Between the fullness of desire and the fulfillment of desires,
between the fullness of suffering and the emptiness of happiness-
my choice was made from birth and before birth.!
Introduction
M
arina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva (1892- 1941) is finally receiving recog-
nition as one of the major Russian poets of this century. In
her lifetime she was admired by such renowned poets as Boris
Pasternak and Rainer Maria Rilke; Anna Akhmatova saw her as an equal. Yet
she had to struggle to have her writings published. Some of her major works
appeared only posthumously and remained unknown to the wider Russian
audience until recently. In the last twenty years interest in Tsvetaeva - her life
and work - has quickened, stirred in this country by Simon Karlinsky's pio-
neering studies. More and more of her works are published and translated.
Joseph Brodsky and Susan Sontag are among her admirers. In Paris, Tsvetaeva
books fill the book stores. In New York and Boston, Claire Bloom reads her
poems to packed audiences. In Russia, Tsvetaeva scholarship flourishes and
biographies of her, her letters, and reminiscences by her contemporaries are
Widely read. She has also become a cult figure; tours of people old and young
visit her Moscow apartment, leaving lines from her poetry on the walls as
she used
to
do. One of her plays has been produced for the first time; new
editions of her poetry are sold out. A Tsvetaeva museum is planned.
What brought about this resurrection? Certainly it is the power of her
poetry. Tsvetaeva herself stressed that she did not belong to her time, that a
poet belonged to no time and to all time, to no country and to any coun-
try. She sang about the passion of love and the yearning for a better be-
yond, about the fate of the poet, about alienation and loneliness. Death was
always there.
Tsvetaeva
had nothing but contempt for the materialism of the philistines.
In her lyrical world what mattered was the intensity of being, heroism, cour-
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