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Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966) had a life that spanned prerevolution Russia, Bolshevism, and Stalinism. Throughout it all, she maintained a restrained, graceful, yet muscular style that could grab a reader by the throat, or the heart, at a moment’s notice. Her themes include romantic yearning and frustration, the pull of the sensory, the emotional power of the mundane, and her belief that a Russian poet could only produce poetry in Russia. By reputation, both Akhmatova’s poems and the poet herself are defined by tragedy and beauty in equal measure, and she is for many the quintessential twentieth-century Russian poet.
You Will Hear Thunder spans Akhmatova’s very early career into the early 1960s. These poems were written through her bohemian prerevolution days, her many marriages, the terror and privation of life under Stalin, and her later years, during which she saw her work once again recognized by the Soviet state. Intricately observed and unwavering in their emotional immediacy, these strikingly modern poems represent one of the twentieth century’s most powerful voices.