows of the house you cared for
And the bed where all your children were born.”
And of course she looked back. She felt a quick pang
And then everything ended. Her eyes closed
And her body dissolved into bitter crystals.
Her small feet stopped and grew into the ground.

No one seems to have mourned this woman;
She was only a minor event in the book.
But my heart holds fast to her memory:
A woman who gave up her life for a look.

Anna Akhmatova

The Return

November 30, 2018

The souls of all my dears have flown to the stars.
Thank God there’s no one left for me to lose –
so I am free to cry. This air is made
for the echoing of songs.
A silver willow by the shore
trails to the bright September waters.
My shadow, risen from the past,
glides silently towards me.
Though the branches here are hung with many lyres,
a place has been reserved for mine, it seems.
And now this shower, struck by sunlight,
brings me good news, my cup of consolation.

Anna Akhmatova
translated by Stanley Kunitz with Max Hayward

poetry and love

October 20, 2018

I am in the middle of it: chaos and poetry; poetry and love and again, complete chaos. Pain, disorder, occasional clarity; and at the bottom of it all: only love. Sheer enchantment, fear, humiliation. It all comes with love.

Anna Akhmatova
The Akhmatova Journals, Vol. 1

chaos and poetry

April 9, 2017

I am in the middle of it: chaos and poetry; poetry and love and again, complete chaos. Pain, disorder, occasional clarity; and at the bottom of it all: only love. Sheer enchantment, fear, humiliation. It all comes with love.

Anna Akhmatova
The Akhmatova Journals, Vol. 1