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Vladimir Mayakovsky

Vladimir Mayakovsky

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Vladimir Mayakovsky was born in Bagdadi, Georgia, on 7th July, 1893. At the age of fourteen Mayakovsky took part in socialist demonstrations at the town of Kutaisi.

In 1906 Mayakovsky moved to Moscow with his mother. He joined the illegal Social Democratic Labour Party and over the next ten years was arrested several times and spent eleven months in prison. While in Butyrka Prison in 1909, he began to write poetry.

Eugene Lyons, the author of Assignment in Utopia (1937), has pointed out: "Mayakovsky had begun his literary life under tsarism as an imagist. He welcomed the revolution as unshackling creative energies and giving a right of way to literary experiment. But he accepted also its profounder purposes as social change. Unlike a good many other poets, he harnessed his Muse to the needs of the new era not only willingly but with loud hurrahs of enthusiasm."

On his release from prison in 1909 he attended Moscow Art School where he formed the Cubo-Futurist Group with David Burlyuk. Mayakovsky attempted to join the Russian Army on the outbreak of the First World War. Instead he found employment at the Petrograd Military Automobile School as a draftsman. During this period he completed two major poems, A Cloud in Trousers (1915) and The Backbone Flute (1916), a poem that dealt with his affair with a married woman, Lilya Brik and the trauma of the war.

Mayakovsky fully supported the October Revolution and this inspired such poems as Ode to Revolution (1918) and Left March (1919). He also contributed drawings and text for hundreds of propaganda posters calling for a Bolshevik victory in the Civil War. He also wrote a 3,000 line elegy on the death of Lenin. Mitchell Abidor has argued that: "Mayakovsky... put his considerable talents at the service of the new state. He produced posters, films and political poems in order to reach as broad a mass as possible. The death of Lenin profoundly moved him, and he gave countless readings in factories, clubs, and at party meetings around the Soviet Union."

Eugene Lyons met him in Moscow and described him as "a tall, broad-shouldered fellow who dressed like an apache, Mayakovsky gloried in tough-guy gestures and wore the adjective proletarian like a challenge to the world. But there was too much bluster in his attitude to be wholly convincing. In an occasional nostalgic line of rare beauty, in a casual sigh in the very midst of some blood-and-thunder invocation to duty, he betrayed the suppressed lyricist and romanticist."

Mayakovsky became increasingly critical of the Soviet government under Joseph Stalin. His plays, The Bedbug (1929) and The Bathhouse (1930) were thinly disguised satires on Stalin's authoritarianism. As a result he was attacked as a follower of Leon Trotsky. Increasingly disillusioned with communism and denied a visa to travel abroad, Vladimir Mayakovsky committed suicide in Moscow on 14th April, 1930.

In his suicide note he wrote: “Do not blame anyone for my death and please do not gossip. The deceased terribly dislike this sort of thing. Mamma, sisters and comrades, forgive me - this is not a way out (I do not recommend it to others), but I have none other. Lily - love me…Comrades of VAPP - do not think me weak-spirited. Seriously - there was nothing else I could do.”

Beat the squares with the tramp of rebels!

Higher, rangers of haughty heads!

We'll wash the world with a second deluge,

Now’s the hour whose coming it dreads.

Too slow, the wagon of years,

The oxen of days — too glum.

Our god is the god of speed,

Our heart — our battle drum.

Is there a gold diviner than ours?

What wasp of a bullet us can sting?

Songs are our weapons, our power of powers,

Our gold — our voices — just hear us sing!

Meadow, lie green on the earth!

With silk our days for us line!

Rainbow, give color and girth

To the fleet-foot steeds of time.

The heavens grudge us their starry glamour.

Bah! Without it our songs can thrive.

Hey there, Ursus Major, clamour

For us to be taken to heaven alive!

Sing, of delight drink deep,

Drain spring by cups, not by thimbles.

Heart step up your beat!

Our breasts be the brass of cymbals.

The drum of war thunders and thunders.

It calls: thrust iron into the living.

From every country

slave after slave

are thrown onto bayonet steel.

For the sake of what?

The earth shivers


and stripped.

Mankind is vapourised in a blood bath

only so



can get hold of Albania.

Human gangs bound in malice,

blow after blow strikes the world

only for

someone’s vessels

to pass without charge

through the Bosporus.


the world

won’t have a rib intact.

And its soul will be pulled out.

And trampled down

only for someone,

to lay

their hands on


Why does

a boot

crush the Earth — fissured and rough?

What is above the battles’ sky -




When will you stand to your full height,


giving them your life?

When will you hurl a question to their faces:

Why are we fighting?

Past one o’clock. You must have gone to bed.

The Milky Way streams silver through the night.

I’m in no hurry; with lightning telegrams

I have no cause to wake or trouble you.

And, as they say, the incident is closed.

Love’s boat has smashed against the daily grind.

Now you and I are quits. Why bother then

To balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts.

Behold what quiet settles on the world.

Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.

In hours like these, one rises to address

The ages, history, and all creation.

The tragedy of that stifled, gritty period in Soviet art was underlined, for me at any rate, by the suicide of the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.

Mayakovsky had begun his literary life under tsarism as an imagist. Unlike a good many other poets, he harnessed his Muse to the needs of the new era not only willingly but with loud hurrahs of enthusiasm.

If Sergei Yessenin, the lyric playboy of the emotions, represented the "pure" poet, free and singing, Mayakovsky made of himself the disciplined poet, who had tamed his talents and used them like domestic animals to do the work of the revolution. Yessenin wrote a farewell note in his own blood and hung himself in 1925. Mayakovsky wept over that death but castigated that futile gesture. "In this life it is easy to die," he wrote, "to build life is hard."

Mayakovsky lived, lived lustily and fully, in the day-to-day tasks of the harsh years. He jeered at the "Russian soul" and romantic private emotions. He hammered out hymns to ruthlessness, to machinery, to the G.P.U. that was his country's new fate, and he bellowed his disdain for the romanticists and esthetes. His poems were staccato and shrill, he shrank from no vulgarity, he dragged the moon and the stars down to earth as raw stuff for the Five Year Plan.

A tall, broad-shouldered fellow who dressed like an apache, Mayakovsky gloried in tough-guy gestures and wore the adjective "proletarian" like a challenge to the world. In an occasional nostalgic line of rare beauty, in a casual sigh in the very midst of some blood-and-thunder invocation to duty, he betrayed the suppressed lyricist and romanticist.

Some of his readers lacked the sharpness of ear to detect the weeping under his Homeric laughter; others pretended not to hear. He was accepted as the hard-boiled voice of a hard-boiled epoch.

And suddenly in April, 1930, the news was out that Mayakovsky had killed himself; more shocking than that, killed himself because of a silly love affair with a married actress. He left a shamefacedly flippant note to his comrades on RAPP, indicating that his "love-boat" had foundered on the shoals of reality.

The man who had made of himself a symbol of impersonal, collectivized emotion, whose derision of bourgeois parlor-and-bedroom dramas still echoed all around him, died like a Dostoievsky character. "I know this is not the way out," he apologized, "I recommend it to no one - but I have no other course."

Curiously enough, no one thought it strange. In its subconscious mind, the Russian people had never really believed his bluster. The denial of the importance of individual happiness or individual pain enforced by the Kremlin was only on the surface. The petty literary dictators pretended to regard the suicide as a sort of fit of insanity unrelated to the real Mayakovsky; they scolded him for his despair. Yet they knew what the Russian people felt instinctively: that Mayakovsky's suicide was the answer to the dehumanized brutalities which he had himself celebrated.

Do not blame anyone for my death and please do not gossip. Seriously - there was nothing else I could do.

Vladimir Mayakovsky - History

Vladimir Mayakovsky

BORN : 1893, Bagdadi, Georgia

Revolution: A Poet’s Chronicle (1917)

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1925)

Vladimir Mayakovski. Mayakovski, Vladimir, photograph. The Literary Gazettte.

Vladimir Mayakovsky is considered the central figure of the Russian Futurist movement and the premier artistic voice of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The Russian Futurists saw their work as the leading mode of aesthetic expression for their time—a period distinguished by violent social upheaval and the subsequent downfall of Russia’s established government. Mayakovsky is generally thought of as one of the most innovative poets in twentieth-century literature.

Works in Biographical and Historical Context

Childhood in Bagdadi . Vladimir Mayakovsky was born the youngest of three children on July 7, 1893, in the western Georgian village of Bagdadi to Russian parents—Vladimir Konstantinovich Mayakovsky and Aleksandra Alekseevna Maiakovskaia. His father was a forest ranger, an official of the Russian government whose work took him to the Caucasus Mountains. Young Mayakovsky would occasionally accompany him on these trips. He spent the rest of his childhood playing in and around Bagdadi, where he picked up Georgian, the only foreign language he ever mastered.

The Social Democratic Worker’s Party and Prison . After the death of his father in 1906, Mayakovsky’s mother moved the family to Moscow. There he attended public secondary school. He was an intellectually precocious child who developed an early appreciation for literature, but he demonstrated little interest in schoolwork. In 1908 he joined the Social Democratic Worker’s Party, a subversive, anti-czarist organization. At this time, Russia was under the control of Nicholas II, the last czar in the country’s history. During his reign, peaceful protesters who aimed to present a petition to Nicholas II, were gunned down by the secret police in an event that ultimately undermined the power of the czarist regime, Bloody Sunday. Between the ages of fifteen and sixteen, Mayakovsky was arrested three times by undercover police who had amassed evidence linking him with such criminal activities as running an illegal printing press, bank robbery, and organizing a jailbreak of political prisoners. He was imprisoned for six months after his third arrest in connection with the jailbreak charge, and proved such an agitating presence among other inmates that he was frequently moved and eventually placed in solitary confinement.

Release from Prison and Performing Poetry . Upon his release from prison, he entered the Moscow Institute of Art, hoping to become a painter. There he met the Russian Cubist painter David Burlyuk, who introduced him to the innovative trends in the visual arts and poetry known as avant-garde. Dressed in outrageous garb, such as the yellow tunic that became his trademark, the tall and ruggedly handsome Mayakovsky soon became the dominant and most popular poet-performer of the group, frequently captivating audiences with his loud, dramatic recitations.

First Drama Written and Performed . In 1913, he wrote and performed in his first drama, the &lsquo&lsquotragedy’’ Vladimir Mayakovsky, which played to full houses of curious and sometimes heckling spectators. Two years later Mayakovsky met Osip and Lilya Brik, beginning a relationship that greatly affected his personal and professional life: Osip Brik, a wealthy lawyer with strong literary interests, became Mayakovsky’s publisher, and Lilya—Osip’s wife—became Mayakovsky’s mistress and the inspiration for most of his impassioned love poetry, including The Backbone Flute (1916) and About That (1923).

Poet of the Revolution . The outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, which overthrew the czarist regime and gave power to the Soviets, provided Mayakovsky with an opportunity to combine his political commitment and artistic talents, and he plunged headlong into the cause of promoting the new regime. Victor Shklovsky, a leading Russian critic, wrote in his memoirs, &lsquo&lsquoMayakovsky entered the revolution as he would enter his own home.’’ Soon considered the official poet of the Revolution, he applied his poetic skill toward writing songs, slogans, and jingles expounding Bolshevik ideology, and also used his abilities as a painter and illustrator to produce a voluminous number of propaganda posters and cartoons. He was proud of his ability to create utilitarian literature without compromising himself as a poet, and critics also marvel at his achievement, often citing his three-thousand-line poem Vladimir Ilyich Lenin—written on the leader’s death in 1924—as one of his finest works, a communist equivalent of a religious epic.

Soviet Representative . In the mid- to late 1920s, he traveled in Europe, Mexico, and the United States as an official representative of the Soviet government. On these trips abroad he kept a grueling schedule of public appearances and recorded his impressions of the capitalist societies he visited. He expressed his admiration of American technology and architecture in his America cycle (1925), which includes one of his most famous poems, &lsquo&lsquoBrooklyn Bridge,’’ a eulogy to American engineering and the universal plight of the common laborer.

Strained Relations . During the last few years of his life, Mayakovsky experienced a succession of personal disappointments and critical attacks from Soviet officials, all of which eroded his confidence and stamina. He had been growing increasingly disillusioned by the expanding party bureaucracy and the infiltration of bourgeois values into the new order. At the same time, conservative Bolshevik leaders charged that Mayakovsky’s writing was too individualistic. Joseph Stalin’s Five Year Plan advocated collectivization of agriculture and art alike and the Bolshevik leaders claimed that Mayakovsky’s prerevolutionary Futurist beliefs were incompatible with their ideology. Under extreme political pressure, he was forced to abandon his editorship of New LEF, a revival of the Futurist magazine LEF, and joined the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP), a conservative, state-controlled literary organization.

Depression, Despair, and Suicide . The growing despair and ambivalence he felt toward his own life and the future of his nation is clearly reflected in his satires on the philistine Soviet bureaucrats—The Bedbug (1929) and The Bathhouse (1930)—written and performed in the last two years of his life. Considered outrageous offenses to the state, the plays received scathing reviews and were banned in the Soviet Union until 1955. Although in the last months of his life Mayakovsky maintained his usual hectic public schedule, he was emotionally devastated, taking the critical rejection of his work as a personal attack. Torn between the flamboyant originality of his art and a desire to &lsquo&lsquostamp on the throat’’ of his talent in service to the party, he played Russian roulette, a pastime he favored when despondent, and died by his own hand on April 14, 1930.


Mayakovsky's famous contemporaries include:

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971): Russian composer famous for his orchestral work for ballets, most notably Rite of Spring and The Firebird.

David Burlyuk (1882-1967): Ukrainian artist closely associated with Russian Futurism who was an acquaintance of and early influence on Mayakovsky.

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960): Nobel Prize-winning Russian novelist famous for his epic Doctor Zhivago.

Joseph Stalin (1878-1953): Communist leader of the Soviet Union from 1922 until 1953, Stalin was infamous for his dictatorial rule and his ordered executions of perhaps millions of dissenters.

Works in Literary Context

Influences on Voice and Revolutionary Themes . Mayakovsky was strongly influenced by his love affair with Lilya Brik, his extensive travels, and by war and revolution. His lyrical verses are often about love. Yet, his political poems, which show other influences, cover a great range: He wrote a long, high-styled tribute to Lenin, funny political satire, and political pamphlets. He wrote children’s poems with political subtexts, occasional poems for events such as the building of a canal, and political poems meant to influence—not commemorate—political decisions. His love poems and even his advertisements showed political concern. About That (1923) is as much about politics as it is about love one advertisement for rubber galoshes shows a hammer and sickle on the tread of a galosh.

Voicing Historical Misfortunes and Controversies . As the so-called Poet of the Revolution, Mayakovsky voiced the misfortunes and controversies of twentieth-century Russian history. With his poems reading as exciting displays of verbal mastery, he strove to invent a voice that was truly revolutionary. Most notable is this voice of the poet persona, or speaker, he developed to issue forth his themes. In his politically oriented verse one role the persona takes on is that of a self-sacrificing savior who lays down his life for the Revolution. Another role the speaker frequently takes is that of a social critic and prophet of the Revolution. In A Cloud in Trousers (1915), for instance, this poet persona severely chastises the bourgeoisie (capitalist class) for their complacency regarding the impending destruction of their world. This speaker democratically equates himself with the &lsquo&lsquostreet thousands—students, prostitutes, contractors’’ in a manner reminiscent of Walt Whitman, whose poetry Mayakovsky had read in translation.

The Futurist Style . The Futurist poets aimed to destroy traditional poetic modes. They did this through disregard for convention, use of bizarre imagery and invented vocabulary, and techniques borrowed from avant-garde painting, including irregular typefaces, offbeat illustrations, and the author’s handwriting. Mayakovsky virtually abandoned metric structure in his poetry. On the page his verse is arranged in irregular lines—often in a step formation such as that found in the work of the modern American poet William Carlos Williams—and is generally held together by strong, but unpredictable, internal rhyme schemes. Much of his originality as a poet is attributed to his use of hyperbolic (exaggerated) imagery, often blasphemous or violent.

Individually he had no Russian poet followers to speak of, and his particular poetic style was never further developed. In Lithuania, however, Mayakovsky as a Futurist poet was considered to inform the formation of The Four Winds movement—which took its first influences from his Futurism.

Here are a few works by writers who have also focused on themes of unrequited love or revolution, or both:

The Case of Comrade Tulayev (2004), a novel by Victor Serge. This book about the Stalinist purge is also a mystery, a thriller, and a tale of great courage and nobility.

Darkness at Noon (1940), a novel by Arthur Koestler. In this story, the protagonist is a retired Bolshevik and revolutionary who is imprisoned, tortured, and tried for treason.

In the Casa Azul: A Novel of Revolution and Betrayal (2003), a novel by Meaghan Delahunt. In this historically based novel, the author explores both revolution and love in the worlds of Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky.

Man's Fate (1933), a novel by Andre Malraux. In this fictionalized account of the Chinese Revolution, the author explores the inner workings of the minds of such characters as Ch'en Ta Erh, a terrorist-assassin with a conscience.

Works in Critical Context

Whether Mayakovsky intended it or not, there were a few critical misconceptions about his work. To this day discussions about him still degenerate quickly to old pro- and anti-Communist positions that dominated the critical approaches to him and his work during the Cold War. Yet it is notable that a new image of the poet has begun to emerge, especially in scholarship published after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

That he excelled at studies in literature as early as the age of nine is also generally overlooked by critics, as they tend to interpret him as a populist illiterate. Further contributing to this critical misconception of the poet is the fact that Mayakovsky intentionally wrote as if he could not write. He disregarded academic verse structure. The dominant elements in his verse reveal a tendency for what is oral and a preference for emphasis on the sound of poetry. As Russian critic D. S. Mirsky describes it, &lsquo&lsquoMayakovsky’s poetry is very loud, very unrefined, and stands absolutely outside the distinction between &lsquogood’ and &lsquobad’ taste.’’ It is marked by powerful rhythm, often evocative of an invigorating march cadence, which came naturally to Mayakovsky, who would loudly declare his verses in his booming velvety voice—by all accounts beautiful to hear. This dominant oral element managed to fool critics of Mayakovsky into treating him as a genuine illiterate, even though memoirs of him are full with accounts of his lying in bed reading or eagerly talking about something he had recently read.

1. Mayakovsky was the so-called Poet of the Revolution. Research the Russian Revolution of 1917. How did it affect Russian civilians? How is this impact reflected in the poet’s work?

2. Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin had a profound influence on Mayakovsky, who even wrote a tribute song called a &lsquo&lsquopaean’’ for his leader. Study a brief biography of Lenin. Then look up the definition and study the components of a paean. In group discussion, decide how important Lenin was to Mayakovsky. What in the paean Vladimir Ilyich Lenin suggests the poet’s attitude and feelings?

3. Those interested in the Russian Revolution should read Ten Days That Shook the World (1919), a firsthand account of the October Revolution of 1917 as experienced by American journalist John Reed. Lenin himself read the book and wrote a glowing introduction to the 1922 edition.

Markov, Vladimir. Russian Futurism: A History. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968.

Shklovsky, Viktor. Mayakovsky and His Circle. Ed. and trans. Lily Feiler. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1972.

Smith, Gerald Stanton, D. S. Mirsky: A Russian-English Life, 1890-1939. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Terras, Victor. Vladimir Mayakovsky. Boston: Twayne, 1983.

Erlich, Victor. &lsquo&lsquoThe Dead Hand of the Future: The Predicament of Vladimir Mayakovsky.’’ Slavic Review, 21 (1962): 432-40.

Urbaszewski, Laura Shear. &lsquo&lsquoCanonizing the &lsquoBest, Most Talented’ Soviet Poet: Vladimir Mayakovsky and the Soviet Literary Celebration.’’ Modernism/Modernity, 9 (November 2002): 635-665.

Linux.org. Vladimir Mayakovsky’s A Cloud in Trousers. Retrieved March 31, 2008, from http:// vmlinux.org/ilse/lit/mayako.htm.

Loosavor. Meyerhold & Mayakovsky: Biomechanics & the Communist Utopia. Retrieved March 31, 2008, from http://loosavor.org/2006/08/biomechanics_social_engineerin.html. Last updated on August 5, 2006.

State Museum of V. V. Mayakovsky. Retrieved March 31, 2008, from http://www.museum.ru/Majakovskiy/Expos1e.htm.

If you are the copyright holder of any material contained on our site and intend to remove it, please contact our site administrator for approval.


One of the most influential poets and dramatists of his time, Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky was born in Georgia to parents of Russian descent. The family moved to Moscow in 1906, and Mayakovsky, who joined the Bolsheviks, was soon arrested for revolutionary activities. After his third incarceration, Mayakovsky enrolled in art school and came under the influence of the painter and poet David Burlyuk (1882–1967) and the burgeoning movement of futurism.

Mayakovsky allied himself with cubo-futurism, the most important of the four groups that made up Russian futurism. His first two published poems, "Day" and "Night," appeared in the futurist miscellany A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (1912), and he signed the famous manifesto of the same title. In so doing, he endorsed futurism's rejection of the past and its provocation of a bourgeois audience both in print and in person: Mayakovsky participated in the early futurist tours of Russia and in publicity stunts that in significant ways anticipated performance art. Even his first verse drama, entitled simply Tragedy (1913), was intended as an absolute break with the theatrical past. Despite Mayakovsky's intentions, the play, which alternated with Victory over the Sun (1913) by Alexei Kruchonykh (1886–1968), owes a significant debt to Alexander Blok's lyric dramas and to Nikolai Evreinov's monodramas.

Much of Mayakovsky's best poetry, the work that established and secured his reputation, is to be found in lyric poems such as "Lilichka!, Instead of a Letter," "Our March" (1917), and "Good Relations with Horses," and in his prerevolutionary narrative poems. In Cloud in Pants (1915), The Backbone Flute (1916), War and the World (1916), and Man (1918), Mayakovsky developed a style of startling originality. Mayakovsky employs accentual meters, liberal and creative rhymes, jarring dislocations of syntax, and an innovative visual presentation, together with an extravagance of hyperbole and metaphor, which often take on a life of their own.

Mayakovsky embraced the Russian Revolution of 1917 and laid his considerable talents at the feet of the fledgling Bolshevik state. His work, from the time of the Revolution until his death, proved uneven, ranging from the politically expedient narrative poem Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1924) to such fine lyrics as "I Love" and "Letter to Tatyana Yakovleva," the narrative poem About That (1923), and the play The Bedbug (1929). The unevenness of Mayakovsky's work owes in no small part to a conscious and theoretically elaborated surrender of poetry's autonomy to the needs and demands of the state. Mayakovsky was swayed by his close friend, the critic Osip Brik, whose ideas about "sound repetition" helped to shape the poet's early work and whose conception of "social demand" helped to channel the later work. Not surprisingly, Mayakovsky devoted enormous energy to agitprop during this period and even created advertisements for state-owned stores.

To celebrate the first anniversary of the Revolution, Mayakovsky wrote Mystery-Bouffe (1918), which combines elements of mystery plays with low comedy to portray the triumph of the "unclean" proletariat over the "clean" bourgeoisie. Despite its defects and criticism from Bolshevik authorities, Mystery-Bouffe was important because it marked the first collaboration between Mayakovsky and the great director Vsevolod Meyerhold (1874–1940). Mayakovsky, who grew increasingly disenchanted with the Soviet state, again turned to Meyerhold with his next play, the biting satire The Bedbug, the production of which proved to be a theatrical landmark. The two again collaborated on Mayakovsky's last play, The Bathhouse (1930), which satirizes Soviet philistinism. The suppression of the play marked the end of an era not only for Mayakovsky and Meyerhold, but for Soviet culture as well.

Mayakovsky worked assiduously throughout the last years of his life to shape the aesthetic of the Revolution and the Soviet state. To that end, he joined and helped to found numerous cultural organizations, the most important of which was the Left Front of Art. As editor of the organization's journal Lef and its successor New Lef, Mayakovsky attempted to safeguard a revolutionary, avant-garde art for a revolutionary society. Despite the important work published in these journals, Mayakovsky's efforts to shape Soviet society ultimately ended in failure. He made one more, last-ditch effort when he founded Ref, the Revolutionary Front of Art, but soon had to abandon it. Under political pressure, Mayakovsky capitulated and joined the aesthetically conservative Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP) in the last year of his life. Together with the suppression of The Bathhouse and personal problems, this failure contributed to his eventual suicide. Mayakovsky's legacy includes not only great poems he wrote, but also a persona and style that fused politics and aesthetics into an influential model of the activist poet.

Prominent Russians: Vladimir Mayakovsky

Image from www.v-mayakovsky.com

"I'm a poet. That's what makes me interesting. That is what I write about."

The Herald and the Singer of the Revolution – thus Vladimir Mayakovsky is known to the world.

Not just a poet praising the arrival of new life and mirroring its fortunes, he was also an actor, painter, propagan¬dist and satirist. A man of many talents, he created his own revolution in writing. The “raging bull” of Russian poetry, “the wizard of rhyming,” “an innovator in poetry,” “an individualist and a rebel against established taste and standards,” Mayakovsky became one of the founders of the Russian Futurist movement. They say there was “no more brilliant figure in the flowering of Russian avant-garde art that followed the October Revolution.” After his death the poet was eulogized by Stalin, who declared that Mayakovsky "was and remains the best and most talented poet of our Soviet era." These words officially canonized Mayakovsky, but many also saw them as the mark of Cain on one of the giants of modern poetry.

However there was another side to him – that of a vulnerable and passionate lover who desperately wanted to be loved and never actually was. With his birth and death surrounded by secrets, the life of the most famous “proletarian” poet turns out to be not quite what it seemed.

Mayakovsky & the mystery of birth
“I myself”

Image from www.mayak.cheb.ru

The official biography of Vladimir Mayakovsky states that little Volodya was born on 19 July 1893 in the village of Bagdadi in Georgia - then part of the Russian Empire. Hardly anyone back then could imagine that the son of a modest forestry ranger would become so famous that his place of his birth would even be renamed after him: Mayakovsky.

Volodya was one of the three children. He had two sisters – Olga and Lyudmila. His brother Konstantin died at the age of three. They were of Russian and Cossack descent on their father's side and Ukrainian on their mother's. At home the family spoke Russian. With his friends and at school Mayakovky used Georgian. In 1927 in an interview to the Prague newspaper Prager Presse he said: “I was born in the Caucasus, my father is a Cossack, my mother is Ukrainian. My mother tongue is Georgian. Thus three cultures are united in me.”

Mayakovsky suffered his unreciprocated love. Lily knew how much Mayakovsky suffered but she would tell her friends, “It’s no harm. It’s good for Volodya. He will suffer and then he’ll write good poems.”

Instead, until early morning,
Horrified you were taken away to be loved
I rushed all around
engraving my cries into verses
already a half-mad diamond-cutter…
I don’t need you!
Don’t want you!
I know
I will soon croak.

(“The Backbone Flute,” Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1915)

Image from www.beliy.ru: Mayakovsky and Tatyana Yakovleva

Lily zealously guarded her position as Mayakovsky’s only muse. However several of Volodya’s relationships went out of her control. Once, when Mayakovsky was on the brink of getting married, Lily called him back - he couldn’t resist.

Mayakovsky & the Revolution
“Long live the joyous revolution, soon to come!”

Vladimir Mayakovsky was rejected as a volunteer at the beginning of WWI, but from 1915 to August 1917 he served as a draftsman at the Petrograd Military Automobile School. Being in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) meant he was right at the heart of the October Revolution as it was happening. For the ex-Bolshevik schoolboy, "To accept or not to accept? There was no such question for me… My Revolution." (From “I Myself”).
This was the time of such poems as "Left March! For the Red Marines: 1918" that he would recite at naval theaters, with sailors as an audience, and “An Order to the Art Army”:

Image from www.pomidor.blox.ua

Enough of half penny truths!
Old trash from your hearts erase!
Streets for paint-brushes we’ll use,
our palettes - squares with their wide open space.
Revolution’s days have yet to be sung by the thousand year book of time.
Into the streets, the crowds among,
masters of rhyme!”

(“An Order to the Art Army,” Vladimir Mayakovsky, March 1918)

In the spring of 1919 Mayakovsky returned to Moscow and threw himself into the task of building and defending the infant workers' state, "the work of a poet of the Revolution is not confined to the writing of books." The propaganda posters known as the “Windows of ROSTA” (the Russian Telegraph Agency), which Mayakovsky and his Futurist colla¬borators produced, covered the country and brought information to a semi-literate population. During the defense of Petrograd in 1919 Mayakovsky worked day and night writing short propaganda poems and illustrating them. His popularity grew rapidly. In 1919, he published his first collection of poems “Collected Works 1909-1919.” Mayakovsky also wrote a large number of film scripts and played in four movies.

By the early 1920s bureaucracy was becoming entrenched within Soviet society. Mayakovsky wrote a scathing satire on the bureaucracy called “Re Conferences.” Lenin made a speech saying how much he agreed with Mayakovsky, and that bureaucracy was eating away at the workers’ state. In 1924 Mayakovsky composed a poem on the death of the leader of the Russian revolution Vladimir Lenin, which became a must for all Soviet school pupils to be learnt by heart.

From 1922 to 1928, Mayakovsky was a prominent member of the Left Art Front (LEF) and went on to define his work as “Communist Futurism” (“Comfut”). Together with Osip Brik he edited the LEF journal.

Mayakovsky continued to write, produce plays and design advertising posters. However, there came a time when experimental art was no longer welcome by the regime and the Bolsheviks became intolerant to the avant-garde. Mayakovsky was the country’s most famous poet but his work irritated a lot of people. His satire, especially the play “The Bathhouse,” evoked stormy criticism from the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers. By the late 1920s everything went downhill. The opening of his personal exhibition “20 Years of Work” in 1928 was ignored by his former colleagues from LEF as well as the Party leadership. On 9 April 1930 he read his poem “At the Top of My Voice” to students who shouted him down for being obscure.

Mayakovsky & the end
“The love boat has crashed against the everyday”

Image from www.fotikoff.net

Mayakovsky was one of the few writers allowed to travel abroad freely. He traveled in Europe, Mexico, Cuba and the United States, recording his impressions in "My Discovery of America." From his journeys he brought suitcases filled with books, periodicals, reproductions of art works and posters, and distributed the materials among his friends, who thus had an immediate contact to the daily affairs of the Western art world. And of course, from each journey he brought presents for his Lily who would unpack them, as happy as a child.

In the summer of 1925 he traveled to New York, where he met the immigrant Elli Jones – originally Elizaveta Petrovna Zibert. She emigrated from Russia after the Revolution and married an Englishman, with whom she separated. Mayakovsky and Jones fell in love but kept the affair a secret – it wasn’t proper of a Soviet poet to get involved with an émigré. Mayakovsky didn’t know that a daughter would be born to them in 1926, after he had left. He saw her only once – in Nice, France – in the autumn of 1928, when she was three years old.

Having learnt the true motive of his trip to Nice (Mayakovsky had claimed it was for health reasons) Lily became seriously concerned. She found a solution to the problem. In Paris her sister introduced Mayakovsky to the beautiful 22-year-old Tatiana Yakovleva, a model for the Chanel fashion house. Mayakovsky totally lost his head. His “Letter to Comrade Kostrov on the Essence of Love” and “Letter to Tatiana Yakovleva” were devoted to her. “You betrayed me for the first time,” announced Lily. The finale of this story is widely known: Mayakovsky was urging Tatiana to marry him and even considered moving to Paris. However he was denied a visa while Lily “accidentally” read out loud a letter from Paris alleging that Tatiana was getting married. Later it turned out the wedding wasn’t even on the agenda at that very moment.
“In January 1929 Mayakovsky said he was in love and would put a bullet to his brain if he didn’t see that woman any time soon,” remembered one of Mayakovsky’s former lovers and friends Natalia Bryukhanenko. He didn’t see “that woman” again. On 14 April 1930 he pulled the trigger. Many say there was no connection between the two events…

Mayakovsky & the mystery of death

Mayakovsky's death note reads, “To All of You. That I die – don’t blame anyone for it, and please do not gossip. The deceased terribly dislike this sort of thing. Mother, sisters, comrades, forgive me—this is not a good method (I do not recommend it to others), but there is no other way out for me. Lily - love me. Comrade Government, my family consists of Lily Brik, mama, my sisters, and Veronika Vitoldovna Polonskaya. If you can provide a decent life for them, thank you. The verses I have begun, give to the Briks. They’ll understand them.

And so they say-
"the incident dissolved"
the love boat smashed up
on the dreary routine.
I'm through with life
and [we] should absolve
from mutual hurts, afflictions and spleen.

Image from www.kino-teatr.ru

Vladimir Mayakovsky 12.IV.30.

Comrades of the Proletarian Literary Organization, don’t think me a coward.
Really, it couldn’t be helped. Greetings! Tell Yermilov it’s too bad he removed the slogan we should have had it out.
In the desk drawer I have 2000 rubles. Use them to pay my taxes. The rest can be gotten from the State Publishing House."

He allegedly shot himself with a revolver.

Having learnt about his death Lily Brik said, “It’s good that he shot himself with a big gun. It would have not been nice: such a poet – and shooting himself with a small Browning.”

A widely accepted version of his death says he pulled the trigger after having things out with the actress Veronika Polonskaya, with whom he had a brief but very stormy romance. Polonskaya was in love with the poet, but unwilling to leave her husband… She was the last one who saw Mayakovsky alive.

At the time of his death, he was dressed in a light blue shirt, a bowtie and well cut, good quality trousers. The Bolsheviks, who were eager to study the biological roots of geniality, removed his brain – the autopsy report recorded Mayakovsky's brain weighed 1700 grams (360 grams more than that of Lenin).

Mayakovsky's body lay in state for three days and was viewed by 150,000 mourners.

However for years too many questions surrounded the poet’s death to accept it was a suicide: why was a suicide note written two days before his death? Why were his close friends, Lily and Osip Brik, sent abroad hastily shortly before? Why didn't the bullet removed from his body match the model of his pistol? And why did his neighbors hear two shots? Many biographers of the poet suggest he was not the kind of a man to commit suicide because of a split with one more in a whole line of women.

Mayakovsky’s daughter, Patricia Thompson, who now uses her Russian name: Yelena Vladimirovna Mayakovskaya, is a professor of philosophy and women's studies at Lehman College in New York City. She believes that the circumstances of her father's death are still shrouded in mystery. "As a scholar and a veteran academic I don't dare to determine facts regarding his death without real proof. I only know that he did not commit suicide, and I will add that if he did so, he didn't do it because of a woman. After all, that has been the popular version for so many years."

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Research output : Contribution to journal › Review article › peer-review

T1 - Vladimir Mayakovsky and the Utopian imagination in the Russian revolution

N1 - Publisher Copyright: © 2018 Saint Petersburg State University. All rights reserved. Copyright: Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

N2 - This article - the third part of a three-part series that reinterprets the "utopianism" of Russian revolutionaries, especially the Bolsheviks - focuses on the perspectives of Vladimir Mayakovsky. Part 1 described the basic theoretical approach: an alternative definition of the utopian imagination developed after 1917 in the work of Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and others. In brief, this sees utopia as a critical analysis of conventional constructions of reality, time, and the possible: as a critical negation of that which merely is in the name of what should be, as a radical challenge to assumptions about what is possible and impossible in the present, as a vision of time and history as containing the possibility of an explosive "leap in the open air of history" (Benjamin). Utopian consciousness breaks into the normativized world of knowledge and expectations about reality and possibility in history to reveal the new and unexpected. This is utopia as radical epistemology, hermeneutics, and praxis. This article focuses on Vladimir Mayakovsky (the previous articles discussed Alexandra Kollontai and Lev Trotsky). Mayakovsky's poetry visualized both the oppressive darkness of the lived present and a world of possibility greater than the normativized reality of his own time. He offered a counterreality of "Vladimir Mayakovsky" as utopian antithesis to the merely factual reality of the present. He explored the conventional linear temporality of the world as given and the possibility of an explosive leap into the future. Time was particularly important for Mayakovsky's poetic thought and is a central theme in all utopian thought. Like Kollontai and Trotsky, Mayakovsky's utopian impulse collided with the stubbornness of the present, with the tenacious force of necessity. But the focus in all three articles has been on the spirit that led them to attempt to leap into the clear, free, and unpredictable open air of history. This utopian impulse was central to the experience of the Russian revolution for so many. We must recognize their utopian "leap" even as we acknowledge the dystopian and catastrophic landing.

AB - This article - the third part of a three-part series that reinterprets the "utopianism" of Russian revolutionaries, especially the Bolsheviks - focuses on the perspectives of Vladimir Mayakovsky. Part 1 described the basic theoretical approach: an alternative definition of the utopian imagination developed after 1917 in the work of Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and others. In brief, this sees utopia as a critical analysis of conventional constructions of reality, time, and the possible: as a critical negation of that which merely is in the name of what should be, as a radical challenge to assumptions about what is possible and impossible in the present, as a vision of time and history as containing the possibility of an explosive "leap in the open air of history" (Benjamin). Utopian consciousness breaks into the normativized world of knowledge and expectations about reality and possibility in history to reveal the new and unexpected. This is utopia as radical epistemology, hermeneutics, and praxis. This article focuses on Vladimir Mayakovsky (the previous articles discussed Alexandra Kollontai and Lev Trotsky). Mayakovsky's poetry visualized both the oppressive darkness of the lived present and a world of possibility greater than the normativized reality of his own time. He offered a counterreality of "Vladimir Mayakovsky" as utopian antithesis to the merely factual reality of the present. He explored the conventional linear temporality of the world as given and the possibility of an explosive leap into the future. Time was particularly important for Mayakovsky's poetic thought and is a central theme in all utopian thought. Like Kollontai and Trotsky, Mayakovsky's utopian impulse collided with the stubbornness of the present, with the tenacious force of necessity. But the focus in all three articles has been on the spirit that led them to attempt to leap into the clear, free, and unpredictable open air of history. This utopian impulse was central to the experience of the Russian revolution for so many. We must recognize their utopian "leap" even as we acknowledge the dystopian and catastrophic landing.

Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)

On July 19 1893 (July 7 on the Old Style Julian calendar) Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky, the great Russian poet, was born. Here’s Mayakovsky reading “An Extraordinary Adventure Which Happened To Me, Vladimir Mayakovsky, One Summer In The Country” (the English translation, along with several other Mayakovsky translations, may be found here). And here’s a shorter piece (in English translation: “And Could You?”). A recording of Mayakovsky’s great poem “At The Top of My Voice”, originally attributed to him, but now thought not to be him, is available here (Allen particularly admired this poem. As he declared in a NAROPA class on Mayakovsky and Russian “expansive” poetry, in July of 1981: “That piece that begins: “My verse will reach/ over the peaks of eras/ far over the heads/ of poets and governments”..that’s really one of the most powerful, heroic statements in the 20th century as prophecy – “My verse will reach…”

”So the title is “At The Top of My Voice”. So you’ve got to also dig it as, not merely wanting to address posterity (as (Percy Bysshe) Shelley did – “scatter my words, ashes and sparks among mankind” [Editorial notefrom the closing lines of “Ode To The West Wind” – actually, “Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth/Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind”], but, also, he’s got to speak over the heads of the political critics and over the ring of iron that was beginning to slowly close around (him)”.

“I thought the reason for this course is (was) heroic, expansive poetry, and the touchstone poems, or highlight poems, that I had in mind were (Guillaume) Apollinaire’s “Zone”, (Federico Garcia) Lorca’s “Ode To Walt Whitman”… (Ezra) Pound’s “Usura Canto” (Canto XLV), which I think we went over, and this poem, which is both tragic and heroic at the same time.”

Ginsberg’s class (available as an audio document here) was taught in collaboration with Russian Futurist (and Beats) scholar, Ann Charters (her book, written in collaboration with her husband, Sam, I Love – The Story of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Lili Brik had been published just two years earlier – Brik’s readings of two of her lover’s poems, “From Street To Street” and “The Fop’s Blouse”, (giving their titles their English translations), can be heard here and here

Allen again: “We think about Mayakovsky and the perspective in which we hold him of course is the perspective of (Anna) Akhmatova, basically, which is after the realization of the Gulags – (Aleksandr) Solzhenitsyn’s account of the forced labor camp system which sent 20,000,000 people to their deaths. We’re trying to get our minds back, however, to remember Mayakovsky was writing his poems in, for example, 1920, 1922, before all of this, while (Vladimir Ilyich) Lenin was still alive. And he didn’t have the sense of failure in the revolution, to the extent that Akhmatova did, obviously because historical events had not yet moved on.”
“But, yes, remember the two voices speaking for the Russian people – Mayakovsky’s first, and then Akhmatova.”

“Mayakovsky’s elegy on the suicide of Esenin – “In this life it’s not difficult to die. To/ make life is more difficult by far”. So he reverses Esenin’s couplet – “In this life to die is nothing new. But of course to live is nothing newer”. I don’t know which was smarter. Actually, Esenin’s in a way..”

Vladimir Mayakovsky - History

Vladimir Myakovsky began writing poetry in one of the most tumultuous eras in modern history, the second decade of the twentieth century in Russia. When the revolutionary upheaval overthrew the Czar and established the U.S.S.R., Mayakovsky was among the strongest supporters of the Bolsheviks. A propagandist and visual artist, he was also one of the most radical and influential of modern poets. A new society seemed to demand a new voice, a new language, a new role for the poet: and Mayakovsky answered this demand. His poetry pushes at the borders of what was possible, and often transgresses those borders. Emotional, theatrical, sometimes rhetorical, Mayakovsky creates lyrics which are as likely to be shaped by wit as by anger, to celebrate life as to argue against its injustices. If there were to be a paradigm, and icon, of revolutionary poetry in the twentieth century, Mayakovsky would be it.

Vladimir Mayakovsky was the pre-eminent poet of the Russian Revolution and its immediate aftermath. Revolutionary in temperament — both in art and in politics — he was drawn to exploring new forms, taking new poetic postures, and building links between art and politics.

Mayakovsky was one of the small handful of artists, along with Baudelaire and Apollinaire, who defined what the avant-garde could be: experimental, transgressive, over the top at times. His energy is unparalleled, his exploration of new forms seldom matched. Because he wrote for a mass audience — he was a hero to the Russian people during and after the Russian Revolution — his poetry is accessible in a way that many other ‘modern’ poets are not. By turns introspective, witty, fantastical, self-dramatizing, satiric and hilarious, Mayakovsky is a pleasure to read, and one of the great ‘undiscovered’ poets, though he is undiscovered only by English-speaking readers.

In the RealAudio presentation which follows, you will encounter Maykovsky’s poems:

How I Became a Dog
On Being Kind to Horses
Order Number Two to the Army of the Arts
In Re: Conferences
An Extraordinary Adventure Which Befell Vladimir Mayakovsky in a Summer Cottage
The Cloud in Trousers (sections of Parts I and IV)
At the Top of My Voice (excerpts)
It’s Already Past One

To listen to the presentation, click on this photo of Myakovsky

All the photographs are from a featured exhibition of Howard Schickler Fine Art, which you can view at: http://photoarts.com/schickler/exhibits/mayakovsky/index.html.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 at 3:44 pm and is filed under Russian. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Biographer Bengt Jangfeldt on “the battle for Mayakovsky”

I bought Vladimir Mayakovsky‘s Poems in the summer of 1978, in a small Chinese bookstore in Kathmandu that specialized in propaganda. I haven’t looked at it much in the years since the dust-jacket disappeared sometime in the subsequent decades, and I wouldn’t have recognized the slim, maize-colored hardcover as the one I bought way back then, except for my Islington address scribbled on the inside front cover. It is the second edition (1976) of the book, published by the state-run Progress Publishers in Moscow – therefore, the official Soviet version of the premier poet of the Russian Revolution.

The introduction is big on hyperbole and cant – “the fight for a better future for all mankind,” “a big step forward in world art in general,” with poems that accomplish “new feats in the name of communism.” But one succinct word is missing: suicide. Mayakovsky killed himself in 1930.

It wasn’t a truth that could be missed at Bengt Jangfeldt ‘s Piggott Hall lecture on “The Battle for Mayakovsky” last Thursday, which opened with a photograph of handsome young poet dead at 36, shot through the heart – or almost shot through the heart, as the eminent Swedish biographer, who is perhaps the world’s foremost expert on Mayakovsky, put it, “he missed a little because he was left-handed.” The face is in unearthly repose, the lips parted slightly – it resembles Jacques-Louis David ‘s hagiographic portrait of the dead Marat , another revolutionary who met a violent end. The poet’s death was “very un-Marxist, I would say,” according to Jangfeldt, and that was an immediate problem for the Soviets.

Mayakovsky was unusual in the annals of Soviet totalitarianism: he was victimized because he was published, and a battle for his legacy has been mounted and his biography doctored, censored, and subjected to “awful, spiteful scrutiny,” Jangfeldt said. The news of his suicide was manipulated by the state, and presented as a response to romantic disappointment – the possibility that the revolutionary poet had become disillusioned instead with the revolution, and had “no longer believed in what he wrote and hated himself,” was officially unacceptable. In a macabre sign of the times, his brain was sent to the brain institute the Soviets were intent on discovering the “materialistic basis of genius.” Mayakovsky fared embarrassingly well: his brain was 360 grams heavier than Lenin’s (we wrote about the curious and complicated history of Lenin’s brain here ). Later accounts gloss over his dramatic finale altogether: some say simply that he died in 1930, or, as the case with the Progress book in my hand, don’t say anything at all.

By 1935, his legacy was in jeopardy. His lover Lili Brik wrote a letter to Joseph Stalin complaining of the neglect. She was summoned to the Kremlin. Stalin took action: “Mayakovsky is still the best and the most gifted poet of our Soviet epoch. Indifference to his cultural heritage is a crime. Brik’s complaints are, in my opinion, justified,” he wrote. Was it the power of a woman? Jengfeldt thinks not. “Why did Lili Brik write this letter now and not before? … Why did Stalin act with the speed of lightening?” In retrospect, it looks like something of a put-up job, a letter concocted at higher levels, possibly by Stalin himself, to trigger a series of events.

One probable motive: The Alexander Pushkin centenary was fast approaching in 1937, and preparations were well underway. Pushkin was the great poet of Russia, yes – but what could the Soviet Union offer that was comparable? Stalin’s action reversed a reputation in decline, and suddenly Mayakovsky was inescapable. “Towns, streets, boats, squares were named after him. He was forcibly introduced like the potato under Catherine the Great. His canonization occurred at a time the party was manically naming heroes.” Mayakovsky and Maxim Gorky became the gods of literature, in poetry and prose, respectively. Soviet honor was saved amid a wash of unsuccessful socialist realism – at least for awhile.

Lili Brik soldiered on through the decades, carrying the torch as her lover’s poetic reputation oscillated. His life had been as messy as his death, and the Russians liked their poets to have ideal family lives – “a poet of the revolution is not supposed to have a complicated private life,” said Jangfeldt. Moreover, Lili was Jewish, and the Communist authorities did what they could to erase her memory, championing other candidates as the “true love” – he had been unfaithful to his married lover, and there were plenty of other candidates to choose from. Brik’s character and motivations were endlessly maligned. In 1970, Jangfeldt became fascinated by the story, and translated and published some of Mayakovsky’s letters to Brik into Swedish. He took photocopies to Brik’s Moscow apartment in 1972, as a sort of carte d’entrée. He never forgot her words of greeting to him.

“Tell me, is Stockholm still a beautiful city?” she asked. She hadn’t been to Sweden since 1906, and lived in the usual Soviet time warp. It was one of those moments, Jangfeldt said, “when you feel the wings of history beating you in the face.”

Jangfeldt later published translations of 416 letters between the couple, Love Is the Heart of Everything: Correspondence between Vladimir Mayakovsky and Lili Brik, 1915-1930. “When this was published, they could never say she hadn’t existed. … This process of forced oblivion had to be stopped. I defended her place in history, nothing else.” The authorities, he said, “must respect that Mayakovsky lived with her for 15 years and he dedicated his poems to her.”

Brik died at 87 in 1978, also by her own hand. “She will always have a difficult life – even after her death,” Jangfeldt said. She missed the fall of communism, and another death for Mayakovsky.

“When communism fell, he fell, too,” said Jangfeldt, like one of the statues pulled down by crowds at the times of revolution. “People had been force-fed his poems for years” and a backlash was inevitable.

Too often, he had been seen as “a high-pitched and vulgar mouthpiece for the regime” – yet many of his poems are very good, and no more than five or six poems have created the reputation of a great poet. “It’s difficult for people today to believe that people may have been honest in believing in the revolution. I don’t think Mayakovsky was cynical,”Jangfeldt said.

The first volume of Mayakovsky collected works was published in Russia this year, out of a project score of volumes in years to come. Meanwhile, enjoy the videos below. The first has archival footage, and I think that’s Mayakovsky’s voice reading briefly about one minute in. The second shows Mayakovsky in 1918’s The Lady and the Hooligan, the only film featuring Mayakovsky that has survived in its entirety.

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Poetry Corner: Conversation with Comrade Lenin by Vladimir Mayakovsky

Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) was a Bolshevik revolutionary and came to be one of the most celebrated communist poets in the Soviet Union and internationally. He was also a talented playwright, artist and actor who used art as a medium to convey the politics and ideals of the new socialist state.

Mayakovsky was born in the small Georgian village of Bagdadi, then part of the Russian Empire and renamed after its most famous son between 1940 and 1990. He had already started working with the local Social Democrats by the time of the 1905 Revolution, joining the Bolshevik faction when he moved to Moscow a couple of years later. He did propaganda work for the party until his arrest in 1908, which resulted in an 11-month imprisonment. After imbibing culture aplenty inside prison he became one of the most visible members of the Russian artistic scene.

Mayakovsky embraced the October Revolution, putting his talents at the service of the nascent state. Although a passionate revolutionary and communist, Mayakovsky did not shy away from pointing to the faults of the young Soviet system, writing The Bedbug, a 1928 play criticising the years of the New Economic Policy while holding out hope for a communist future. He went further in The Bathhouse two years later — originally falling foul of the censors, a reworked version was critically panned.

A fiery and passionate individual to the last, Mayakovsky sadly shot himself in 1930 following a dispute with his lover, though the circumstances of his death are disputed. Mayakovsky’s funeral on 17 April 1930, was attended by around 150,000 people, the third largest event of public mourning in Soviet history, surpassed only by those of Lenin and Stalin.

Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1893 – 1930

Awhirl with events,
packed with jobs one too many,
the day slowly sinks
as the night shadows fall.
There are two in the room:
and Lenin-
a photograph
on the whiteness of wall.

The stubble slides upward
above his lip
as his mouth
jerks open in speech.
The tense
creases of brow
hold thought
in their grip,
immense brow
matched by thought immense.
A forest of flags,
raised-up hands thick as grass…
Thousands are marching
beneath him…
alight with joy,
I rise from my place,
eager to see him,
hail him,
report to him!
“Comrade Lenin,
I report to you –
(not a dictate of office,
the heart’s prompting alone)

This hellish work
that we’re out to do

will be done
and is already being done.
We feed and we clothe
and give light to the needy,

the quotas
for coal
and for iron
but there is
any amount
of bleeding
and rubbish
around us still.

Without you,
there’s many
have got out of hand,

all the sparring
and squabbling
does one in.
There’s scum
in plenty
hounding our land,

outside the borders
and also

Try to
count ’em
tab ’em –
it’s no go,

there’s all kinds,
and they’re
thick as nettles:
red tapists,
down the row,
They strut around
as peacocks,
badges and fountain pens
studding their chests.
We’ll lick the lot of ’em-
to lick ’em
is no easy job
at the very best.
On snow-covered lands
and on stubbly fields,
in smoky plants
and on factory sites,
with you in our hearts,
Comrade Lenin,
we build,
we think,
we breathe,
we live,
and we fight!”
Awhirl with events,
packed with jobs one too many,
the day slowly sinks
as the night shadows fall.
There are two in the room:
and Lenin –
a photograph
on the whiteness of wall.

Vladimir Maiakovski

S-a născut la 19 iulie 1893 în satul georgian Bagdadi care mai târziu în onoarea sa a fost numit Maiakovski. Tânărul Maiakovski încă din copilărie s-a obișnuit să respecte pe cei care muncesc, indiferent dacă erau de aceeași naționalitate cu el, sau de alta. Tatăl poetului, Vladimir Konstantinovici Maiakovski, a lucrat timp de 17 ani la Bagdadi, ca brigadier silvic, prin cinstea și iscusința sa precum și prin ideile lui democratice, atitudinea prietenoasă în relațiile cu cei din jur, și-a câștigat respectul și dragostea țăranilor localnici. „Din copilărie am înțeles limpede — își amintește sora poetului, Ludmila Vladimirovna Maiakovski — că munca este baza vieții. Familia noastră avea un mare respect pentru muncă. Dragostea pentru muncă, înțelegerea înaltei ei meniri, ne-a fost sădită și cultivată în suflet de părinți prin pilda lor".

În 1902 Maiakovski se înscrie la școala din Kutais unde va studia până în 1906 când tatăl său moare de septicemie. Astfel în 1906 se mută la Moscova împreună cu mama și cele două surori mai mari Olga și Ludmila unde-și va termina studiile până în 1908. În același an se înscrie în Partidul Social Democrat Rusesc și începe să scrie literatură marxistă. În 1909 este închis 6 luni pentru activități subversive. După eliberare abandonează politica pentru o perioadă și se înscrie la Școala de Arte din Moscova (singura instituție de învățământ superior în care studenții erau primiți fără a prezenta „certificatul de bună purtare" eliberat de poliție). Îndoindu-se de capacitățile sale de poet, el s-a avântat cu toată energia tinereții spre pictură. Succesele lui Maiakovski, în special în desen, au fost excepționale. Dacă ș-ar fi dorit, ar fi putut deveni pictor. Dar încă din 1911, el se întoarce de data aceasta definitiv, la vechea lui pasiune, poezia. Tot în 1911 îl cunoaște pe David Burliuk pe care în autobiografia sa IA SAM (Eu însumi) îl numește “adevăratul meu profesor”. În 1912 debutează în almanahul O palmă gustului public cu poeziile Noci (Noaptea) și Utro (Dimineața), semnând totodată și manifestul colectiv al noii mișcări futuriste (întreaga creație maiakovskiană va purta urmele acestei orientări). În 1913 apare VLADIMIR MAIAKOVSKI: TRAGEDIIA ( Tragedia Vladimir Maiakovski) pusă în scenă la Moscova.

În 1915 o cunoaște pe cea care avea sa devină iubirea vieții sale Lili Brik (soția lui Osip Brik, editorul și colaboratorul său literar) cu care începe o aventură ce va dura până în 1928. Tot în 1915 scrie și publică OBLAKO V SHTANAKH (Norul cu pantaloni) și FLEYTA POZVONOCHNIK (Flautul vertebrelor). Norul cu pantaloni - dedicat Liliei Brik - este una din operele sale programatice, poem „în patru strigate”- „Jos cu iubirea voastră”, „Jos cu arta voastră”, „Jos cu orânduirea voastră”, „Jos cu religia voastră” . Încheie anii premergători apropiatei revoluții cu Voina i Mir (Războiul si lumea) - o reacție la ororile războiului și Chelovek (Omul) - impresionat cosmic de zădărnicia dragostei. Între anii 1915 și 1917 a lucrat ca proiectant pentru Școala Militară de automobile din Petrograd.

În 1918 a fost editor al revistei Gazeta futuristov. În 1919 se întoarce la Moscova unde atmosfera agitată a revoluției rusești îl inspiră să scrie poeme populare - încurajatoare pentru bolșevici. Din 1919 până în 1921 scrie piese scurte de propagandă pentru cunoscutele Vitrine Rosta. În 1923 ca urmare a unor neînțelegeri cu Lili Brik pleacă într-o călătorie la Berlin și Paris unde scrie poemul liric PRO ETO (Despre asta) . Aici are o idilă cu Tatyana Jakovleva în vârsta de 18 ani, prietenă a scriitoarei Elsa Triolet stabilită în Franța din 1918. Întors la Moscova întemeiază împreună cu Osip Brik în 1923 gruparea literară dadaistică LEF (Levii front iskusstva – Frontul de stânga al artei) pe care o va conduce până în 1928, unde va publica Pro Eto. În 1924 scrie elegia morții lui Vladimir Lenin care-l va face cunoscut în toată Rusia. Călătorește în Europa, Statele Unite, Mexic, Cuba Maiakovski fiind unul din puținii scriitori cărora li s-a pe permis sa călătorească liberi în străinătate.

Frustrat în dragoste, îndepărtat de societatea sovietică, atacat de critici în presă și interzicându-i-se să mai călătorească în străinătate Maiakoski se sinucide la Moscova pe 14 aprilie 1930.

Deși cu putini ani în urmă condamna, într-un poem, sinuciderea lui Serghei Esenin, la un cenaclu în 1929 îi spune unui prieten: „Pentru a scrie un poem excelent și pentru a putea fi citit aici - acela trebuie să moară." În biletul lui de adio Maiakovski scria:”Mama, surori, prieteni, iertați-mă - nu este bine (nu recomand altora), dar pentru mine nu se poate altfel. / Lili – iubește-mă. ” Trupul său a fost incinerat pe data de 17 aprilie 1930 Mai târziu Maiakovski a fost elogiat de Stalin care declara că este “cel mai bun și talentat poet al epocii noastre sovietice” În 1935 a fost ridicată statuia lui Maiakovski în Piața Triumfalnaya Ploshad –aceasta devenind loc semnificativ pentru cultura moscovită.

Lirica sa este impetuoasă și transpune în plan universal revolta sa individuală antiburgheză. Se remarcă structura formală dinamică, abruptă, construcția surprinzătoare a ritmului, apelul la oralitate și la asociații metaforice sugestive.

Dacă la început a fost influențat de futurism, ulterior a evoluat spre o lirică militantă, dominată de concepția sa estetică, bazată pe ideea angajamentului social și astfel scrierile sale devine dedicate acțiunii, mișcării, vieții revoluționare. A scris și teatru satiric de o deosebită virulență, în care predomină stilul publicistic.

    : Ночь ("Noaptea") : Утро ("Dimineața") POSHCHOCHINA OBSHCHESTVENNOMU VKUSU (O palma gustului public) : Владимир Маяковский ("Vladimir Maiakovski"), tragedie : Облако в штанах, Oblako v ștanah ("Norul cu pantaloni") : Флейта-позвоночник, Fleita-pozvonočnik ("Flautul vertebrelor") PROSTAE KAK MYCHANIE VOINA I MIR, (Războiul si lumea) Человек, Celovek ("Omul") ODA REVOLYUTSI (Oda revoluției) /1921: Мистерия Буфф, Misteria buff ("Comediile Misterul buf") POET ROBOCII (Poetul muncitor) : Левый марш (Матросам), Levii marș (Matrozam) ("Marșul de stânga (Matrozii)") 150.000.000, poem Люблю, Liubliu ("Iubesc"), poem : Как работает республика демократическая?, Kak rabotaet respublika demokraticeskaia? ("Cine făurește o republică democrată?") : (Париж (Разговорчики с Эйфелевой башней), Parij (Razgovorčiki c Eifelevoi bajnei) ("Paris, Convorbiri cu Turnul Eiffel") Про это, Pro eto ("Despre asta") LIRIKA VLADIMIR ILYITSH LENIN Maiakovski si poeziile sale -1925 PARIZ : Владимир Ильич Ленин ("Vladimie Ilici Lenin") SOBRANIE SOCHINENII (4 vol.) Как делать стихи?, Kak delat stihi ("Cum se fac versurile?") : Мое открытие Америки, Moe otkrtie Ameriki ("Descoperirea mea, America") Хорошо!, Horoșo ("Foarte bine!") : Письмо Татьяне Яковлевой, Pismo Tatiane Iakovlevoi ("Scrisoare către Tatiana Iakovlevna") KON-OGON : Клоп, Klop ("Ploșnița") Баня, Bania ("Baia") VO VES GOLOS (În gura mare) -1938 POLNOE SOBRANIE SOCHINENII, (13 vols.) SEMYA MAIAKOVSKII V PISMAKH V.V. MAIAKOVSKII I. L.IU. BRIK - Corespondenta dintre Vladimir Maiakovski și Lili Brik intre anii 1915-1930

Maiakovski a condus revistele Krokodil, Lef, Novti.

„În lirica modernă a secolului al XX-lea, creația maiakovskiană – eroică, tragică si satirică – se lasă receptată ca o prezentă insolită si originală. Poet al revoluției, poet politic prin excelență, Maiakovski a influențat hotărâtor evoluția poeziei contemporane.”

Watch the video: Past One OClock by Vladimir Mayakovsky read by A Poetry Channel (June 2022).


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