In addition to his two collections of poetry, for which he is best remembered today, Innokenty Annensky (uhn-YEHN-skee) wrote four tragedies and was a critic and pedagogue of note. His tragedies include Melanippa-Filosof (pb. 1901), Tsar Iksion (pb. 1902), Laodamiia (pb. 1906), and Famira Kifared (pb. 1913). Annensky’s major critical effort consists of the essays constituting the two collections entitled Kniga otrazhenii (1906) and Vtoraia kniga otrazhenii (1909). They were reissued in a single volume in 1969. The remainder of Annensky’s critical and pedagogical essays have never been collected in book form; they remain scattered throughout the Russian journals in which they first appeared.
Innokenty Annensky has always been considered a “poet’s poet” because of the subtlety of his poetic imagery and the intricacy of his thought. In contrast to such contemporary poets as Aleksandr Blok and Konstantin Balmont, who were enormously popular in their own time, Annensky’s main impact was rather on the aesthetic theory of Acmeism, one of the great Russian poetic schools of the twentieth century. Two gifted and famous Acmeists, Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam, were especially drawn to Annensky both as a poet and as a formulator of poetic doctrine.
Although he has often been regarded as a member of the older, “first generation” of Russian Symbolists (in contrast to the younger or “second generation”), Annensky does not truly fit into a particular category. His style can be designated as Symbolist insofar as his use of literary allusions is concerned, yet his worldview and aesthetic ideals, as well as his treatment of non-Symbolist stylistic elements, set him apart from this movement. Annensky differs from his contemporaries in his aesthetic independence. He is considered unique among twentieth century Russian poets in that he combined aspects of Symbolism with experimental stylistic devices to produce verse that cannot easily be labeled. He is regarded today as one of the more interesting and significant modern Russian poets, and he has a reputation far exceeding that which he enjoyed during his own lifetime.
Fedorov, Andrei V. Innokentij Annenskij: Lichnost’ i tvorchestvo. Leningrad: Khudozhestvennaia Literatura, 1984. A succinct biography by a leading Russian scholar on Annensky. It details the poet’s life and discusses the essential aspects of his lyrics, prose, and plays, with the emphasis on poetry. In Russian.
Ljunggren, Anna. At the Crossroads of Russian Modernism: Studies in Innokentij Annenskij’s Poetics. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1997. A thorough discussion of Annensky’s poetry, addressing both the Russian and international links of his work, with the emphasis on how the French Symbolists were received and transformed by Annensky within the Russian Symbolist poetry. His poetics are discussed at length. His similarities with Boris Pasternak, Ivan Bunin, Vladislav Khodasevich, and Vladimir Nabokov are also discussed.
Setchkarev, Vsevolod. Studies in the Life and Work of Innokenty Annensky. The Hague, the Netherlands: Mouton, 1963. This seminal work includes a biography and a discussion of Annensky’s works and is one of the best on the subject. Setchkarev discusses in detail Annensky’s rise to prominence and his contribution to the Russian literature of the first decade of the twentieth century. The author analyzes Annensky’s significance in the second wave of Russian Symbolists. A must for students of Annensky by a Russian scholar transplanted in the West.
Tucker, Janet G. Innokentij Annenskij and the Acmeist Doctrine. Columbus, Ohio: Slavica, 1986. In this studious examination of Annensky’s poetry, the author analyzes the poet’s contribution to Symbolist poetry, the themes and devices of his poetry, his role as a literary critic, and, above all, his views of, and relationship to, the doctrine of Acmeism and his links with that movement. A valuable contribution to the critical evaluation of Annensky by a Western scholar.