‘I beg you be logical in the design and structure of your work, … exercise economy in your means, thrift in the use of words, precision and authenticity - then you will discover the secret of a wonderful thing: beauty clarity.’
Mikhail Kuzmin, 1910
Although written previous to the creation of Acmeism, Kuzman's words above have often been perceived as the manifesto for Acmeism. He calls for fellow poets to seek beauty in the natural and physical world of their environment, to be industrious in language and vision in order to reflect the realness of the subject.
Acmeism is a school of modern Russian poetry, founded in 1912 in opposition to Symbolism, which was the dominant school of poetry on the Russian literary scene at the time. Symbolists often used words as symbols to express mystical or Romantic ideals. They believed that there was a categorical divide between the real world and the ideal or spiritual worlds and that poetry served as a kind of pathway that allowed the poet to move away from the debased real word and glimpse an eternal, more beautiful world of spiritual truths. To the Symbolist, the role of the poet was to be an oracle or a diviner, someone who could see through to a deeper, more universal, tragic and touching reality.
In contrast the Acemists, led by Anna Akhmatova, Nikolai Gumilëv, and Osip Mandelstam, believed that poets were just talented human beings rather than the prophets of symbolism and that they should be skilled workers and construct poems to express ideas about culture, the word, and human existence. They revolted against Symbolism's vagueness and attempts to privilege emotional suggestion over clarity and vivid sensory images; they accepted the ordinary denotation of the word as being the core meaning and they committed themselves wholeheartedly to the real, visible, ordinary world of living things and to the view that poetry was something that was valuable in itself and not just as a route to a set of distant mystical truths. They called this set of ideas ‘Integrity.’
The word acme comes from the Greek "akme" which means perfection, fulfilment, flowering and wholeness and the Acmeists built on Aristotle's beliefs that poems were supposed to follow certain kinds of rules in order to be deemed ‘good poems.’ These rules included, for example, displaying a unity between beginning, middle and end and the poet’s job was to follow these rules as closely as possible to create good poetry.