I am generally obsessed with Anna Ahkmatova, probably because nothing in my life has anything to do with firing squads, Gulags, or having my statue stare across the Neva river at the gates of Kresty prison in St. Petersburg. (Leningrad)
After the secret police executed her first husband, they arrested her second husband and son. She spent 17 months standing in front of the prison with other wives and mothers, waiting for word of either their execution or exile to the Gulags. What holds me there with her is when she wrote how someone in the line asked her “could one ever describe this?” and after a moment, she replied “Yes. Yes I can.” What astounding confidence, how sure her belief in her skill and her will to give voice to the unbearable. To which she wrote: “Mountains bow down before this grief…”
When I think of how necessary it is to write fearlessly, to stretch the fabric of my words until they tear, I think of Anna standing before the gates. “Yes. Yes I can.”
Here is a word list from her poem “Requiem” If anyone randomly sees this page, feel free to write something and put your link in the comments.
salutation squirmed boots tyres brow icon cap torches poplar sways distance thumped hesitantly mighty doors bolted burrows softly scrape turn