Poetic Correspondences in the Works of Anna Axmatova and Nikolaj Gumilev

Francoise Rosset, Wheaton College

While ever more is known about the personal relationship between Axmatova and Gumilev, it is also obvious that theirs was a literary relationship. This paper seeks to contribute to the discussion of their literary relationship, which has received some notice, but certainly not as much as the personal one. I will discuss evidence of specific intertextuality in their poetry.

Some of these correspondences or echoes are clearly or at least ostensibly biographical, and these have been noticed the most, e.g. AA's "On ljubil tri veshchi na svete," or NG's "Sovremennost'." Others respond to the other poet's chosen poetic persona or stance, and several very specifically respond to the narrative in the other's poem. Thus AA's famous poem about a glove on the wrong hand is in fact inspired by a short NG piece, and the glove image is then re-used by NG. There are more complex instances of intertextuality based on each poet's creation of a "male" and "female" temperament. And specific motifs, used by one poet in relation to the other, reappear in the other's work. Thus NG's persistent use of "raj" or paradise in poems referring to Axmatova is picked up by both of them in 1918 and then forms a tragic setting for her poems about his death -- e.g "Na poroge belogo raja."

My discussion will present specific instances of poems that echo each other thematically, metrically and textually. By the way, the work on this piece is finished and needs only updating and final revisions.