July 13, 2015

Blithe ignorance of Russian Literature

PRI She randomly opened a book of Russian poetry a friend had sent her and began reading a poem by the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, “Like a White Stone.” By Alina Simone

'Soon, she found herself sitting at the piano.

'“It would go from a handful of interesting words on a page to this — suddenly the air entered the room, for me. I could feel when the melody was the right melody for the text,” she says. “I felt like I went inside of the poem.”

'The result was "The Trackless Woods," an album based on 18 of Akhmatova’s poems.

'But who was Anna Akhmatova? Born Anna Gorenko to an aristocratic family in the 19th century, she lived through the Russian Revolution and two world wars. You could say the scars she bore became poems. Her family history reads like a playbook of 20th century Soviet horrors — executions, imprisonment, censorship — but her will to survive, and the beauty that she wrought from pain, made her literary royalty. She became the people’s poetess.'

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