Ever since Pushkin, Russian poets have been famous for their ability to combine private and public experience in lyric poetry of a comprehensiveness and intensity unmatched elsewhere. Ranging in extremes from the melting tenderness of unrequited love to the bitter comedy of political chaos, this collection of poems covering two centuries includes work by Lermontov, Tyutchev, Fet, Annensky,Mayakovsky, Bely, Mandelstam, Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Pasternak, Brodsky and others less celebrated but no less extraordinary. The text is divided into six sections. Russian poets constantly reflect on their art, so the first section is appropriately entitled ‘The Muse’. Their other great topic is Russia herself, explored in parts two and three. Part four presents the inner world, parts five and six traditional themes of love and mortality. Poetry has often been a matter of life and death in Russia, where Mandelstam was not the only poet to perish in the Gulag. The comfortable private domain familiar to many English and American writers barely exists in a country where political realities are exigent – one reason for the fierce intensity found in so many of these poems.
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