Deus Conservat Omnia: Poetic Remembrance and Transformation in Axmatova’s Maple Cycle

In this paper, I trace maple imagery from Anna Axmatova’s early lyrics through her war-time poetry and finally her culminating work “Poem without a Hero.” The motif of a maple tree figures prominently in several passages in her lyric and narrative poetry that address the reworking of life into art via poetic craftsmanship, and depict poetry as an arena for the transformation of individual memory into poetic monument. The maple tree functions sometimes as a lyric muse who inspires Axmatova’s vision, most often as one of the metaphoric devices used to flesh out her vision, and finally as a double to the poet, sharing her burden of witness.

This paper limns the development of Axmatova’s maple motif. The impulse for poetic remembrance and transformation remains constant throughout the evolution of Axmatova’s poetry; the unfolding of her mature voice, however, reveals a shift in the impulse to poetic transformation. Where her early poems evince a desire for immortality and entrance to the poetic canon, her later, immensely human, poems in addition address the possibility that art can function as a palliative to biographical tragedy: through her craft, the poet strives toward personal redemption.