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Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky

The Russian poet Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (1893-1930) is best known for his colorful, declamatory style and his use of the language of the streets as poetic material. His artistic innovations strongly influenced the development of Soviet poetry.

Vladimir Mayakovsky was born on July 19, 1893, in Russian Georgia. When his father, a forester, died in 1906, the family moved to Moscow. This was to be Mayakovsky's city until his death. Between 1906 and 1911 Mayakovsky was arrested several times for his political activities. He joined the Bolshevik party in 1908. In 1909, during one of his terms in prison, he wrote his first verses.

Mayakovsky studied at the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture from 1911 until he was expelled in 1914. During this period he published his first book of poetry, I! (1913), and became the leading figure in the avant-garde futurist movement in Russian poetry.

Russian futurism was as much a way of life as it was a poetic doctrine. It arose as a reaction to the extreme estheticism of Russian poetry at the turn of the century and to the prevailing mysticism in Russian intellectual life. Mayakovsky and his companions advocated the abandonment of the Russian tradition and the creation of a new art, one free of the past. They took their cause to the streets, declaiming their verses to chance audiences and going to any lengths to shock a tradition-bound public. Their shocking behavior and mode of dress gained them an instant reputation. Mayakovsky's poetry of these prerevolutionary years is polemical but not devoid of poetic content. It is an exceptionally personal poetry. Often it takes the form of a monologue addressed to the poet's mother and sister. The poet bares his self to the public in a style which is by turns ironic and sad. The title of his long verse drama is Vladimir Mayakovsky (1913), and it is subtitled "A Tragedy." In his most successful book, A Cloud in Trousers (1915), he acclaims the poet as the thirteenth apostle. Increasingly after 1915 Mayakovsky appears to have been trapped between his public role of apostle and his private suffering, the well-spring of his poetry.

Mayakovsky welcomed revolution in 1917 and put himself wholeheartedly at the service of the new Soviet state. He wrote popular verse, created propaganda posters, and lent his name to numerous public causes. In his own poetry, Mayakovsky continued his attack on the classical Russian tradition and proclaimed a poetry of the masses. He sought to write only for the masses, excluding any reference to the poetic self. Thus, his epic poem 150,000,000 (1921) was published anonymously. Mayakovsky described his postrevolutionary poetry as "tendentious realism," and there is no doubt that he achieved this realism at the expense of his true poetic talent.

Mayakovsky traveled widely in the 1920s. He went several times to western Europe and in 1925 to America. During a trip to Paris, he fell in love with a Russian émigré. Toward the end of the 1920s it became more and more difficult for Mayakovsky to get permission to travel abroad. He felt increasingly the burden of his public posture and the pain of having abandoned his private poetic self. This alienation from the woman he loved and from his very self led him to commit suicide on April 14, 1930, in Moscow. He could no longer maintain the dual role of public apostle and private poet.

Further Reading

A good selection of Mayakovsky's writings is available as The Bedbug and Selected Poetry (1964), which has a good introductory essay by the editor, Patricia Blake. A full-length biography of Mayakovsky is Wiktor Woroszylski, The Life of Mayakovsky (trans. 1971). The account of Mayakovsky's life in "Safe Conduct" in Boris Pasternak, Selected Writings (1949; new ed. 1958), is an interesting interpretive biography. The best treatment of Mayakovsky's artistic innovations and his role in the futurist movement is Cecil Maurice Bowra, The Creative Experiment (1949).

Additional Sources

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

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Mayakovsky, Vladimir Vladimirovich

MAYAKOVSKY, VLADIMIR VLADIMIROVICH

(18931930), poet, playwright.

Vladimir Mayakovsky was born in Bagdadi, Georgia (later renamed Mayakovsky in his honor). His father's death of tetanus in 1906 devastated the family emotionally and financially, and the themes of death, abandonment, and infection recurred in many of Mayakovsky's poems. As a student, Mayakovsky became an ardent revolutionary; he was arrested and served eleven months for his Bolshevik activities in 1909. In 1911 he was accepted into the Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, where he met David Burlyuk, who was beginning to gather the Hylaean group of artists and poets: Nikolai and Vladimir Burlyuk, Alexandra Exter, Viktor (Velemir) Khlebnikov, Alexei Kruchenykh, and Benedikt Livshits. In 1912 the group issued its first manifesto, "A Slap in the Face of Public Taste," the highly charged rhetoric that created a scandalous sensation announcing the arrival of Futurism in the artistic culture of Russia. The poets and artists of Hylaea, Mayakovsky in particular, were associated in the popular press with social disruption, hooliganism, and anarchist politics.

Mayakovsky was an enthusiastic supporter of the Bolshevik revolution; much of his artistic effort was devoted to propaganda for the state. He wrote agitational poems and, combining his considerable artistic skill with his ability to write short, didactic poems, constructed large posters that hung in the windows of the Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA). He also wrote and staged at the Moscow State Circus a satirical play, Mystery Bouffe, which skewered bourgeois culture and the church. His most political poems, "150,000,000" (1919) and "Vladimir Ilich Lenin" (1924), became required reading for every Soviet schoolchild and helped create the image of Mayakovsky as a mythic hero of the Soviet Union, a position that Mayakovsky found increasingly untenable in the later 1920s. Mayakovsky remained a relentless foe of bureaucratism and authoritarianism in Soviet society; this earned him official resentment and led to restrictions on travel and other privileges. On April 14, 1930, the combined pressures of Soviet control and a series of disastrous love affairs, most notably with Lili Brik, led to Mayakovsky's suicide in his apartment in Moscow.

See also: bolshevism; circus; futurism

bibliography

Brown, Edward J. (1973). Mayakovsky: A Poet in the Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jangfeldt, Bengt. (1976). Majakovskij and Futurism, 19171921. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Markov, Vladimir. (1969). Russian Futurism: A History. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Woroszylski, Wiktor. (1970). The Life of Mayakovsky. New York: Orion Press.

Mark Konecny

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"Mayakovsky, Vladimir Vladimirovich." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Mayakovsky, Vladimir Vladimirovich

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (vlədyē´mĬr vlədyē´mĬrəvĬch mī´əkôf´skē), 1893–1930, Russian poet and dramatist. Mayakovsky was a leader of the futurist school in 1912, and he was later the chief poet of the revolution. His lyrics are highly original in rhythm, rhyme, and imagery. The Cloud in Trousers (1915), a poem written almost entirely in metaphors, describes the agony of unrequited love. His early play, Mystery Bouffe (1918, tr. 1933), is an allegory prophesying the victory of the revolution. After the revolution he devoted almost all his energies to propaganda verse, and during most of the 1920s he was arguably the most important figure in Soviet art. His later plays, such as the satires The Bedbug (1928, tr. 1960) and The Bathhouse (1930), were more critical, however, of the new order. Mayakovsky grew increasingly disillusioned with Soviet life and committed suicide in 1930. His Complete Plays were published in English in 1971.

See M. Almereyda, Night Wraps the Sky: Writings by and about Mayakovsky (2008); biography by W. Woroszylski (tr. 1971); study by E. J. Brown (1973); V. Shklovsky, Mayakovsky and his Circle (tr. 1972).

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Mayakovsky, Vladimir

Mayakovsky, Vladimir (1893–1930) Russian poet and dramatist. Mayakovsky was the leader of the Russian futurism movement, and founded the journal Left Arts Front. He is often referred to as the voice of the Russian Revolution. His poem 150,000,000 (1920) and the play Mystery Bouffe (1918) were propaganda pieces for the new Soviet Union. Mayakovsky's late work, such as the plays Bedbug (1928) and Bath-House (1930), display his disillusionment with the bureaucracy of the regime. He committed suicide.

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