Cover image for Poem without a hero and selected poems
Poem without a hero and selected poems
Akhmatova, Anna Andreevna, 1889-1966.
Uniform Title:
Works. Selections. English. 1989
Publication Information:
[Place of publication not identified] : Oberlin College Press, [1989]

Physical Description:
195 pages ; 20 cm.
Reading Level:
1110 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PG3476.A324 A24 1989 Adult Mass Market Paperback Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Anna Akhmatova, one of the great poets of our century, has, like all Russian poets, proved difficult to translate. These distinctive versions of a broad selection of her work capture her plainness and directness while searching out an analog to her music in the careful and subtle music of American free verse. The result is not a replication of Akhmatova's style but a complement to it that often startles and gratifies with a starkness and beauty all its own.

Author Notes

Anna Akhmatova, 1889 - 1966 Poet Anna Akhmatova was born in 1889 in Bolshoy Fontan near Odessa, Ukraine and was the daughter of a naval engineer. She attended a girls' gymnasium in Tsarskoe Selo, Smolnyi Institute in St. Petersburg, Fundukleevskaia gymnasium (1906), law school (1907), and then moved to St. Petersburg to study literature. When she was 21, she became a member of the Acmeist group of poets, led by Nikolai Gumilev, who she married in 1910 and had one son with, Lev Gumilev. They were divorced in 1918 and that same year she married Vladimir Shileiko. This marriage also failed and she was later married to Nikolai Punin until his death in 1958. Her first husband was executed in 1921 for antirevolutionary activities; afterwards, she entered a period of almost complete poetic silence that lasted until 1940.

Akhmatova's first collection of poetry was "Vecher" ("Evening"), which appeared in 1912. Two years later, she gained fame with "Chyotki" ("Rosary" 1914). Her next collections were "Belaya Staya" ("The White Flock" 1917), "Podorozhnik" ("Plantain" 1921) and "Anno Domini MCMXXI (1922). For a brief time during World War II in 1940, several of her poems were published in the literary monthly Zvezda. In 1942, her poem "Courage" appeared on a front page of Pravda.

In 1941, following the German invasion, Akhmatova delivered an inspiring radio address to the women of Leningrad. She was evacuated to Tashkent where she read her poems to hospitalized soldiers. In an effort to gain freedom for her son who had been exiled to Siberia, Akhmatova's poems eulogizing Stalin appeared in several issues of the weekly magazine Ogonyok. "Poema Bez Geroya" (Poem Without a Hero, 1963) was begun in Leningrad in 1940 and was revised for over 20 years. It is divided into three parts and has no consistent plot or conventional hero. This poem wasn't published in the Soviet Union until 1976. "Rekviem" (Requiem, 1963) is a poem-cycle that was a literary monument to the victims of Stalin's Terror. The earliest poems were dated 1935 and the remainders were written from 1938-40. Requiem is ten short, numbered poems that deal with her personal experiences following the arrests of her husband, friends and son. The last poem reflects the grief of others who suffered loss during that time of terror.

Akhmatova was awarded the Etna-Taormina Price, an international poetry prize awarded in Italy in 1964, and received an honorary doctoral degree from Oxford University in 1965. Anna Akhmatova died in 1966.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Each of these translations of Akhmatova, one of the century's greatest Russian poets, has its praiseworthy points and its difficulties. The Mayhew-McNaughton is sparer, easier to read, more modern in tone, but offers only a tiny selection of the poet's work. The McKane volume is more substantial and includes a great deal of biographical and autobiographical material on the poet; its translations, however, are more ponderous and labored. For a sense of the different flavors of these collections, take the famous poem describing Akhmatova's visit to the poet Alexandor Blok. "Those eyes," Mayhew-McNaughton's version reads, "No one can forget them." McKane: "He has eyes which everyone / always remembers." Or her divorce lament: where Mayhew-Mc~Naughton offers, "Now your ears won't ache / with angry words," McKane says, "Now my hysterical outbursts will not / wound your hearing." In the lyrics, Mayhew-McNaughton almost always prove superior for their unornamented clarity. But the more stolid translator wins in the long, surrealist "Poem without a Hero," which risks snapping its moorings entirely in the loose-lined Mayhew-McNaughton version. McKane's more generous selection, too, is appealing--more early lyrics, more later quatrains, more of a chance to follow the poet's development and shifting themes. At least one of these books should grace most poetry shelves. Even better, add both: those drawn to Akhmatova's work in the more accessible translations will extend their knowledge in the more comprehensive work. --Pat Monaghan

Table of Contents

from Evening
from Rosary
from White Flock
from Plantain
from Anno Domini MCMXXI
from Reed
Miscellaneous Poems 1940-1942
Poem Without a Hero
Miscellaneous Poems 1943-1946
Miscellaneous Poems 1957-1964
Notes to the Introduction
Notes on the Poems