Tag Archives: Alexander Rodchenko

Vladimir Mayakovsky: The jutting cheekbones of the ocean charted on a dish of jelly

Vladimir Mayakovsky - portrait - book

Left: Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1924, by Alexander Rodchenko. Right: The Collected Poems of Vladimir Mayakovsky, translated by Dorian Rottenberg, USSR, 1972.

Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893–1930) was the leading poet of Russian Revolution of 1917 and of the early Soviet period. He was, “an individualist and a rebel against established taste and standards, one of the founders of Russian Futurism movement. Originally Mayakovsky planned to become an artist. His early poems have strong painterly visions and sequences in many of his works recall film techniques. Mayakovsky was deeply concerned with the problem of death throughout his life, and in 1930, troubled by critics and disappointment in love, he shot himself with a pocket pistol.” (Authors’ Calendar)

Mayakovsky is often associated with the Soviet regime, and has been in and out of favor because of that, though he did become disillusioned with the Soviet cause by the end of his life. He is not by any means my favorite Russian poet of the era, and I mainly wanted an excuse to post the image of that cool book cover above, but here’s an early Mayakovsky poem from 1913 that I quite like:

What About You?

I splashed some colours from a tubler
and smeared the drab world with emotion.
I charted on a dish of jelly
the jutting cheekbones of the ocean.
Upon the scales of a tin salmon
I read the calls of lips yet mute.
And you,
could you have played a nocturne
with just a drainpipe for a flute?

Source: Ubuweb has a free download of The Collected Poems of Vladimir Mayakovsky, my source for the book cover image and the poem.