“Midnight Verses” is a late poem by Anna Akhmatova, who is considered one of Russia’s most important poets of the twentieth century. Akhmatova came to fame immediately upon the publication of her first collection of poetry in 1912. She was recognized for her powerful and moving love poetry, which explained little, and instead relied on concrete imagery. Her literary career was disrupted by the Russian Revolution; soon after taking power, the government of the Soviet Union sought to suppress those writers it deemed to have a political viewpoint that did not support Communism. For years, Akhmatova could not publish her poetry. She did not even dare write it down, because writers were commonly sent to jail for things they had written. Until the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, Akhmatova was virtually unheard of outside the Soviet Union.
With a thaw in the Soviet government’s policy, Akhmatova’s fame spread across the world in the 1950s and 1960s. She traveled to Italy and England to accept awards, and was twice a nominee for the Nobel Prize. The short poems comprising “Midnight Verses” were written over the years from 1963–1965, shortly before Akhmatova’s death. “Midnight Verses” was first published in her book The Flight of Time (1965). It is currently available in The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova (2002).