The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Prologue” is a poem in free verse, its sixty-six lines divided into six stanzas of uneven length. Written in 1953, shortly after the beginning of Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s career, the poem can be seen in retrospect as an introduction to his entire body of work, as the title indicates.

Like many of Yevtushenko’s poems, “Prologue” serves as a vehicle of self-identification. In the very first line, “I am different,” the poet makes a statement that would sound self-evident and redundant had it not been written at the beginning of a new phase in Russian poetry. A new generation, led by Yevtushenko and Andrey Voznesensky, was making its voice heard, replacing the officially approved old guard which had ruled the poetic scene for decades. In that sense, the above declaration is not only prophetic but also courageous, coming immediately after the death of dictator Joseph Stalin.

The poet also declares that he does not fit in—another statement that goes beyond its nominal meaning: He does not fit into the encrusted establishment of prescribed tenets and norms. He does not fit in because “much of everything is mixed” in him—his thoughts, his allegiance, his creeds—which would be acceptable under normal circumstances but was not in his country at that time. He denies that he lacks the “integral aim” for which he is criticized; on the contrary, there is great value in being different and individualistic. He believes that this is...

(The entire section is 563 words.)