Inspired at the Omnipresent Window: Axmatova's Mythology of Poetic Creation

Ona Renner-Fahey, Ohio State University

By modifying the Classical conception of the Muse, Anna Axmatova designed a unique Muse of her own--one that embodied her particular yet quite fluid ideas of poetic inspiration. This Muse-figure visits Axmatova's lyrical persona repeatedly throughout a period of over 60 years; at times the figure is unquestionably the Muse, while at other times the figure's identity, while still arguably Muse-related, is purposefully ambiguous.

My paper is a study of Axmatova's mythology of poetic creation and will begin with the most unequivocal of her notions of inspiration, i.e., what I term her "Muse-poems." These poems fall into three periods, according to notable gaps between the Muse's appearances: 1912 to 1916, 1921 to 1927 and, finally, 1936 to 1964. I have chosen the chronological approach in order to follow the development of the Muse; it is unlikely that poets consciously form a complete notion of their creative processes at the time they become poets (or, for that matter, at any other time in their careers) and so I present each subsequent Muse-poem as an addition to an evolving image. Such an approach reveals that each of the above-mentioned hiatuses brings about shifts in Axmatova's presentation of her Muse.

A discussion of these Muse-poems will indicate a number of themes that are linked with Axmatova's mythology of poetic creation (such as the window, garden, night, moon, stars, trees, birds, and gazes). I suggest metapoetic readings of some of Axmatova's more ambiguous poems by noting thematic commonalities they have with the established Muse-poems. Also constituent to Axmatova's mythology of poetic creation is, of course, her poetic cycle "Tajny remesla," not to mention metapoetic comments made by the poet in her prose. Although numerous scholars have offered insightful readings into many of the poems which I will discuss in this paper, there has yet to be published, to the best of my knowledge, a comprehensive study of Axmatova's mythology of the creative process. Nevertheless, my paper owes much to the impressive wealth of Axmatova scholarship--particularly to the ideas of Susan Amert, Sonia Ketchian, Wendy Rosslyn, Roman Timenchik, and Tat'jana Civian, among others.

Ultimately, I propose that Axmatova's entire mythology of poetic creation stems from the major topos of the lyrical persona: the window at which she sits and awaits inspiration in its many forms, i.e., conflations of the Muse with the lover, with various forms of nature, and even with death. That which the poet hears, sees and envisions as she gazes through her window becomes not only the stuff of her poetry but its very inspiration, as well.