Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Ida Nappelbaum’s poetic dialogue with Nikolai Gumilev

Fri31  Mar02:30pm(15 mins)
McIntyre Room 201


Dave Weller1
1 University of Exeter, UK


Ida Nappelbaum was not the only poet who commemorated Gumilev’s death in verse, but she was the only one that sustained a poetic dialogue with his memory for almost seventy years. Nappelbaum’s poetry is rich with references, resonances and reminiscence of other poets but the poet she addressed the most was her ‘maitre’, Nikolai Gumilev, leader of the ‘Sounding Shell’ studio where he taught her the craft of being a poet. It was a portrait of Gumilev that contributed to Nappelbaum’s imprisonment in the Gulag in the early 1950s, whilst her memoirs of him contributed to his rehabilitation in the 1980s. In this paper I will show how the literal and metaphorical portrait of the poet in her verse mythologises Gumilev and simultaneously reflects the development of Nappelbaum’s own poetic self. The events of Gumilev’s execution, her own imprisonment and the fate of kindred poetic souls are inextricably linked in an ‘eternal knot’, an historical thread that Nappelbaum draws through a sequence of fifteen poems.