From Publishers Weekly
The volatile young poet rose to prominence as a coauthor of the Russian Futurist manifesto A Slap in the Face of Public Taste in 1912; the next five years saw the explosive sexual boasting and the fragmentary lines of such poems as A Cloud in Pants, experimental plays and even participation in important Russian modernist filmmaking. An enemy of tradition in all its forms, the moody, energetic Vladimir Mayakovsky supported the Soviet revolution wholeheartedly, writing a poem called 150,000,000 in support of the Soviet army. Yet the passionate poet became worn down by the grind of his personal life and by Stalin's assault on something dear to him—modern art. Mayakovsky shot himself in 1930, and his subsequent canonization by the U.S.S.R. made him a figure of ambivalence even for Russians who liked his daring verse. Mixing well-translated poems with bits from Mayakovsky's short autobiography I, Myself
, excerpts from memoirs (by the likes of Osip Mandelstam and Francine du Plessix Gray) and short bits from critics' writings, Almereyda attempts to give Mayakovsky a new audience. Alas, the bits may be too short to sustain readers' interest, and the anthology—like the poet's life—seems choppy, confusing and finished all too fast. (Apr.)
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At the height of his fame, in the nineteen-twenties, the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky was arguably the leading figure in Soviet art. Perhaps only Walt Whitmanwhom Mayakovsky passionately admiredwrote with similar breadth and exhilaration. This volume offers some of Mayakovskys best works in vivid translations, and interleaves them with essays, photographs, and historical documents (including a complaint by a Tsarist prison governor about the poets refusal to obey commands). In 1930, at the age of thirty-six, Mayakovsky, disillusioned and trapped by the government that he had virtually represented, put a bullet through his heart; for Joseph Brodsky, he was "the first major victim." His tone of offhand ecstasy helped to produce, decades later, a spectacular new American poetry. It was Mayakovsky who taught Frank OHara to talk directly to the sun, and the book includes OHaras beaming account of their conversation.
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