Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
“Confusion,” included in Akhmatova’s popular collection Chetki, captures the tone of the entire work, which focuses on the meetings and separations of lovers and former lovers. The poet describes the painful meeting as draining, yet necessary, because it provides closure for the relationship that has left her hanging on during “Ten years of cries and trepidation.” As she looks into her former lover’s face, she does not see in him the intense emotion that she feels. She sees only the “simple civility” reflected in his kiss of her hand. At the conclusion of the poem, her soul is both “empty and serene.”
The feeling of love’s being both painful and exhilarating permeates every line. Concrete imagery and physical descriptions represent the intense emotion felt by the poet. The lines “a mist clouds my eyes” and “with a kiss you brushed my hand” characterize these literary devices. This use of concrete imagery is common throughout most of her earlier works. Also representative of the poet’s craft is her dramatization of the moment. She sketches as if it were a painting in motion, the lyrical quality of her verse reflected in the lines: “And I can no longer fly,/ I who was winged from childhood.”
Further exemplified in the poem is the poet’s reliance on the narrative form to provide movement. In addition, the fluidity of the poem illustrates that confusion is as much a part of life as are love and loss. The realization of this is demonstrated by the persona’s recognition that her soul is now serene for the first time in ten years after “all my sleepless nights.” Out of her confusion she has found an inner peace that would not have come if she had not loved and lost.
Amanda Haight, Akhmatova’s biographer, describes Chetki as representing a poet who is “beginning to know how to survive” lost love and abandonment. Haight concludes that finally poetry now plays a positive role in the poet’s life, allowing her a sense of freedom and individuality. In addition, Chetki marked the beginning of Akhmatova’s popularity as a poet and the maturation of her adult poetic voice.
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Driver, Sam N. Anna Akhmatova. Boston: Twayne, 1972.
Feinstein, Elaine. Anna of All the Russias: The Life of Anna Akhmatova. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005.
Haight, Amanda. Anna Akhmatova: A Poetic Pilgrimage. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.
Harrington, Alexandra. The Poetry of Anna Akhmatova: Living in Different Mirrors. New York: Anthem Press, 2006.
Hingley, Ronald. Nightingale Fever: Russian Poets in Revolution. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981.
Kalb, Judith E., and J. Alexander Ogden, eds. Russian Writers of the Silver Age, 1890-1925. Vol. 295 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. With the collaboration of I. G. Vishnevetsky. Detroit: Gale, 2004.
Nayman, Anatoly. Remembering Anna Akhmatova. New York: Henry Holt, 1991.
Sinyavski, Andrei. For Freedom of Imagination. New York: Henry Holt, 1971.
Wells, David N. Anna Akhmatova: Her Poetry. Washington, D.C.: Berg, 1996.