Poet and translator Sasha Dugdale explores the impact of World War I on the great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. Sasha focuses on the collection White Flock, published in 1917.
The poet and translator Sasha Dugdale explores the impact of the First War on the great Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova.
Her focus is on the collection, White Flock, published in 1917, but written during the war. In many poems, Akhmatova mentions the war directly, and in others, echoes of loss and war sound, refracted through peculiarly Russian folk imagery.
Sasha focuses on a two-part poem called 'July 1914'. In the first stanza, the turf has been burning for four weeks and the dry summer smells of smoke and fumes. The birds aren't singing and the aspen isn't moving. A one-legged wanderer comes to the house with terrible prophecies and predicts that 'soon there won't be room for all the fresh graves'. In the second part, the juniper's sweet smell rises from the burning wood and the widow's cry sounds. Instead of water and the rain they have prayed for, a warm red wetness floods the trampled fields.
Sasha's powerful Essay includes a new translation of the poem and a poignant account of how some of its motifs are now reappearing in contemporary writing about the war in Ukraine.
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