A Poet Reborn in the Heart of her Craft: Marina Cvetaeva's "Po nagorijam"

Sara Pankenier, Stanford University

Twelve quatrains set in the heart of the collection Remeslo (Craft), the 1922 poem "Po nagorijam" ("Over Hillocks") by Marina Cvetaeva spans all creation in its scope as it pursues an undetermined feminine subject in her course toward a future into which she has not yet been born: "Ne rodilas' eshche!" Written at the beginning of the New Year as the poet prepared to depart for a new life in emigration, the poem likewise situates itself on an existential boundary. It takes on the impossible task of verbalizing the exultant voice of a being not yet born, of a poet before language. From its surface to its metaphysical postulations, the poem sets off an exponential expansion that ultimately draws in questions of language and poetry to breach metatextuality as well.

The subtle signification in the enigmatic and experimental poem "Po nagorijam" can be brought to light by placing it in the context of the thematic continuities in Remeslo, tracing its interrelationships with selected poems in the collection, and otherwise reconstructing the intertextual web that enriches and unifies the signification in the poem. At the pivotal point of this most self-conscious and experimental collection, "Po nagorijam" marks the rebirth of the poet into existence, as the collection marks her rise to full power.

In this paper I argue that the poem "Po nagorijam" structurally simulates its metaphysical themes through its formal expression of momentum, syntactical simulation of an undifferentiated state, conceptual unification of word and being, and performance of a suspension of breath. These themes culminate in a new interpretation of the poem which I put forth in this paper, namely that the poem on the ontogeny of the poet-subject recapitulates the phylogeny of Being, insofar as it is indebted to the Old Testament account of the six days of Creation.