The construction of poetic identity in three women poets: Pozzi, Mistral, and Akhmatova

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Strems-Tregear, Ineta
Baldridge, Wilson

This paper explores the construction of poetic identity in three women-poets: Catherine Pozzi, Gabriela Mistral, and Anna Akhmatova by studying relationships between the poets’ life and their poetry. It is focused on tragic or controversial situations in these poets’ lives and the reflections of these situations in images of love and suffering in their poems. My intention is to show that biographical approach retains its value in literary criticism under condition that its limitations are acknowledged. The dark, intertexual, and mysterious images of love and suffering in Pozzi’s poems reflects her poetic identity, which was formed as “sum-total” (Leslie Fiedler) of her knowledge of literature, philosophy, religion, and science; her cultural and intellectual environment; her sophisticated personality together with her sensitivity and long physical struggle with incurable illness. I can only speculate on Mistral’s possible lesbian identity by analyzing her poetry because poetic identity and biographical facts are not the same. Some expression of suffering of her poems certainly relates to the image of “other” woman that Mistral wanted to kill. Akhmatova’s famous cycle Requiem is autobiographical, but it would be a mistake to reduce the poem to the tragic story of her life. Requiem includes many poetic identities: poetic “I”, but also “we” who can be Russian women, those who suffered with Akhmatova, or those who mourned their dead in other historical times, or unnamed peasant woman who was crying on the river Don, or even Virgin Mary when she was staying in silence next to her dying son. We conclude in thesis that there is no direct connection between the poets’ life and their poetic identities; this connection is always mediated. But learning about poets’ live experiences adds more to the meaning and understanding of their poetry.

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature