Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (19 July 1893 NS – 14 April 1930) was a Georgian-born Russian playwright, screenwriter and poet. A Bolshevik activist before 1917, he became the pre-eminent poet of the Russian Revolution and one of the leading literary figures of the Futurist movement.
- On the pavement
of my trampled soul
the steps of madmen
weave the prints of rude crude words.
- "1" (1913); translation from Patricia Blake (ed.) The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975) p. 53
- Tramp squares with rebellious treading!
Up heads! As proud peaks be seen!
In the second flood we are spreading
Every city on earth will be clean.
- "Our March" (1917); translation from C. M. Bowra (ed.) A Book of Russian Verse (London: Macmillan, 1943) p. 125
- Art must not be concentrated in dead shrines called museums. lt must be spread everywhere – on the streets, in the trams, factories, workshops, and in the workers' homes.
- "Shrine or Factory?" (1918); translation from Mikhail Anikst et al. (eds.) Soviet Commercial Design of the Twenties (New York: Abbeville Press, 1987) p. 15
- A rhyme's
a barrel of dynamite.
A line is a fuse
The line smoulders,
the rhyme explodes –
and by a stanza
is blown to bits.
- "A Conversation with the Inspector of Taxes about Poetry" (1926); translation from Chris Jenks Visual Culture (London: Routledge, 1995) pp. 86-7
- I want to be understood by my country,
but if I fail to be understood –
I shall pass through my native land
to one side,
like a shower
of slanting rain.
- "Back Home!", first version (1926); translation from Patricia Blake (ed.) The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975) p. 36
is no paradise of arbors —
love tells us, humming,
that the stalled motor
of the heart
has started to work
- "Letter from Paris to Comrade Kostorov on the Nature of Love" (1928); translation from Patricia Blake (ed.) The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975) p. 213
in my teeth too,
and I'd rather
romances for you –
more profit in it
and more charm.
setting my heel
on the throat
of my own song.
- "At the Top of My Voice" (1929-30); translation from Patricia Blake (ed.) The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975) pp. 223-5
- In parade deploying
the armies of my pages,
I shall inspect
the regiments in line.
Heavy as lead,
my verses at attention stand,
ready for death
and for immortal fame.
- "At the Top of My Voice" (1929-30); translation from Patricia Blake (ed.) The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975) p. 227
- Love's ship has foundered on the rocks of life.
We're quits: stupid to draw up a list
of mutual sorrows, hurts and pains.
- I understand the power and the alarm of words –
Not those that they applaud from theatre-boxes,
but those which make coffins break from bearers
and on their four oak legs walk right away.
- Untitled last poem found after his death; translation from Martin Seymour-Smith Guide to Modern World Literature (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1975) vol. 4, p. 235
The Cloud in Trousers (1915)
Quotations are cited from Patricia Blake (ed.) The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975).
- No gray hairs streak my soul,
no grandfatherly fondness there!
I shake the world with the might of my voice,
and walk – handsome,
- Page 61.
- If you wish,
I shall grow irreproachably tender:
not a man, but a cloud in trousers!
- Page 61.
- Hey, you!
Off with your hat!
I am coming!
Not a sound.
The universe sleeps,
its huge paw curled
upon a star-infested ear.
- Page 109.
Quotes about Mayakovsky
- One evening Ilyich (Lenin) wanted to see for himself how the young people were getting on in the communes. We decided to visit our young friend Varya Armand who lived in a commune for art school students. I think that we made the visit on the day Kropotkin was buried, in 1921. It was a hungry year, but the young people were filled with enthusiasm. The people in the commune slept practically on bare boards, they had neither bread nor salt. "But we do have cereals," said a radiantfaced member of the commune. With this cereal they boiled a good porridge for Ilyich. Ilyich looked at the young people, at the radiant faces of the boys and girls who crowded around him, and their joy was reflected in his face. They showed him their naive drawings, explained their meaning. and bombarded him with questions. And he, smiling, evaded answering and parried by asking questions of his own: "What do you read? Do you read Pushkin?" -- "Oh, no," said someone, "after all he was a bourgeois; we read Mayakovsky." Ilyich smiled. "I think," he said, "that Pushkin is better." After this Ilyich took a more favourable view of Mayakovsky. Whenever the poet's name was mentioned he recalled the young art students who, full of life and gladness, and ready to die for the Soviet system, were unable to find words in the contemporary language with which to express themselves, and sought the answer in the obscure verse of Mayakovsky. Later, however, Ilyich once praised Mayakovsky for the verse in which he ridiculed Soviet red tape.
- He stands with one foot on Mont Blanc and with the other on the Elbrus. His voice out-thunders thunder. What is the wonder that…the proportions of earthly things vanish and that no difference is left between the small and the great?…No doubt this hyperbolic style reflects in some measure the frenzy of our time. But this does not provide it with an overall artistic justification. It is impossible to out-clamour war and revolution, but it is easy to get hoarse in the attempt.
- He was perhaps the only tolerable propaganda poet of all time: he meant it, and the energy he put into it was, as is frequently said, demonic.
- Martin Seymour-Smith Guide to Modern World Literature (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1975) vol. 4, p. 234
- Incomprehensible rubbish.
- Vladimir Ilyich Lenin; translation from Margaret Drabble (ed.) The Oxford Companion to English Literature (Oxford: OUP, 1995) p. 643.
- Of Mayaskovsky's 1920 poem, 150,000,000
- Mayakovsky was and is the best and most talented poet of our Soviet era. Indifference to his memory and works is a crime.
- Memorandum by Joseph Stalin; translation from Katerina Clark et al. (trans. Marian Schwartz) Soviet Culture and Power: A History in Documents, 1917-1953 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007) p. 288
- With this man, the newness of our times was climatically and uniquely in his blood. His very strangeness was one with the strangeness of the age, an age still half unrealised.
- Boris Pasternak Safe Conduct (1931); translation from Geoffrey Grigson (ed.) The Concise Encyclopedia of Modern World Literature (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1971) p. 239.
- You don't have to be a poet, but you do have to be a citizen. Well, Mayakovsky was not a citizen, he was a lackey, who served Stalin faithfully. He added his babble to the magnification of the immortal image of the leader and teacher.