Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 539

Written during the “Russian thaw,” the period following the death in 1953 of the brutal Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, “Foggy Street” invites a political interpretation. Voznesensky himself has referred to the Stalin years as “a fog,” and the positive image of clarity and brilliance on which the poem ends seems an apt description of the flowering of Russian culture in the latter part of the 1950’s. However, interpreting the poem simply as a commentary on life in the Soviet Union during Stalinism is too narrow a reading to encompass the entire poem. Like the others with which it was originally published, “Foggy Street” takes the human condition as its subject. The poet who walks down Voznesensky’s “foggy street” could be walking down any street at any point in time. As the title of his first collection, Mozaika (“mosaic”), indicates, Voznesensky intends his poems to be read in groups, and the meaning of an individual poem contributes to the meaning of the collection; the pattern that emerges, in turn, informs the meaning of each separate piece. To understand “Foggy Street” more fully, it is useful to examine the worldview reflected in the larger body of the poet’s work.

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Voznesensky believes that humans are part of a universal life force and that human nature is essentially good; however, society and technology have distanced humans from their connection with the natural world, and it is this distancing that permits evil to thrive. He holds technology responsible for the sort of fragmentation and disorientation described in “Foggy Street.” Technology alienates through categorization, specialization, and mechanization. Instead of increasing knowledge of the world, science distorts it, producing chaos and confusion.

Negotiating his way through this world of contradiction is the task of the poet in “Foggy Street.” The magnificent irony at the heart of the poem is that to succeed he must fail; in an unstable universe, any sense of permanent stability is false. Yet by articulating the paradoxical nature of reality, the poet can achieve equilibrium. With its fragmented lines, separate voices, unique juxtapositions, and irregular rhythms,...

(The entire section contains 539 words.)

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