Monday, April 26, 2010

Marina Tsvetaeva

Marina Tsetaeva was born and raised in Moscow, but later traveled to Koktebel, a common retreat for Russian poets near the Blak Sea. Her father was a professor, and her mother was a concert pianist. She had a fascinating love life including affairs with two poets - one male, and one female - which she chronicles in many of her poems. Her fmaily, consisting of her husband and two daughters, was hit hard by the famine that struck Moscow in the late 1910s and early '20s. One daughter died, and the family moved to Prague, where Tsetaeva continued to run wild with society's elite, this time a former military officer. Tsetaeva and her family lived abraod for years, returning to the Soviet Union in 1939 where they were viewed with much suspiscion for having chosen to live away for decades. The suspiscion ultimately took its toll. After two years of struggling to live in the paranoid USSR, Tsetaeva hanged herself in 1941. She was not yet fifty.

Much Like Me

Much like me, you make your way forward,
Walking with downturned eyes.
Well, I too kept mine lowered.
Passer-by, stop here, please.

Read, when you've picked your nosegay
Of henbane and poppy flowers,
That I was once called Marina,
And discover how old I was.

Don't think that there's any grave here,
Or that I'll come and throw you out ...
I myself was too much given
To laughing when one ought not.

The blood hurtled to my complexion,
My curls wound in flourishes ...
I was, passer-by, I existed!
Passer-by, stop here, please.

And take, pluck a stem of wildness,
The fruit that comes with its fall --
It's true that graveyard strawberries
Are the biggest and sweetest of all.

All I care is that you don't stand there,
Dolefully hanging your head.
Easily about me remember,
Easily about me forget.

How rays of pure light suffuse you!
A golden dust wraps you round ...
And don't let it confuse you,
My voice from under the ground.

This poem surprised me with its honesty. All of the other poems I read of hers were more metaphorical and harder to decipher. This one, though, was so heartfelt that I could not help but think that this is how she must have felt when she returned to her homeland to closed doors and whispers about her goings on abroad. "Much Like Me" is written from the perspective of Marina after death. But, instead of it being from a ghost's point of view, it seems to be spoken by the corpse itself who misses being remembered and having life in her face and her curly hair. Marina wants to be remembered for something. Anything. She does not want to be someone who is mourned and forgotten. She is asking the passerby to feel something for her other than sadness. I belive that, if the reader is to believe that Marina is indeed Marina Tsvetaeva, that this poem goes as far as to say that Tsvetaeva was wrong to mourn over the loss of her daughter. She writes, "I too kept [my eyes] lowered" as she walked through graveyards; but, now, she seems what it is like to be feared and pitied after death. I feel that the honesty in this poem shows Tsvetaeva's power to connect events in her life, past, present, and future. She discussed her death in straight-forward terms, and learned from writing about it, just as she learned from what actually occurred in her life on a daily basis.

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