The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Homesickness” is a short lyric poem in ten stanzas, each composed of four irregular lines. The meter of the poem is fundamentally iambic, but, as is characteristic of Marina Tsvetayeva’s lyrics, there are breaks formed by the ellipsis of verbs and nouns as well as by emotional exclamations. The rhythmical intonation creates a counterpoint to the formal metrical pattern.

“Homesickness” was written immediately before Tsvetayeva’s return to the Soviet Union. Tsvetayeva had emigrated to Europe (first to Berlin, then Prague, and finally to Paris) in 1922. Although the title of the lyric suggests that the poet is longing to return to her homeland, it becomes clear that the poem actually expresses the poet’s ambivalence about returning to a place that may no longer be home. The title, instead, concerns the poet’s desire to find a place where she and her poetry will be understood and welcomed.

Although Tsvetayeva often projected herself in the image of mythic or literary figures, this poem is written in the first person with no distinction implied between the poet and the speaker. Tsvetayeva’s work is often noted for its intimate tone and emotional candor. Considering that most of Tsvetayeva’s work is autobiographical in nature, and often confessional, it is helpful for readers of her poetry to be aware of certain biographical details.

Tsvetayeva left the Soviet Union, like many of her contemporaries, disillusioned...

(The entire section is 486 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The meaning and language of Tsvetayeva’s later lyric poetry is concentrated. It is designed to frustrate the reader looking for standard poetic forms and formulae. Since experimentation in sound and rhythm is vital in Tsvetayeva’s poetry, much of the poem’s charm is lost in translation. Tsvetayeva’s experimentation with language, in combination with her unofficial status in the world of Soviet literature until the 1960’s, explains why much of her work is not yet translated into English.

Tsvetayeva’s elliptical style is striking. Because of the inflected nature of the Russian language, the omission of verbs and nouns (as well as flexibility in word order) is possible and common in everyday speech. Tsvetayeva exploits this aspect of the Russian language to experiment with new rhythms. Her language is bound closely with the expression of feeling. The feelings expressed in her poetry always seem intense because of its highly personal content.

Many of her lyrics are syntactic and thematic variations on one theme. Repetition of certain words and sounds is an important element of Tsvetayeva’s poetry. The phrase that is repeated throughout this lyric is “it’s all the same.” This repetition functions in several ways. It emphasizes the indifference of the world toward the poet, but more significantly, indicates the poet’s detachment from society. While every other person is part of a group, she remains an outsider. Other people...

(The entire section is 540 words.)