Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva – The Canons of Female Lyrics
Much has been said and written about female poetry. From the banal “what a girl does not write poetry” to a serious and thoughtful analysis of the best examples. Women’s poetry is distinguished by subtle sensations, flexible musicality and the disclosure of deep-seated emotional experiences. Perhaps, without female poetry, it is simply impossible to understand the whole emotional essence of a woman. But much more interesting are the examples when women’s lyrics reach such a qualitative level that they are no longer separated from such lyrics.
In the definitions of the female poetry of the Silver Age, the names of Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva are always close by. But confused among themselves the poems of these poetess can only be a man, far from the world of art and not able to feel obvious differences. By the way, the word “poetess” both of them did not like and tried to avoid, because they felt on a par with the most eminent colleagues in the shop of the male sex. For the first time in the history of Russian poetry, the Silver Age allowed and agreed with such an emancipated layout.
Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva, as two opposite faces, outlined the contours of Russian female poetry in its most classical manifestation, presenting to contemporaries and descendants a huge number of bright, original and very sincere poems. But if the work of Akhmatova is a calm and confident force of water, then in the verses of Tsvetaeva we feel a hot, gusting flame.
Women’s poetry always includes a lot of love lyrics. It was from her that the work of Anna Akhmatova began. But from the very first poetry collections her lyrics sounded differently, with a unique intonation. All feminine traits: attentive gaze, quivering memory of cute things, grace and hints of whims – we find in Akhmatova’s early poems, and this gives them true lyricism.
In the first poetic experiments of Tsvetaeva there are also a lot of traditional love scenes, moreover, the classic, strict form of the sonnet is skillfully used, allowing to judge the high skill of the young author. But the sound, intonation, passions of Marina Tsvetaeva are completely different. In her poems there is always an impulse, and anguish, and at the same time a sharpness, even rigidity, completely unusual for the female lyrics. There is no external calm contemplation here – everything is experienced from the inside, each line seems to be born with pain, even when the themes are bright and major. And if, in Akhmatova’s poems, the severity of forms and rhythm is usually preserved, then Tsvetaeva soon leaves the severity of sonnets to the world of her own poetic musicality, sometimes far from any traditions, with torn lines and an abundance of exclamation marks.
Both Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva lived and worked at the junction of eras, in a difficult and tragic period of Russian history. This confusion and pain penetrate into the poems, because women are very keenly aware of everything that happens. And gradually, love lyrics go beyond the relationship between two people: notes of change, breaking stereotypes, the harsh winds of time are heard in it.
Akhmatova has notes of anxiety and sadness, torments of conscience, a constant feeling of confusion inside and the fate of the Motherland. Tsvetaeva has a seething of passions, constant contrasts and a keen apprehension of death. Akhmatova increasingly hears the traditional prayer style of women’s poetry, and she prays for the fate of her country. Tsvetaeva, especially in the period of emigration, can hear hatred for everything that has so turned the era, and at the same time the unbearable pain of separation from her beloved land.
What unites the work of Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva? Through their inner world, through their emotions and experiences, both of them revealed to us the spiritual side of their time. They opened it in a feminine way brightly and subtly, giving the reader many unforgettable moments.