Vladimir Mayakovsky

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Portrait of Vladimir Mayakovsky

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (Влади́мир Влади́мирович Маяко́вский) (July 7 (O.S.) = July 19 (N.S.), 1893 - April 14, 1930) was among the foremost representatives for the poetic futurism of early 20th century Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union.

Life and work

He was born the third child in Bagdadi, Georgia where his father worked as a forest ranger. Both parents were descendants of Cossacks. At the age of 14 Mayakovsky took part in socialist demonstrations at the town of Kutaisi, where he attended the local Grammar School. After the sudden and premature death of his father in 1906, the family — Mayakovsky, his mother, and his two sisters — moved to Moscow, where he attended the school No. 5.

In Moscow Mayakovsky developed a passion for Marxist literature and took part in numerous activities of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party; he was to later become an RSDLP (Bolshevik) member. In 1908, he was dismissed from the Grammar School due to his mother's inability to afford tuition.

Around that time, Mayakovsky was imprisoned on three occasions for subversive political activities, but being underage, he avoided deportation. During a period of solitary confinement in Butyrka prison in 1909, he commenced writing poetry, but his poems were confiscated. On his release from prison, he continued working within the socialist movement, and in 1911 he joined the Moscow Art School where he became acquainted with members of the Russia's Futurist movement. He became a leading spokesman for the group Gileas (Гилея), and a close friend to David Burlyuk, whom he saw as his mentor.

The 1912 Futurist publication, A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (Пощёчина общественному вкусу) printed Mayakovsky's first published poems: "Night" (Ночь), and "Morning" (Утро). Because of their political activities, Burlyuk and Mayakovsky were expelled from the Moscow Art School in 1914.

His work continued in the Futurist vein until 1914. His artistic development then shifted increasingly towards narrative-based directions and it is this work, published during the period immediately preceding the Russian Revolution, which was to establish his reputation as a poet in Russia and abroad.

A Cloud in Trousers (1915) was Mayakovsky's first major poem of appreciable length and it depicted the heated subjects of love, revolution, religion, and art written from the vantage point of a spurned lover. The language of the work was the language of the streets, and Mayakovsky went on to considerable lengths to deconstruct the idealistic and romaticised notions of poetry and poets.

Your thoughts,

dreaming on a softened brain,
like an over-fed lackey on a greasy settee,
with my heart's bloody tatters I'll mock again;
impudent and caustic, I'll jeer to superfluity.

Of Grandfatherly gentleness I'm devoid,
there's not a single grey hair in my soul!
Thundering the world with the might of my voice,
I go by -- handsome,
twenty-two-year-old.

Вашу мысль
мечтающую на размягченном мозгу,
как выжиревший лакей на засаленной кушетке,
буду дразнить об окровавленный сердца лоскут:
досыта изъиздеваюсь, нахальный и едкий.

У меня в душе ни одного седого волоса,
и старческой нежности нет в ней!
Мир огромив мощью голоса,
иду - красивый,
двадцатидвухлетний.


(From the prologue of A Cloud in Trousers. source: [1] (http://mayakovsky.com/maya/cloudts.htm))

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Vladimir Mayakovsky and Lilya Brik

In the summer of 1915, Mayakovsky fell in love with a married woman, Lilya Brik, and it is to her that the poem "The Backbone Flute" (1916) is dedicated. Unfortunately for Mayakovsky, she was the wife of his publisher, Osip Brik. The love affair, as well as his impressions of war and revolution, strongly influenced his works of these years. The poem "War and the World" (1916) addressed the horrors of WWI and "Man" (1917) is a poem dealing with the anguish of love.

Mayakovsky was rejected as a volunteer at the beginning of WWI, and during 1915-1917 worked at the Petrograd Military Automobile School as a draftsman. At the onset of the Russian Revolution, Mayakovsky was in Smolny, Petrograd. There he was to witness the October Revolution. He started reciting poems such as "Left March! For the Red Marines: 1918" (Левый марш (Матросам), 1918) at naval theatres, with sailors as an audience.

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Agitprop poster by Mayakovsky
After moving back to Moscow, Mayakovsky worked for the Russian State Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) creating — both graphic and text — satirical Agitprop posters. In 1919, he published his first collection of poems Collected Works 1909-1919 (Все сочиненное Владимиром Маяковским). In the cultural climate of the young Soviet Union, his popularity grew rapidly. During 1922-1928, Mayakovsky was a prominent member of the Left Art Front and went on to defined his work as 'Communist futurism' (комфут).

As one of the few writers who were allowed to travel freely, his voyages to Latvia, Britain, Germany, the United States, Mexico and Cuba influenced works like My Discovery of America (Мое открытие Америки, 1925). He also travelled extensively throughout the Soviet Union.

On a lecture tour in the United States, Mayakovsky met Elli Jones, who later gave birth to his daughter, an event which Mayakovsky only came to know in 1929, when the couple met clandestinely in the south of France, as the relationship was kept secret. In the late 1920s, Mayakovsky fell in love with Tatiana Yakovleva and to her he dedicated the poem "A Letter to Tatiana Yakovleva" (Письмо Татьяне Яковлевой, 1928).

The relevance of Mayakovsky cannot be limited to Soviet poetry. While over years, he was considered the Soviet poet par excellence, he also changed the perceptions of poetry in wider 20th Century culture. His political activism as a propagandistic agitator was rarely understood, sometimes disfavored by contemporaries and also by close friends like Boris Pasternak. Near the end of the 1920s, Mayakovsky became increasingly disillusioned with Bolshevism and propaganda; his satirical play The Bedbug (клоп, 1929), dealing with the Soviet philistinism and bureaucratism, shows this development. Malady and political as well as private disappointment were the main influences of his last month.

On the evening of April 14, 1930, Mayakovsky shot himself. An unfinished poem in his suicide note read:

The love boat has crashed against the everyday. You and I, we are quits, and there is no point in listing mutual pains, sorrows, and hurts.

Mayakovsky was interred at the Moscow Novodevichy Cemetery. In 1930, his birthplace of Bagdadi in Georgia was renamed to Mayakovsky in his honour. Following Stalin's death, rumours arose that Mayakovsky did not commit suicide but was, in fact, murdered at the behest of Stalin. During the 1990s, while KGB files were being declassified, there was hope that new evidence will come to light on this question, but none has been found and the hypothesis remains unproven.

External links

References

  • Mayakovsky, Vladimir (Patricia Blake ed., trans. Max Hayward and George Reavey). The bedbug and selected poetry. (Meridian Books, Cleveland, 1960).
  • Mayakovsky, Vladimir (trans. Guy Daniels, introd. by Robert Payne). The complete plays of Vladimir Mayakovsky. (Simon & Schuster, NY, 1968).
  • Mayakovsky, Vladimir. For the voice (The British Library, London, 2000).
  • Mayakovsky, Vladimir (ed. Bengt Jangfeldt, trans. Julian Graffy). Love is the heart of everything : correspondence between Vladimir Mayakovsky and Lili Brik 1915-1930 (Polygon Books, Edinburgh, 1986).
  • Mayakovsky, Vladimir (comp. and trans. Herbert Marshall). Mayakovsky and his poetry (Current Book House, Bombay, 1955).
  • Mayakovsky, Vladimir. Selected works in three volumes (Raduga, Moscow, 1985).
  • Mayakovsky, Vladimir. Selected poetry. (Foreign Languages, Moscow, 1975).
  • Mayakovsky, Vladimir (ed. Bengt Jangfeldt and Nils Ake Nilsson). Vladimir Majakovsky: Memoirs and essays (Almqvist & Wiksell Int., Stockholm 1975).
  • Mayakovsky, Vladimir. Satira ('Khudozh. lit.,' Moscow, 1969).
  • Brown, E. J. Mayakovsky: a poet in the revolution (Princeton Univ. Press, 1973).
  • Jangfeldt, Bengt. Majakovsky and futurism 1917-1921 (Almqvist & Wiksell International, Stockholm, 1976).
  • Stapanian, Juliette. Mayakovsky's cubo-futurist vision (Rice University Press, 1986).
  • Charters, Ann & Samuel. I love : the story of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Lili Brik (Farrar Straus Giroux, NY, 1979).
  • Lavrin, Janko. From Pushkin to Mayakovsky, a study in the evolution of a literature. (Sylvan Press, London, 1948).
  • Mikhailov, Aleksandr Alekseevich. Maiakovskii (Mol. gvardiia, Moscow, 1988).
  • Terras, Victor. Vladimir Mayakovsky (Twayne, Boston, 1983).
  • Vallejo, Csar (trans. Richard Schaaf) The Mayakovsky case (Curbstone Press, Willimantic, CT, 1982).
  • Wachtel, Michael. The development of Russian verse : meter and its meanings (Cambridge University Press, 1998).
  • Humesky, Assya. Majakovskiy and his neologisms (Rausen Publishers, NY, 1964).
  • Shklovskii, Viktor Borisovich. (ed. and trans. Lily Feiler). Mayakovsky and his circle (Dodd, Mead, NY, 1972).
  • Novatorskoe iskusstvo Vladimira Maiakovskogo (trans. Alex Miller). Vladimir Mayakovsky: Innovator (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976).
  • Rougle, Charles. Three Russians consider America : America in the works of Maksim Gorkij, Aleksandr Blok, and Vladimir Majakovsky (Almqvist & Wiksell International, Stockholm, 1976).
  • Aizlewood, Robin. Verse form and meaning in the poetry of Vladimir Maiakovsky: Tragediia, Oblako v shtanakh, Fleita-pozvonochnik, Chelovek, Liubliu, Pro eto (Modern Humanities Research Association, London, 1989).
  • Noyes, George R. Masterpieces of the Russian drama (Dover Pub., NY, 1960).bg:Владимир Маяковски

cs:Vladimír Vladimirovič Majakovskij de:Wladimir Wladimirowitsch Majakowski eo:Vladimir MAJAKOVSKIJ fr:Vladimir Mayakovski mk:Владимир Мајаковски pl:Włodzimierz Majakowski ru:Маяковский, Владимир Владимирович zh:维拉蒂米尔·马雅科夫斯基

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