Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva (1887 - 1938)
Marina Tsvetaeva was the Russian poet, prose writer. She was born in a family of professor of the Moscow University, Ivan Vladimirovich. Her mother was very talanted pianist, but died very early and left two daughters (Marina and sister) in the charge of father.
Tsvetaeva is first of all a poet-lyricist, not only because the sheer volume and quality of her lyric poetry is remarkable, but also because her lyrical voice remains markedly audible in her narrative poetry, her prose, and her letters. Her lyric poems fill ten collections; the uncollected lyrics would add another, substantial volume. Her first two collections indicate their subject matter in their titles: Evening Album (Vecherny al'bom, 1910) and The Magic Lantern (Volshebnyi fonar', 1912). The poems present cameo scenes of a childhood and youth passed quietly in the nursery, study and ballroom of a professorial, middle-class home in Moscow. The viewpoint is intimate but never trivial or banal; the poems reveal the young poet's mastery of the five standard syllabotonic verse meters and her inventiveness in devising uncommon stanza forms, traits of versification that persist in her later poetry alongside her characteristic innovations: the logaoedic lines and the inter-stanzaic enjambements.
The full range of Tsvetaeva's talent developed quickly and made itself evident in two new collections which share the same title: Mileposts (Versty, 1921) and Mileposts: Book One (Versty, Vypusk I, 1922). Three hallmarks of Tsvetaeva's mature style emerge in the Mileposts collections. First, Tsvetaeva dates each of her poems and publishes them, with a few exceptions, in strictly chronological order. All the poems in Mileposts: Book One, for example, were written in 1916 and form a kind of diary in verse. Secondly, there are cycles of poems which fall into fairly regular chronological sequence among the single poems, evidence that certain themes sought sustained expression and variation. One such cycle, in fact, announces the theme of Mileposts: Book I as a whole--the "Poems on Moscow." Two other cycles are dedicated to poets, the "Poems to Akhmatova" and the "Poems to Blok," which reappear, further amplified, in a separate volume, Poems to Blok (Stikhi k Bloku, 1922). Thirdly, the Mileposts collections reveal the essential dramatist in Tsvetaeva, her ability to don verbal masques, to speak as another character, to merge the dramatic and the lyric in monologues, dialogues, choruses, and one-sided perorations.
The years of Revolution and civil war brought special hardships to Tsvetaeva; her husband Sergei Efron was a White Army officer and Tsvetaeva was cut off and alone in Moscow while he fought on the Crimean front. These years produced the poems of The Swans' Demesne (Lebedinyi stan, Stikhi 1917-1921, published in 1957) celebrating the White Army. In 1922 Tsvetaeva learned that Efron had survived and had left Russia. She took her young daughter Ariadna (born in 1912--another daughter had died in infancy from the wartime famines) and joined her husband in Berlin, from which city the family migrated first to Prague and later to Paris in 1925, the same year in which Tsvetaeva's son Georgy was born. Thus, Tsvetaeva's last two collections of lyrics were published by emigre presses, Craft (Remeslo, 1923) in Berlin and After Russia (Posle Rossii, 1928) in Paris. These two collections display the heights of Tsvetaeva's lyric power. The outpouring of cycles continues and accelerates. Their expanded thematic and vocal range encompasses the nocturnal secrecy of the twenty-three "Berlin" poems, the pantheistic exaltation of "Trees" (Derev'ya), the stoic renunciation of "Cables" (Provoda) and "Pairs" (Dvoe), and the tragic, proud credo of "Poets" (Poety). Again, the poems betoken future developments. Foremost among these is the voice of "the Greek Tsvetaeva" heard in the cycles "The Sibyl," "Phaedra," and "Ariadne." Tsvetaeva's beloved, ill-fated heroines reappear in two important verse plays, Theseus-Ariadne (Tezei-Ariadna, 1927) and Phaedra (Fedra, 1928), which form the first two parts of an uncompleted trilogy entitled Aphrodite's Rage. The satirist in Tsvetaeva is second only to the poet-lyricist. Several satirical poems, moreover, are among Tsvetaeva's best-known works: "The Train of Life" (Poezd zhizni) and "The Floorcleaners' Song" (Poloterskaya), both included in After Russia, and The Ratcatcher (Krysolov, published in 1925 and 1926 in journal installments), a long, folkloric narrative sometimes considered Tsvetaeva's greatest work. The target of Tsvetaeva's satire is everything petty and kleinburgerlich. Unleashed against such middling, creature comforts is the vengeful, unearthly energy of workers both manual and creative. Thus, in her notebook, Tsvetaeva writes of "The Floorcleaners' Song": "Overall movement: the floorcleaners ferret out a house's hidden things, they scrub a fire into the door... What do they flush out? Coziness, warmth, tidiness, order... Smells: incense, piety. Bygones. Yesterday... The growing force of their threat must be stronger than the climax."
Tsvetaeva's last ten years in emigration, from 1928 when After Russia appeared to her departure for the Soviet Union in 1939, have rightly been called the "prose decade." It was preceded, however, by two series of prose pieces: a set of short sketches related to the revolutionary and civil-war period from 1917 to 1920, and a set of literary essays dating from 1922 to 1931. The literary work comprises criticism, short tributes to the poets Balmont, Kuzmin, Bryusov, Mandelshtam, and Rilke, and a portrait of the painter Natalya Goncharova.
The great prose decade opens with two essays that examine literature in the perspective of history and ethics: "The Poet and Time" (Poet i vremya) and "Art in the Light of Conscience" (Iskusstvo pri svete sovesti), both published in 1932. In 1933 Tsvetaeva's prose began to draw heavily on her past, although few of the some twenty prose pieces of this period can be called "autobiographical" in the usual sense of that word. Rather, the prose begins from Tsvetaeva's strongly-sensed duty to preserve a vanished past and then plunges beyond autobiography into a mythic recreation of her childhood that serves, in turn, as a metaphor for the genesis and destiny of the poet. This mytho-biography emerges in four long prose pieces. Written separately and published in rather misleading alternation with more conventionally autobiographical short works, "The House at Old Pimen" (Dom u Starogo Pimena, 1934), "Mother and Music" (Mat' i muzyka, 1935), "The Devil" (Chert, 1935), and "My Pushkin" (Moi Pushkin, 1937), present the ancestry and birth of the poet in quasi-autobiographical settings which, although charmingly authentic, function primarily as clues to the literary and mythical constants in which the poet's real life is lived.
Tsvetaeva rightly belongs in the quartet of Russia's greatest 20th-century poets along with Akhmatova, Mandelshtam, and Pasternak. And Tsvetaeva became conscious of her place very early on. Her correspondence, which comprises about three solid volumes, includes a remarkable exchange of letters with Pasternak and many other letters devoted to literature. Poetry and poets dominate all other themes in Tsvetaeva's work, a trait she shares with her great contemporaries. And other poets have most eloquently characterized Tsvetaeva's particular genius. Thus, Pasternak's praise of Mileposts can be extended to all Tsvetaeva's poetry:
"I was immediately tamed by the lyrical power of Tsvetaeva's form, which had become her very flesh and blood, which had strong lungs, had a tight, concentrated hold, which did not gasp for breath between lines but encompassed without a break in rhythm whole sequences of stanzas, developing their innate elements."