- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Anna Akhmatova on Silence, Poetry, Love, Memory, and More.


Happy birthday, Anna Akhmatova! Here are some quotes from the writer:


“I defend not my voice, but my silence.”


“I am in the middle of it: chaos and poetry; poetry and love and again, complete chaos. Pain, disorder, occasional clarity; and at the bottom of it all: only love; poetry. Sheer enchantment, fear, humiliation. It all comes with love.”


“I have a lot of work to do today;
I need to slaughter memory,
Turn my living soul to stone
Then teach myself to live again…”


“And if you knew from what scraps
Poems are born—without shame
Like yellow dandelions by a wormy fence,
Like wild spinach or the common burr.”


“I marvel at everything as if it were new.”


“Regarding myself as a mere echo,
Cave-like, unintelligible, and nocturnal…”


“The whole time I was hoping my silence would fit yours and exclamation marks would gently float across time and space so that boundaries would be crossed; the whole time I was praying you would read my eyes and understand what I was never able to understand. See, we were never about butterflies. We’ve always been about burning stars. All about us is unearthly and radiant.”


“As the future ripens in the past,
so the past rots in the future—
a terrible festival of dead leaves.”


“I seem to myself, as in a dream,
An accidental guest in this dreadful body.”


“I am not one of those who left the land
to the mercy of its enemies.
Their flattery leaves me cold,
my songs are not for them to praise.”


“Surely the reckoning will be made
after the passing of this cloud.


“Each of our lives is a Shakespearean drama raised to the thousandth degree. Mute separations, mute black, bloody events in every family…A new epoch has begun. You and I will wait for it together.”


“We thought we were beggars, we thought we had nothing at all
But then when we started to lose one thing after another,
Each day became
A memorial day—
And then we made songs
Of great divine generosity
And of our former riches.”


  • John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

Leave a Reply