Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 173

File:Bob Kaufman.jpg
kathy-acker2
[Bob Kaufman (1925-1986) & Kathy Acker (1947-1997)]

April 18 - Bob Kaufman's and Kathy Acker's birthday today. For our postings on Kaufman - see here and here. For our posting on Kathy Acker see here

Women of the Beat Generation, a perennially significant topic, gets another airing next week in Randolph, New Jersey. Joyce Johnson and Hettie Jones will be speaking on the subject.
Hopefully, there's been some significant progress since this:



Sociologically and cinematographically of interest, the full movie - "Beat Girl" (sic - "Wild For Kicks" in its 1960 US manifestation), well, all but approximately ten minutes of it - is available here


Next week - a big week in New York - celebrating William Burroughs. WSB100 is the New York chapter of the centennial celebrations, guided by James Ilgenfritz. On Monday at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, Elliott Sharp & Steve Buscemi. On Tuesday at Incubator Arts Project, Lydia Lunch & Quintan Ana Wikswo. On Wednesday a big marathon William Burroughs reading at the Poetry Project at St Mark's, featuring Anne Waldman, Bob Holman, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Penny Arcade, J.G.Thirlwell,  amongst a host of others. Friday, at the CUNY (City University of New York) Grad Center, an all-day Burroughs symposium (featuring Barry Miles, Oliver Harris, Ann Douglas, Regina Weinreich, Jed Birmingham, to, again, just give a partial list). 



Saturday, Oliver Harris and curators on Restoring the Cut-Up Trilogy, at the New York Public Library.  Saturday evening. John Zorn and Bill Laswell duet at The Stone and Bill Laswell presents his "The Road to the Western Lands". The following day, Bill Frisell on guitar, Eyvind Kang on viola and Lenny Pickett on sax combine with Hal Willner presenting Burroughs audio-tapes. 

And there's more. 

A full schedule may be found here. 

Kathy Acker's 1988 interview with Burroughs (previously featured here on the Allen Ginsberg Project) - we remind you - may be accessed here


Allen Ginsberg (Quelle: www.nme.com)Michael Stipe of REM photographed by Kris Krug.jpgKurt Cobain of Nirvana[Michael Stipe (of REM), and Kurt Cobain (1967-1994) (of Nirvana) - & Allen Ginsberg]

"..(T)he echo-chamber of that collective "Howl".."  - (and) "..Allen Ginsberg would've been very proud here.." -  Michael Stipe references Allen Ginsberg in his keynote speech inducting Kurt Cobain and Nirvana into the Rock n Roll Hall of Famejust last week
(fittingly, perhaps, on the twentieth-anniversary of Cobain's untimely passing)

His (Cobain's) 1993 collaboration with Burroughs (including a written request for collaboration and a subsequent thank you note [sic!] - "I really enjoyed the opportunity to do the record" [""The Priest" They Called Him"])  appeared this past Monday on Dangerous Minds (one of our favorite blogs) - and is well worth checking out
(for a little of the "back story").

We'll be featuring more on this - the Stipe-Cobain-Burroughs connection this coming weekend.

and - big news!  a new book of Peter Orlovsky's writings, Peter Orlovsky - A Life In Words - Intimate Chronicles of A Beat Writer (edited by Bill Morgan)  is scheduled for publication by Paradigm Publishers (out of Herndon, Vermont) in a couple of months time. More word on that too in the weeks ahead - "This is the "Orlovsky Reader"", the publishers declare, "(which Ginsberg always wanted to publish), offering poetry, prose and journal entries, created by the man who was the muse of the Beat Generation".  


[Peter Orlovsky and Allen Ginsberg, Paris 1957 - Photograph by Harold Chapman

The forty-year anniversary of the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa is this year. There'll be a celebration this Sunday at City Lights, led by Naropa Assistan Professor of English, Andrea Rexilius. A further celebratory reading will take place, at the St Mark's Poetry Project, in November.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Expansive Poetics - 51 (Mayakovsky and the Revolution)



[Vladimir Mayakovsky, detail of a poster design, 1921. - Translation of the title: “Comrades! Beware of falling into those jaws. Let us close ranks to escape such a miserable fate—Strengthen Soviet Rule!”]

Ann Charters' (July 9 1981) Russian Poetry class continues.

Ann Charters: Well, let's talk about Mayakovsky as a political poet now for a while, because he was most famous for a poem called "Lenin", which he wrote in 1924, as a eulogy for the dear departed leader, who had made the Revolution and the victory of the Bolsheviks an actuality. As you could hear from the Esenin poem, Mayakovsky was very good with elegies. He really got into it - like the classical tradition of "Adonais". Mayakovsky really could write with great, great grandeur and eloquence about the past, in addition to his interest in the new revolution for the future. But the poem about Lenin is a much longer poem, and it was a poem that made Mayakovsky famous - if you had to say which one poem did it - took him from the ranks of the hurly-burly, Beat, kind of Futurists into the ranks where everyone was saying, "Wow, that's Mayakovsky". It was this poem on Lenin, which he read on every possible occasion, before the Party, or before members in camps, youth camps, factories, you name it, Mayakovsky was there reading this great poem. And, of course, this was very useful to the people who were steering the government.

AG: This is after Lenin's death

Ann Charters: Yeah, of course. Lenin died in 1923, and the poem was written a few months later. And Mayakovsky worked very hard on the poem, he just didn't toss it off, he believed in it. Everything he did he believed in in the long poem. And "Lenin" is a poem (I'll tell you a little bit about it) that, unequivocably, declares Mayakovsky's political loyalties to the Communist Party - 1924
Now, if you know anything about the Revolution, you know that it was a very confused time in 1917, that the Bolsheviks sort of snuck in there and got power. And Mayakovsky was a dedicated Communist from the very beginning, but he was not a dedicated Bolshevik until 1924, and that's a very important distinction.

AG: What's the difference?

Ann Charters: Well, the Communists - you could be a Trotsky Communist.

AG: Uh-huh

Ann Charters: Yeah, you could be a Marxist. You could just be a World Socialist. But a Bolshevik, swearing complete loyalty to the Central Committee's declarations.

AG: Oh, so that's the difference.

Ann Charters: Yes.. And this was..

Student: (Could you, perhaps) explain some more. What's the difference?
AG: Communists, you can be a Socialist, or a Trotskyite or a Communalist..
Ann Charters: Yeah. Right.
AG:  ..(a) Cooperativist...
Ann Charters: Communist with a small "c"
Student: Oh, okay.
AG: The Bolshevik then is the...
Ann Charters: Absolutely
AG: ... Soviet...
Ann Charters:  Is what's going on now
AG: ..Central Commitee of the Communist Party.
Ann Charters: Yes, that's the government.
Student (Can you tell me what) "Bolshevik" means?
Ann Charters: It means "the great"
Student: Okay
Ann Charters: And this is.. oh, you've got a...
AG: Bolshoi Theatre
Ann Charters: That's "the Big Theatre", and the Maly Theatre..
AG: Bolshoi Ballet 
Ann Charters: The Bolshoi Ballet is the Big Ballet. And the Maly Theatre is the Little Ballet - or Theatre. And the Maly Ballet is the Little Ballet.

Student: (What do you mean), politically, when you say "Bolshevik"?
AG: The Big Party, I guess.
Ann Charters: It means "the Big Party".
Student: Big?
AG: Yeah. Exactly.
Student: When you say "Bolshoi Ballet", does that mean...
AG: "The Big Ballet".
Ann Charters: No, no, it has no... 
AG: No, it means "big"
Ann Charters: It just means big
Student: Big?
AG: "Bolshoi" means "big"
Ann Charters: It's an adjective
Student: Okay. Got it.

Ann Charters: I have a daughter. My oldest one's fourteen, and her name is Maly (until I went to the Soviet Union, I didn't know that word meant "small", just like "Bolshevik" means "big", you know - or "Bolshoi") 
AG: So "Bolshevik" would be then like "Beat-nik", would be "Big-it", "Biggest"
Ann Charters: Yeah
AG: Remember a "Big-ite"?
Student: Big-ite?
AG: Big-ite - that's someone who's a Big-nik (from the Big Party), rather than a Small-nik!

Ann Charters: Yeah. Interesting to see poetry in a political context. In this country we are not usually exposed to this reality of the world, which is, in Russia, the main, the big, reality, the Bolshoi reality. In this country, in America, we tend to separate politics and poetry, but in Russia they are completely intertwined.
Okay. Yes?

Student: I have another question. Was that true before Mayakovsky? Because I remember that poem that one of you read last session, and he went to Mayakovsky Street, you know, he went to his old street and now it was called Mayakovsky Street.

AG: Oh, "A Cloud in Trousers", yeah..

Student: Yeah, right, right. Does that mean that it's always been like that - that Russians always had really memorialized its poets in that way?

Ann Charters: Yeah

Student: Or was he being funny?

Ann Charters: No, no, no. He wasn't being..

AG: Some tradition.

Ann Charters: There is a great tradition..

AG: Under the Tsarists, too.

Ann Charters: Yeah. ..of honoring the poets publically, with statues and with street names.

AG: Or fighting them. I think (Alexander) Pushkin had a lot of  trouble with the Tsar over his poetry. One of the early poems I read was Pushkin making poisonous remarks about the Tsar ["The Upas Tree"]

Ann Charters: Yeah

AG: Like the poet's writing some really mean thing about the leader (which is what (Osip) Mandelstam did to (Joseph) Stalin, or what Pushkin did to the Tsar) that gets him in trouble.. is a tradition..

Ann Charters: Now..

AG: But, I think, in the Bolshevik situation, since there was an official union, anybody in the official union who was published officially, therefore anything he says is within the bounds of officialdom...So, if you get up and say you don't like the country, you can't say, "I don't like the government where I live", or  "America.. go fuck yourself with your atom bomb!" ("Russia, why don't you stick Stalin up your ass!), then you'd be saying that officially, and you can't say that officially because that would be a a government statement. It's like our (USA's) television. If it gets on our television, then it means that it's part of (our) popular conception of reality, it means it's real. If you say something on television it means it's within the bounds of reality, not just a flake lunatic-fringe paranoia.
So same thing there, and so (Yevgeny) Yevtushenko's view - because he sticks with the government, he says - in other words, he's still an official poet, he hasn't fled and he's not underground...(that) is, "Although I compromise, I'm sitting on this fence and my role is to move the government one millioneth of an inch left every time I open my mouth...to open things up. Because I say the most extreme left things that anybody will say as a poet. But still it's official. So if I say it and it's published in Pravda, like the New York Times, then that means that's official reality. So I can dare a little bit. And then the bureaucrats will fight me and we'll have to compromise, but it'll still be left of what they want. So, therefore, my function is... that's why I'm sticking here, (in the middle of the mass murder), basically."

Ann Charters: This is very important. We're coming at it like a postscript with what Allen just said. We were on our way to talk about "Lenin", but this is a very very important point - that if you are, as Mayakovsky did in "Lenin", speaking as an official poet, whatever you say in Russia is the word of the government, and therefore you are really always being carefully, carefully monitored, and carefully, carefully watched. Mayakovsky's view (and that poem that you just read, the Esenin) is that the word is the Central Committee - not people, you know, powers. Not Stalin or Lenin, but the word. And this is anarchy, really, in terms of poetry. This is poetry - the word as the highest freedom.

AG: Authority

Ann Charters: Authority, authority. Whereas what Mayakovsky didn't understand (and, perhaps this is also a clue to his depression at the very end with the difficulty having his plays performed, and he slowly began to learn it), is that, in the Soviet Union, that wasn't true - that the Party was the supreme authority, not the word.

AG: Yeah, so this is an heretical statement.

Ann Charters: Totally. And the Futurists, including [Mayakovsky's married girlfriend], (Lili)) Brik and Mayakovsky, had no practical smarts about how to deal after the Revolution, truly, thinking that the word would still be free. And it just isn't. It just isn't.



(Audio for the above may be heard here, starting at approximately sixteen-and-a-half minutes in  and continuing to approximately twenty-four-and-a-half minutes in 
and http://cdm16621.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p16621coll1/id/1016/rec/1)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Expansive Poetics - 50 (Mayakovsky on Esenin)


File:Esenin Moscow 1922.jpg
     [Sergei Esenin (1895-1925)]

AG (to Ann Charters): I did want to interject this (Sergei) Esenin thing, because in that there's also [as with Akhmatova's "Requiem"] a reference to the bronze-lidded statue

Ann Charters: Yeah

AG: So they're all.. This is Mayakovsky's elegy on the suicide of Esenin
Mayakovsky's comment on Esenin's suicide

Ann Charters: This is 1925

AG: (19)25, probably. Esenin, as you remember, his last line, written in blood, is "In this life, to die is nothing new. But, of course to live is nothing new either" - "In this life, to die is nothing. But, of course to live is nothing newer"  - That's actually pretty sharp. They're sharp last comments. 
[Allen begins to read Mayakovsky (in English translation - an alternative translation by way of comparison may be read here)]  - "You have passed, as they say, to worlds elsewhere/ Emptiness.../ Fly, cutting your way into starry/dubeity. No advances, no publications for you there./Sobriety. Ah, Esenin, this is not deridingly,/- in my throat not laughter but sorrow racks/I see your cut-open hand lingeringly,/swings your very own bones like a sack./Stop it, chuck it! isn't it really absurd?/Allowing cheeks to flush with deathly hue?/You who could do such things with words/ that no one else on earth could do./ Why? For what? Perplexity appalls./ Critics mutter,"The main fault we find/ there was hardly any working-class contact at all,/ and the result? Too much beer and wine". /So to say, if you had swapped bohemianism for class struggle/, there'd have been no bust-up/ Class would have influenced/ your thinking/. But does class quench its thirst with kvass?..."
- "Kvass" is a cabbage cider, alcoholic cider - "But does class quench its thirst with kvass?/Class, too, is no fool when it comes to drinking./They'd have attached to you someone from On Guard.." (On Literary GuardNa literaturnom postu, a monthly journal of the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers) - "They'd have attached to you someone from On Guard magazine/The main accent would have been on content;/a hundred lines a day you'd have written hard./as tedious and long-winded as Doronin's attempts.." - ("Doronin", a footnote says, "A contemporary, now forgotten") - "To my mind, before I'd utter such nonsensical stink/ I'd have choked in my very own breath./ Better far to die in drink/ than be bored to death!/ Neither the noose nor the penknife there/will reveal the true cause of this loss. But,/ maybe, if there had been ink in the Angleterre Hotel/ there'd be no reasons for veins to be cut.." - (Because Esenin wrote his last poem in the Angleterre Hotel, cutting his own veins to make ink) - "Encore!", imitators coo in delight./ Nearly a platoon has gone down the sink./ Why increase the number of suicides?/ Better to increase the output of ink!/ It's grevious and misplaced to be mystery-propagators./ For ever now your tongue by teeth's locked tight./ Of all the people, the language creators/, a sonorous, good-for-nothing master has died./ And as condolences, poetic junk they gave/unrehashed hangovers from funerals of the past,/Blunted rhymes are shoved in to exorcise your grave -/is that how a poet is honored at last?/A monument for you hasn't yet been cast.." - This is where Akhmatova's line comes in - "A monument for you hasn't yet been cast -/ what is it, bronze, reverberant,or granite-grand?/ But there, already, by memory's bars,/ dedications and memoirs of rubbish stand./ Your name into handkerchiefs they're snivelling,/ your words by Sobinov.." - (Sobinov (Leonid Sobinov) was a Wagnerian tenor who sang some poems of Esenin) - "your words by Sobinov are lisped here/, and they'll wind up under a phony birch tree quivering./ "Not a word, my friend, not a wh-i-s-p-e-r" - [Allen quotes from some forgotten poem] - "Ah, to quite a different tune I'd switch/ and just tell Leonid Lohnegrinich!/ I'd rise up here a thundering scandalist./ "I won't allow my poems to be mangled by nuts..." - [Allen corrects himself - "mutts! - "mangled by mutts"] - "I'd deafen them with a double-barreled whistle./They can stick 'em where the monkey stuck his nuts!"./And so disperse such talentless filth,/ blowing away jacket-sails, engendered darkness,/ so that helter-skelter run Kogan and his ilk.." - (Petr (Semionvich) Kogan, a (strict Marxist)  literary critic [and president of the Academy of Literary Science]) - "mutilating oncomers with spears of his moustaches./ The ranks of rubbish meanwhile hasn't grown any thinner./ There's so much to do - just to catch up with things yet./ Life must be changed to begin with./ And having changed it - then one can sing it./These days are difficult for the pen./ But tell me, you crooks and wheezy criminals,/ what great ones ever chose where and when?/ A path already trodden, smooth and easy?/ The word is the C-in-C of human powers.." - (What's "C-in-C"?  Communist?, I don't know, Communists in Communism?, I don't know [editorial note: "C in C", "Commander-in-Chief", surely?] - oh, Committee?, (it's) "Central Committee", I bet. The word (language) is the Central Committee of the Communist Power of human powers - "The word is the C-in-C of human powers./ Forward march!, That time may whistle by like rockets,/ So that the wind shall carry to the past of ours/ only the ruffling of our hair./ Our planet is poorly equipped for delight./ One must snatch gladness from the days that are./In this life/ it's not difficult to die./ To make life/ is more difficult by far."  - (So he reverses Esenin's couplet - "In this life to die is nothing new. But, of course, to live is nothing newer" ["V etoi zhizni umirat' ne novo,/No i zhit' konechno, ne novei"] -  ("There's nothing new in dying now/Though living is no newer." - or, in an alternative translation, "In this life there's nothing new in dying/But nor of course is living any newer")]
 - I don't know which was smarter.  Actually, Esenin's, in a way. 

Vladimir Mayakovsky monument in Moscow.jpg
[Vladimir Mayakovsky statue in Moscow Square [installed in 1958] - sculpture by A.P.Kibalnikov] 

Ann Charters: This emphasis on statues in Akhmatova' s poem ("Requiem") - she wants a statue, if they're going to put it up, not in the town where she was born, but where she stood in line in Stalin's... before Stalin's prison. And in "To Esenin", Mayakovsky (is) saying, "If they're going to make a great statue... (because Russia loves to make statues to its poets, you know - it's like Boulder, Colorado, is going to have a statue of, maybe, like, the four, you know, people on Mount Rushmore, after some years have passed..) At any rate, Mayakovsky has a statue (in fact, there are many statues to Mayakovsky). This is the irony of ironies, because where do you suppose they put up the big statue in Moscow to Mayakovsky? Has anybody been there? Does anybody..?

AG: Yeah, I've been there.

Ann Charters: ..Yeah. Well, remember where they put it up?

AG: By a subway station or something.

Ann Charters: Well, the subway station is called  (the) Mayakovsky stop, also (they really do things in a big way in Moscow!). And (so) there's this magnificent bronze statue in the center of Moscow, down-town, which is a very heroic figure of Mayakovsky reading, with (wearing) a beautiful European suit. But the irony of ironies is that the statue has been located right across the street from a theatre where I went to see a Tchaikovsky concert one night in Moscow and I was talking about this - "Why is the statue there?" - It's almost as if Mayakovsky with his hand out is trying to reach the theatre. And they laughed at me, the people I spoke to, and said, "Now, it's a concert hall, but in Mayakovsky's day it was the Meyerhold Theatre, where productions of, among other plays, "The Bedbug" took place, with the very famous director, (Vsevolod) Meyerhold, (who was a Stalin victim in the camps in the middle (19)30's). And they changed the name, obviously, after he disappeared. Ironically, there's Mayakovsky listening to what's coming from the music hall, you know, the concert hall, classical music - but the memory, perhaps, in his mind is of the Meyerhold and the production of Mayakovsky's last plays in that very theatre.






















[Dmitri Shostakovitch, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Alexander Rodchenko, 1929, at a rehearsal for Mayakovsky's "The Bed Bug" at the Meyerhold Theatre] 

AG: And his last play was stopped, finally.

Ann Charters: Yes, yes.

AG: They closed the doors of the theatre on him.

Annn Charters: Yeah, yeah.

(Audio for the above may be heard here, starting at approximately eight-and-a-half minutes in  and continuing to approximately sixteen-and-a-half minutes in) 




Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Expansive Poetics - 49 (Akhmatova & Mayakovsky)


[Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966), in 1924, aged 35]

June 9 1981 - Allen Ginsberg's Expansive Poetics class continues at Naropa Institute. On this day, Ann Charters, who, two years earlier, in collaboration with her husband Sam, had published I Love - The Story of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Lili Brik, is the class's special guest. The emphasis therefore is on Mayakovsky and twentieth-century Russian literature.

AG: ....in the Russian section...  (Anna) Akhmatova  is after (Nikolay) Gumilev (1886-1921) [in the Expansive Poetics Anthology] , a poem called "Requiem".  Okay? Everybody got it?

Student: That's the very first poem in her section.

AG: Yeah. In the Russian section, after (Nikolay) Gumilev and before (Osip) Mandelstam...

Okay, (so), where we left off was (Vladimir) Mayakovsky's poem, "150, ooo, ooo"  - What year was that?  What  year was that? Okay, 1920 - (a) performance at the Arts House in Petrograd, December 5th, 1920, according to Ann Charters book. He read his new poem, "150, ooo, ooo" before a group of other writers including (Yevgeny) Zamyatin and (Vladimir) Mayakovsky, whom we'll hear from later, a long propaganda poem - "150,ooo,ooo is the creator of this poem./ It's rhythms, bullets, it's rhymes, fires from buildings/150,ooo,ooo speak with my lips. Who can/tell the name of the earth's creator? Surely a/ genius. And so of this my poem noone is the author"  
Years later, after all the poets had been starved, shot. or arrested or exiled, or threatened or intimidated, or made to kiss (Josef) Stalin's ass - March 1940, so that would be twenty years later, there's this great poem by Anna Akhmatova called "Requiem", composed of fragments which she wrote over a period of years, from 1935 to (19)40,  up to (19)61, and not published complete in Russia until after 1965, I think (if  then, published complete) - Do you know if that's in Russian?

Ann Charters: No, it's never been (fully available) in Russia.

AG: It's never been published in Russia. It was published outside Russia in Russian, (in Munich, originally, I think, actually)
So, the end of the poem,  the epilogue, is a retrospect view of all the bitter experiences she'd had. The translations [by Stanley Kunitz and Max Haywood] are not particularly great, but you get some of the gist or substance of what she's saying. You've got to realize that under the various terrors and purges almost all of her friends (were killed), like Mandelstam died in 1937 to 1940 (nobody knows exactly when). He was exiled to Siberia by Stalin for a joke poem he wrote about Stalin. And Akhmatova was there in a town called Voronezh, Voronezh, when the cops came to pick him up and busted into the room and grabbed his manuscripts and took them away. So she says [Allen begins reading from Akhmatova's "Requiem"] - "I have learned how faces fell to bone,/how under the eyelid terror lurks,/how suffering inscribes on cheeks/the hard line of its cuneiform texts/ how glossy black or ash-fair locks/turn overnight to tarnished silver,/how smiles fade on submissive lips,/and fear quavers in a dry titter./And I pray not for myself alone.../for all who stood outside the jail,/In bitter cold or summer's blaze/ With me under that blind red wall." - She had spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in a queue outside the jail to see her son who had been arrested by Stalin and had been kept by him, as a cat playing with a mouse, till the (19)40's. He asked her to write a few poems to him and Stalin had her son in jail. So Stalin "had her by the balls", so to speak.

This is the conclusion of the poem - [Allen reads from "Requiem"] - "Remembrance hour returns with the turning year./I see, I hear, I touch you drawing near:/the one we tried to help to the sentry's booth,/and who no longer walks this precious earth,/ and that one who would toss her pretty mane/ and say, "It's just like coming home again."/ I want to name the names of all that host,/but they snatched up the list and now it's lost./ I've woven them a garment that's prepared/out of poor words, those that I overheard,/ and will hold fast to every word and glance/all of my days, even in new mischance,/ and if a gag should bind my tortured mouth,/through which a hundred million people shout/ then let them pray for me, as I do pray/for them, this even of my remembrance day./ And if my country ever should assent/ to casting in my name a monument,/ I should be proud to have my memory graced,/ but only if the monument be placed/ not near the sea on which my eyes first opened -/ my last link with the sea has long been broken -/ nor in the Tsar's garden near the sacred stump,/ where a grieved shadow hants my body's warmth,/ but here, where I endured three hundred hours/in line before the implacable iron bars./ Because even in blissful death I fear/ to lose the clangor of the Black Marias/ to lose the banging of that odious gate,/ and the old crone howling like a wounded beast./ And from my motionless bronze-lidded sockets/ may the melting snow, like teardrops, slowly trickle/and a prison dove coo somewhere, over and over,/as the ships sail softly down the flowing Neva"
  - So, twenty years later, she is saying, "and if a gag should bind my tortured mouth,/through which a hundred million people shout", which is really a colossal claim (even I never could claim I was speaking for a hundred million people all at once! - prophetic). (Vladimir) Mayakovsky said a hundred-and-fifty million ("150,000,000") and I wonder if that's a reference?

Ann Charters: It probably is. Although there are fifty million who supported the regime and two-thirds who did not.
This is a good point also to consider, that Akhmatova's poem is written after the horrors of Stalin, and this is also after Mayakovsky's suicide. We think about Mayakovsky, (and) the perspective in which we hold (him), of course, is the perspective of Akhmatova, basically, which is after the realization of the Gulags - (Aleksandr) Solzhenitsyn's account of the forced labor-camp system which sent twenty million people to their deaths. We're trying to get our minds back, however, to.. remember, Mayakovsky was writing his poems in, for example, 1920, 1922, before all of this, while (Vladimir Ilyich) Lenin was still alive, and he didn't have the sense of failure in the Revolution to the extent that Akhmatova did, obviously, because historical events had not yet moved on.
But yes, remember the two voices speaking for the Russian people - Mayakovsky's first, and then Akhmatova's.


[Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) in 1928, aged 35 - photo by Alexander Rodchenko]  

(Audio for the above may be heard here, starting at the beginning and continuing to approximately eight-and-a-half minutes in)  




to be continued