Friday, June 24, 2011

Off the Shelf Archive ~June #2

The month slips by once again, and the archivist wakes up out of her heat induced coma long enough to realize it's time for a new Off the Shelf selection. This time, we're looking at a woman, from another but eerily similar time and another land, the modernist Russian poet Anna Akhmatova (pen name of Anna Andreyevna Gorenko.) Akhmatova (1889-1966) began writing before the Communist Revolution  and was a well-known lyric poet and free spirit when Stalin came to power. After the rise of Stalin she was one of the few artists of her generation who chose to stay and record the atrocities of that regime rather than emigrate, for which she paid a high price, her work banned for years. Her best known long poem is called Requiem, about this time of terrors.

I've picked three of her poems, all short, one for concept, Lot's Wife, one for language, Everything, and one for emotion, You Thought I Was that Type.

You can enjoy them all here, in the July Off The Shelf Archives

Thanks to Fireblossom for pointing me to this selection, and the good people at Poet's United, who profiled her recently.

Making room for Akhmatova is the previous selection, a fine poem by Ted Hughes entitled The Howling of Wolves, archived here in the main stream for a last perusal. As always, you may comment on either piece here as comments are disabled off the main page, and suggestions for next time are always welcome.

Last look at The Howling of Wolves, by Ted Hughes:

«Come and play with me!»

The Howling of Wolves

Is without world.

What are they dragging up and out on their long leashes of sound
That dissolve in the mid-air silence?

Then crying of a baby, in this forest of starving silences,
Brings the wolves running.
Tuning of a viola, in this forest delicate as an owl’s ear,
Brings the wolves running—brings the steel traps clashing
  and slavering.
The steel furred to keep it from cracking in the cold,
Their eyes that never learn how it has come about
That they must live like this,

That they must live

Innocence crept into minerals.

The wind sweeps through and the hunched wolf shivers.
It howls you cannot say whether out of agony or joy.

The earth is under its tongue,
A dead weight of darkness, trying to see through its eyes.
The wolf is living for the earth.
But the wolf is small, it comprehends little.

It goes to and fro, trailing its haunches and whimpering horribly.

It must feed its fur.

The night snows stars and the earth creaks.

by Ted Hughes

Image: Come Play with Me, by Tambako the Jaguar on flick'r
Tambako the Janguar's photostream
Shared under a Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License


  1. the earth is under its tongue...nice...see i got this thing for tongues...this really is an eerie poem...the earth creeks....

    ha, like that last one by anna...

  2. I love reading this poem again.

    And I do so admire Akhmatova, profoundly. I need to pull her out again, so thanks for this reminder.

  3. I'm loving the Anna.

    Hey...I thought I saw your dragon in the sky this afternoon!

  4. My dragon is always in the sky...somewhere. ;-) I enjoyed Akhmatova also--she wrote a lot of very short, arrow-straight poems. It was hard to pick just three. Thanks for the turn-on.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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