My 2013 post about Anna Akhmatova continues to be one of the most popular on my blog even though it’s just a few short lines about her masterpiece of a poem Requiem. I wonder if it’s because we’re looking for people who shine lights in the darkness? Americans as much as Russians visit that page. Or looking for the women who came before us, the ones who persevered, who left us something of themselves, when so many didn’t have that chance.
I didn’t know much about her when I posted it, just that she was persecuted for her poetry under Stalin. Wikipedia says Lydia Chukovskaya described how Akhmatova “would write out her poem for a visitor on a scrap of paper to be read in a moment, then burnt in her stove.” This one line provoked an image in my mind of the paper flaring into fire, curling up over the words, and diminishing into ash; and it provoked feelings, of admiration for her cleverness, the bittersweet pain of imagining her burning her own words and the fierce courage it must have taken to write them and rewrite them for her trusted visitors. I still don’t know much about her, but I want to know more.