Ode to Mayakovsky

Nightwraps1 In The Brooklyn Rail, Rachel Bialik reviews Night Wraps the Sky and accuses Mayakovsky of being a hipster!

The book is a forceful tribute to the die-hard communist and incendiary poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, who unfalteringly believed that artistic performance was the medium that would open the gates for an ideological revolution. Not only did he believe it, but he had the entire country and party convinced as well. Mayakovsky was something of a superstar in his time, but editor Michael Almereyda makes a strong case in this long overdue anthology (in English translation) that the Russian Revolution’s representative poet was motivated entirely by political sincerity and socialist ambition. Though the deliberately selected primary sources and poems occasionally hint that Mayakovsky was compelled by a tormented Russian temperament, Almereyda successfully portrays a country and an ideology so raw that only a poetic persona of epic proportions could bring it to the people.

Despite the editor’s deliberate angle, multiple aspects of Mayakovsky as a writer and a person emerge from the collection. In his introduction, Almereyda explains that the writer displays, “a kind of proto-punk ferocity, a still burning aura of tough guy tenderness, soulful defiance.” In other words, Mayakovsky was a hipster.