Born: Moscow, Russia, 26 September 1892. Education: Educated at schools in Switzerland and Germany, and at the Sorbonne, Paris. Family: Married Sergei Efron in 1912 (executed 1939); two daughters and one son. Career: Emigrated in 1922 to Berlin, then Prague and Paris; returned to the USSR in 1939, but ostracized and unable to publish. Died: (suicide) 31 August 1941.



Izbrannoe [Selection], edited by V. Orlov. 1961; revised edition, as Izbrannyeproizvedeniia [Selected Works], 1965.

Izbrannaiaproza v dvukh tomakh 1917-1937 [Selected Prose], edited by Alexander Sumerkin. 1979.

Stikhotvoreniia ipoemy [Poetry and Narrative Verse], edited by A.A. Saakiants. 1980.

Stikhotvoreniia ipoemy vpiati tomakh [Poetry and Narrative Verse], edited by Alexander Sumerkin and Viktoria Schweitzer. 5 vols., 1980-93.

Sochineniia [Works], edited by A.A. Saakiants. 2 vols., 1980.

Teatr [Theatre], edited by A.A. Saakiants. 1988.

Sobranie sochinenii, poem i dramaticheskikhproizvedenii [Collected Works, Poetry, and Dramatic Works], edited by A.A. Saakiants. 3 vols., 1990.

Captive Spirit: Selected Prose, edited and translated by J. Marin King. 1994.

Poem of the End: Selected Narrative and Lyrical Poetry, translated by Nina Kossman with Andrew Newcomb. 1998.


Vechernii al’bom [Evening Album]. 1910.

Volshebnyifonar’ [Magic Lantern]. 1912.

Iz dvukh knig [From Two Books] (selections). 1913.

Versty [Mileposts]. 1921.

Versty, Vypusk I [Mileposts: Book One]. 1922.

Razluka [Separation]. 1922.

Stikhi k Bloku [Poems to Blok]. 1922.

Tsar’-devitsa [Tsar-Maiden]. 1922.

Remeslo [Craft]. 1923.

Psikheia [Psyche]. 1923.

Molodets [The Swain]. 1924.

Posle Rossii. 1928; as After Russia (bilingual edition), translated by Michael M. Nayden, 1992.

Lebedinyi stan. 1957; as The Demesne of the Swan, edited and translated by Robin Kemball, 1980.

Prosto serdtse [Simply the Heart]. 1967.

Stikhotvoreniia ipoemy [Poetry and Narrative Verse]. 1979.

Selected Poems, translated by Elaine Feinstein. 1971; revised editions, 1981, 1986.

Stikhotvoreniia [Poetry]. 1983.

Three Russian Women Poets (with Anna Akhmatova and Bella Akhmadulina), edited and translated by Mary Maddock. 1983.

Stikhotvoreniia. Izbrannaia lirika 1908-1939 [Poetry. Selected Lyrics]. 1986.

Poemy; Stikhotvoreniia [Narrative Verse; Poetry]. 1987.

Selected Poems, translated by David McDuff. 1987.

Stikhi i poemy [Poems and Narrative Verse]. 1988.

In the Inmost Hour of the Soul, translated by Nina Kossman. 1989.

Vpolemike s vekom [Polemics with the Century]. 1991.

Sivilla [Seville]. 1991.

The Ratcatcher: A Lyrical Satire, translated by Angela Livingstone. 1999.


Konets Kazanovy [Casanova's End]. 1922.


Proza [Prose]. 1953.

Proza [Prose]. 1969.

Pis’ma k Anne Teskovoi [Letters to Anna Teskovoi], edited by V. Morkovin. 1969.

Pis’ma k raznym litsam [Letters to Various Persons]. 1969.

Neizdannye pis’ma [Unpublished Letters], edited by Gleb and Nikita Struve. 1972.

Marina Cvetaeva, Boris Pasternak, Rainer Maria Rilke: Lettere 1926, edited by Yevgeny Pasternak, Yelena Pasternak, and Konstantin M. Azadovsky. 1980; as Letters, Summer 1926: Correspondence Between Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetaeva and Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Margaret Wettlin and Walter Arndt, 1985.

‘Poklonis’ Moskvy. . . [Worship Moscow. . . ] (poetry, prose, diaries, letters). 1989.

Prosa, edited by A.A. Saakiants. 1989.

Avtobiograficheskaiaproza [Autobiographical Prose]. 1991.

Gde otstypaetsia liubov’. . . [Where Love Renounces. . . ]. 1991.

Poemy. Dramaticheskie proizvedeniia [Narrative Verse. Dramatic Works]. 1992.

Vospominaniia [Reminiscences], edited by L.A. Mnukhin and L.M.Turchinskii. 1992.

Art in the Light of Conscience: Eight Essays on Poetry, translated by Angela Livingston. 1992.

Earthly Signs, translated and edited by Jamey Gambrell. 2002.

Critical Studies:

Cvetaeva: Her Life and Art, 1966, and Tsvetaeva: The Woman, Her World and Her Poetry, 1985, both by Simon Karlinsky; Cvetaeva: Studien und Materialien edited by Horst Lampl and Aage A. Hansen-Love, 1981; ”A Poet and Prose” and ”Footnote to a Poem,” both by Iosif Brodskii, in Less than One, 1986; The Life of Marina Tsvetayeva by Elaine Feinstein, 1987; Terrible Perfection: Women and Russian Literature by Barbara Heldt, 1987; A Life through Poetry: Marina Tsvetaeva’s Lyric Diary by Jane A. Taubman, 1989; Marina Tsvetayeva: A Critical Biography by Maria Razumovsky, 1990; Tsvetaeva by Viktoria Schweitzer, translated by Robert Chandler, H.T. Willers, and Peter Norman, 1993; Marina Tsvetaeva: Poetics of Appropriation by Michael Markin, 1994; Tsvetaeva’s Orphic Journeys in the Worlds of the Word by Olga Peters Hasty, 1996; Russian Psyche: The Poetic Mind of Marina Tsvetaeva by Alyssa W. Dinega, 2001.

Marina Tsvetaeva, who was called ”the most Russian of poets,” ”a poet’s poet,” and ”a poet of sacrifice,” died virtually forgotten: nobody attended her funeral and the location of her grave is not known. Today she enjoys international fame and respect. Her life was a tragedy; but her work is a triumph. Her reputation has gone ”beyond and above” her fellow poets, including many of the most outstanding. Her poetry offers in many ways the culmination of modern poetry’s concern with language. With her, language assumes an importance far greater than we might ever have imagined: she marks its concern with the creation and maintenance of existential orders. Tsvetaeva’s poetry plays a part in what constitutes an enormous intellectual challenge for the reader: ”The rediscovery of the pun,” i.e., the rediscovery of the vital interconnections of language and reality, that we find in Shakespeare. Her mystical belief in the power of poetry was expressed in one of her earliest poems, dated 1913:

Thrown carelessly about the dusty shelves of bookshops, Untouched, then, now, by any reader’s thumb, My poems, stored deep like wines of precious vintage, I know their time will come.

Throughout her life she was forced to speak not only across space, but also across time. It took so long for her to be accepted as among the great, not only because of her life and her character, but because of the very nature of her poetry. Her first collection of verse, privately printed, was noticed only by fellow poets. Her next two books of lyrics had mixed reviews, although Pasternak praised her ”tremendous, uniquely powerful language.” Both in Russia and in exile she had failed to find a reading public. As she said: ”For those on the Right it [her poetry] is Left in form. For those on the Left it is Right in content.” Her loyalty to all the ”old oaths” was out of fashion in post-revolutionary Russia. Outcast by fellow emigres, she proclaimed the absolute, unsullied concepts of honour, duty, and justice: ”I have two foes in the world, twins inextricably interrelated—the hunger of the hungry and the glut of the glutted.” This ”calvinistic spirit of personal responsibility,” as Brodskii called it, is felt in all her works. ”A single one—from everyone—for everyone—against everyone,” she stated her place in life and in poetry. An aesthetic rebel, Tsvetaeva was striving all her life towards ”boundlessness” (bezmernost’) that became one of the major themes of her poetry as well as its principle.

Her ethics are in many ways determined by her aesthetics. Her massive self-confidence was based on her idealistic cult of the Poet: ”. . . there are not poets, there is one single poet, one and the same from the beginning of creation to the end.” A keen, poetic, and fertile intelligence is revealed in Tsvetaeva’s innovative treatment of language and in her profound meditation on time and the tragedy of human existence. She demonstrated that language itself is interested in tragic content: by using dactylic rhymes, for instance, she created an intonation of lament. With her, the density of the sentence is often achieved by omission of the verbs ”compensated by a brilliant and characteristic use of inflection, especially dative and instrumental case endings, a tactic beyond the scope of any translator,” as John Bayley has written. Forceful alliteration and internal rhymes allow her to expand the formal and semantic possibilities of the end-rhyme. She was a master of enjambment, a device she used to attack ”the most inhumanely senseless of words: se-pa-ration.” This insane, unnatural state of being was, in fact, her fate. Separated from her country, from her family, from her readers, she wrote shortly before her suicide, ”I don’t want to die. I want not to be”:

I refuse to be. In the mad house of inhuman.

I refuse to live. With the wolves

of the market place. I refuse to howl . . . .

She saw even death in linguistic terms, ”tot svet … ne bez—a vse—iazychen” [the other world is not without language, it is multilingual]. There is a constant awareness of the power of language to shape and explode perception of the world. She commemorated all her love affairs, real and imaginary, in her poetry. Again and again, language takes her to such heights and with such speed that neither experience nor imagination can compete with it. She had written the finest love poems ever addressed to a man. All her lovers, even those ”who can stand the sunlight,” wither under Tsvetaeva’s gaze. Her ”emotional superiority” was equal to her linguistic capacity to surprise. In her numerous letters, in her brilliant prose, and in theoretical essays she displayed the same degree of dependence on language as in her poetry. She did an enormous service to Russian poetry by creating a new linguistic space. She influenced a whole new generation of poets, including Brodskii, who has written the most penetrating appreciation of her poetry and prose.

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