In addition to poetry, Anna Akhmatova (ak-MAH-tuh-vuh) wrote an unfinished play and many essays on Russian writers. Her spirited book O Pushkine: Stat’i i zametki (1977), published in its complete version posthumously, is one of the most discerning tributes to the greatest Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin, by a fellow poet. Akhmatova also translated poems from the Old Egyptian, Hindu, Armenian, Chinese, French, Italian, and many other languages, most of these in collaboration with native speakers.
Anna Akhmatova enriched Russian literature immeasurably, not only with the quality of her poetry but also with the freshness and originality of her strong talent. Through Acmeism, a literary movement of which she was one of the founders and leading members, she effected a significant change of direction in Russian poetry in the second decade of the twentieth century. The Acmeists’ insistence on clarity and precision of expression—much in the spirit of the Imagists, although the two movements developed independently of each other—represented a reaction against the intricate symbols and otherworldly preoccupations of the Symbolists. Akhmatova’s youthful love poems brought her early fame, and her reputation was further enhanced during the long reign of terror in her country, through which she was able to preserve her dignity, both as a human being and as a poet. With Boris Pasternak, Osip Mandelstam, and Marina Tsvetayeva, Akhmatova is universally regarded as one of the four great poets of postrevolutionary Russia. Having been generously translated into English, Akhmatova’s works are constantly gaining stature in world literature as well.
Akhmatova, Anna A. Poems. Translated by Lyn Coffin, with an introduction by Joseph Brodsky. New York: W. W. Norton, 1983. Selected, high-quality verse translations of Akhmatova’s poems, including several not found elsewhere. The insightful introduction by Brodsky lends the book biographical and critical significance.
Akhmatova, Anna A. Poems of Akhmatova. Translated by Stanley Kunitz, with an introduction by Kunitz and Max Hayward. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973. A concise biographical sketch by Max Hayward, together with verse translations by Kunitz. A nice feature of this collection is that it pairs Akhmatova’s Russian versions with Kunitz’s translations on opposing pages.
Akhmatova, Anna A. Selected Poems. Edited by Walter Arndt. Translated by Arndt, Robin Kemball, and Carl R. Proffer. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1976. This collection includes a fine article entitled “The Akhmatova Phenomenon” and a chronicle of Akhmatova’s life. The translations are especially well done and well explained by notes.
Driver, Sam N. Anna Akhmatova. New York: Twayne, 1972. This is the first English biography, written six years after Akhmatova’s death. The first third of the book deals with biographical facts and the remainder with a thematic explanation of the poetry. It is a concise yet scholarly work, still serving as the best primary introduction to Akhmatova’s life.
Haight, Amanda. Anna Akhmatova: A Poetic Pilgrimage. London: Oxford University Press,...