Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Bella Akhmadulina began publishing poetry at the end of the 1950’s. After the publication of her first collection, Struna (1962; the string), she became a prominent figure in the new generation of Russian poets during the “thaw” period following Joseph Stalin’s death. Her poetry also brought expulsion from the Union of Soviet Writers for her “dangerous unconcern” with social questions of the day. Each new collection solidified her position as a leading member among the promising young poets that included Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Andrei Voznesensky, and Robert Rozhdestvensky, among others.

Born in Moscow of mixed Russian-Italian-Tartar origins, Akhmadulina approached poetry in an uncertain fashion, “frail and infantile,” as her former husband Yevtushenko put it. At that time, poetry was for her more a matter of personal confession than a matter of a strong social or philosophical statement. As she matured, she was able to leave her cocoon and to assume the role of a voice of conscience that has been traditional in Russian literature. Her inner makeup, however, prevented her from becoming a social bard in the mold of Yevtushenko and Voznesensky, although her concern for the burning issues of the day is no less strong or sincere.

In the following decades, several themes crystallized in her poetry. Throughout her career, she has been searching for her poetic self. A set of thirteen poems under the title “A Fairy Tale About Rain” expresses this quest. The rain, as a life-sustaining substance, is the metaphor for the poetic inspiration accompanying her everywhere, including on a visit to people steeped in a vulgar, materialistic world. Soaked with rain, she feels apologetic for soiling the exquisite furniture (“I’ve been wallowing about, like a pig in the mud. . . . I’m lost in foggy bubbles. . . . t’was Rain that led me into trouble”). As the party progresses and the philistines and snobs pester her with asinine questions—“Is your husband really rich?” and “Who gives presents to the ones/ God has endowed? And how would it be done?”—the visitor, the lyric persona, loses her temper and answers caustically, all the time watching the rain, which had camped outside. When, finally, the rain comes to her rescue and floods everything inside the house, the poet walks away happily, convinced that the two worlds will never mix and that the enmity between them will always exist. Through this self-realization, the poet finds her rightful place, learning to bear her alienation as the price for being different. A...

(The entire section is 1050 words.)