The minute I think of Soviet poets, my mind reels flashes of revolutions, radical thoughts, and civilian struggles. And the verses are going to heat my blood with empathy, anger, and rebellion. Surprisingly, I bumped into something that stirred me with the same sort of soviet feeling but maybe something of a light-toned version. That’s the aftertaste I’m left with reading some of Marina Tsvetaeva’s poems.
Marina Tsvetaeva’s “An Attempt at Jealousy”
The poem is a few minutes’ read, sensibly choosing a few words but exploding them with complex meanings posing difficulty for translators. Tsvetaeva’s poetic diction characterizes her most Russian of all.
The poem opens with cutting to the chase question How is your life with that other one? repeated many times through the end. Such relentless interrogation gradually grows from striking insult (to the woman) to that of pure rivalry (with the relationship).
The weaving of many images such as drifting island (referring to the break-up), cheap goods, postcard and plaster-dust (a cheap building material referring to the woman) help keeps the poem’s mood intact. Some images even bring a healing smile as the one calling his new relationship as that of sisters and not lovers. If you are reading some of the poem’s older translations you will get a better taste of the metaphorical allusions to Zeus, Mount Sinai and Lilith coming from famous mythologies.
Abrupt bounding from one stanza to the next (enjambment) is a clear gander into her hasty-overflowing-mixed-emotions for her ex-lover. Consistently, the speaker vents out her anger, disappointment, and dismisses any worth crying over the break-up or the lover. But towards the end, one could well relate to an anxious woman desirously missing something which was once hers and longing to empathize with her: In a shallow pit—how is your life, /, my beloved? Hard as mine/ with another man? I see Tsvetaeva as a memoirist in lyrics rather than a soviet or revolutionary poet, owing greatly to her intensity in transforming personal emotions (such as her own life’s many romances).
Wait! Have I done justice to Marina Tsvetaeva by choosing this poem? Shouldn’t I be picking one of her poems that exhibits her style of satire, sarcasm, and rebellion of the times, instead? No! Though many of her contemporaries mushroomed into movements during exile, Tsvetaeva has freely rejected to fit into any and she read and wrote poems purely for its aesthetics rather than tags.
Moscow-born, her poems take the side of the white army praising their many fights against the red army of Bolsheviks (a Marxist radical group). Tsvetaeva’s several poems are penned during her stay in Paris (exile) and have been compiled into many collections such as Milestones, After Russia, A Poem of the End, and so on.
I’ve always wanted to put my reading experience into writing—venting out. With the fecund digital and social space, I’ve decided now the right time to plunge into my ambitious desire of getting to know as many women writers across the world, through their works, regardless of their geographic and ethnic existence. Yet, I’m against the idea of branding my blog as feminist as I choose to read on them purely for the writers’ purport and their ardent works.
I’d like you to be a part of my reading journey and get to know along with me the women writers who’ve been silently transfiguring their areas of interest.