japonisme: salt

09 June 2007


i have begun to explore today the occurrences of japonisme in russia. illustrated here are two pieces from ivan bilibin, who embraced in his work all of the trademarks of the style, and one, or i should say 'yet another,' poster for the musical 'the geisha.'

but i have found that the poetry movement was effected as well. anna akhmatova was known to have adopted the thinking of what they called 'acmeism.' in the description below, doesn't it sound very much like a combined attitude of craftsman philosophy and japanese awareness?:

'Acmeism, a school in modern Russian poetry, formed after fracturing away from Symbolism -- then the dominant school of the Russian literary scene, which often used words as symbols to express high romanticism in the prophetic and portentousness of the beyond. To the Acmeist, the role of the poet was not to be an oracle or a diviner but a skilled worker. They revolted against Symbolism's vagueness and attempts to privilege emotional suggestion over clarity and vivid sensory images.
...the manifesto for Acmeism... calls for poets to seek beauty in the natural and physical world of their environment -- to be industrious in language and vision in order to reflect the realness of the subject.' 1

i could only find two poems online of anna akhmatova's for which i liked the translations, so while this poem's subject may have nothing to do with this blog's central ideas, perhaps, if we can listen solely to the language, we will hear the clarity that the description predicts.

Lot's Wife

And the just man trailed God's shining agent,
over a black mountain, in his giant track,
while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:
"It's not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,
the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed,
at the empty windows set in the tall house
where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed."

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain
stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .
Her body flaked into transparent salt,
and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn.

Anna Akhmatova

Translated by Max Hayward and Stanley Kunitz

From Poems of Akhmatova, by Anna Akhmatova and translated by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward. Published by Little, Brown & Co. © 1973 by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward. Granted by permission of Darhansoff & Verrill Literary Agency. All rights reserved.

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Blogger Princess Haiku said...

This is a very excellent post and discussion of Anna A.

10 June, 2007 23:53  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks princess--i was just sort of feeling my way.i just got their book of her translations so i'll be looking at that....

13 June, 2007 11:50  
Blogger Dominic Bugatto said...

THose bottom two illustrstions are stunning in their simplicity.

13 June, 2007 12:04  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i'm so glad you think so--i do too. he's an interesting surprise to me. more to come... soon

13 June, 2007 13:46  

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