Selected Poems

Selected Poems - Anna Akhmatova, D.M. Thomas

I was warned that Akmatova's poetry was quite an experience. I have relatives who strongly dislike her for the more contemporary way in which she wrote, while a professor of mine praised her highly. I found her work to be quite heavy. Now, some poetry manages to pick the reader up and make them get lost in the journal of emotional self-discovery. With Akhmatova, it felt more like I was sitting and watching someone suffer but was unable to help or console them in any way. There was a disconnection that terrified me to the point where I went back and reread several poems, feeling as if I might be able to somehow help Akhmatova in some way by doing so.

There was one poem however that touched me to the very core, called "Alexander at Thebes". The last two lines in particular were what left such an impact on my:

But suddenly his face brightened with a thought:
'Be sure that the house of the Poet is not touched.'

There was such cruelty and pain hidden in those two lines that was suddenly unleashed upon me, in a way that I didn't have for any other of her poems. Those two lines were the most memorable and painful to read, perhaps because they were the only ones that managed to hit something personal within and shatter it.

I only wish this collection were bilingual, so that I could see the original words and be able to find the patterns and compare the way in which they are different or similar. I'm happy I finally gave Akhmatova a go. Her praise is more than deserved, yet her work takes much more easing into than I expected. It's far too overpowering to go at in one attempt, and I wonder how I'll find it in years to come.