Wild Honey UK 2020

This poem above is a loose translation of “Wild Honey” by the great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. It is one of her most famous poems.

The slightly altered title here is an acknowledgement of just how loose the translation is. The poem’s original was written in 1934, after Stalin’s purges had begun.

I do not know Russian and have worked instead from other English translations, principally those by Jo Shapcott (as reproduced by “Moderrn Poetry in Translation) and Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky (as reproduced by the Indiana Review, Indiana University).

Akhmatova’s first verse, or section, is the more famous and the second is often left out of reproductions of her poem.

In that second section, Akhmatova uses two images of an unworthy leader : the first, Pontius Pilate (who washed his hands) ; the second, Mary Queen of Scots (who is suspected of being party to the murder of Lord Darnley). The poet would perhaps have preferred to refer more directly to Stalin, if she had been free to.

In the second section here, I go largely my own way and refer to my own time and country for images of unworthy leadership. In this, I am partly following Jo Shapcott’s example. But whereas her second section refers to the Iraq war, mine refers to the UK, in 2020.

Copyright © Rogan Wolf – Poet and Social Worker
In all our sanctuaries we sit at risk

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