Anna Akhmatova [1889-1966] achieved her first fame as an icon of pre-Revolutionary Russian literary society. After the revolution she became the unofficial spokesperson of all those who suffered through Stalinism. During World War II, the authorities briefly rehabilitated her for her patriotism, but later clamped down with a repression not lifted until the last years of her life, when her literary achievement and international recognition could no longer be ignored.
This selection represents the full span of the poet's career. It includes a preface to Akhmatova's life by Roberta Reeder, as well as accompanying notes for Judith Hemschemeyer's definitive translations.
Judith Hemschemeyer began translating Anna Akhmatova's poems in 1976, and completed the first draft in 1981-82 with the assistance of a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University. Hemschemeyer won the 1986 Associated Writing Programs (AWP) Poetry Prize for her collection, The Ride Home, which was published in 1987 by Texas Tech University Press. Wesleyan University Press published her two previous collections, I Remember the Room Was Filled with Light (1973) and Very Close and Very Slow (1975). Her translations of Akhmatova have appeared in many journals, including The Hudson Review, Ploughshares, Calyx, Stand, and Northwest Review. Hemschemeyer has also translated poems of Alexander Pushkin, Evgeny Rein, and Inna Lisnianskaya.
Roberta Reeder has been involved with Russian literature and culture for most of her life. She has taught at Harvard and Yale, and publishes articles, both here and abroad, on all aspects of Russian culture, and has created a dramatization of Akhmatova's great poem, “Requiem”. In 1994, Reeder published Anna Akhmatova: Poet and Prophet (St. Martin's Press), which the late Stephen Spender called “more than just an excellent biography. It gives a vividly rich picture of the lives of the Russian intelligentsia throughout this century, and reveals so much about the land of Russia. A marvelous book.” The paperback edition (1995) was named one of the best biographies of the year by the N.Y. Times Book Review.
Also available: Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova [Zephyr Press, ISBN 0-939010-27-5 (paper)]
Selected Poems of Anna Akhmatova, by Anna Akhmatova
Selected Poems of Anna Akhmatova
Translated from Russian by Judith Hemschemeyer
Edited and introduced by Roberta Reeder
ISBN 0-939010-61-5 (paper)
6 x 9
Bilingual (Russian & English)
Containing more than one hundred poems chosen from The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova, which was named one of the best books of 1990 by the New York Times Book Review. The poems are presented bilingually on facing pages.
Judith Hemschemeyer has done a heroic job. These are cleanly executed versions from which the strong, pure feeling of Akhmatova transpires.
If you believe, as I do, that the truly translatable part of poetry is the image, then you will be drawn to Hemschemeyer's translations of Akhmatova.