the iron poet


what a poet! and the clear water is thick

with bloody blows on its head.
I embraced a cloud,
But when I soared
it rained.
—Frank O’Hara, “Mayakovsky” (1954)

In the summer of 1915, Vladimir Mayakovsky paid a call on Maxim Gorky and read him the first draft of his new long poem “A Cloud in Pants.” Its verses initially had been scribbled, so his friends reported, on cigarette boxes. As the Russian Formalist critic Viktor Shklovsky recalls, “Aleksey Maksimovich [Gorky] told me that he was stunned and that even a little gray bird hopping on the path ruffled its feathers, cocked its head and still could not bring itself to fly away.”

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