Gender and Creativity in the Early Verse of Axmatova and Cvetaeva

Olga Petukhova Brown and Nina Filonov Gove, Vanderbilt University

In this paper we explore the representation of femininity and masculinity in the early poems of Anna Axmatova and Marina Cvetaeva. Using the comparative method and modern and postmodern feminist literary theory as the analytic frameworks, we examine the interaction of the female subject and male object. As Axmatova and Cvetaeva project a female voice and female poetic subject, for a short period each does it by means of a subject/object "inversion" vis à vis the traditional associations in male-authored verse. The female subject is marked by agency and creative power, while the male object is characterized by weakness.

In several poems by Axmatova, including "U samogo morja," marginalization of the male figure and the heroine's obsession with the devastating effects of her creative gift appear to stem from the heroine's insecurity about her creative ability. In Cvetaeva's poems to Èfron, such as "Est' takie golosa," the description of the male persona is ambiguous, with vivid gender representation that shifts between the feminized and the heroic. Other poems, such as "Baraban" and "V. Ja. Brjusovu" assert a strong poetic identity. Eventually, in the evolution of both poets, the subject/object inversion disappears, and there emerges a female poetic authority which no longer requires the support of the complementary image of a weak male persona.