Longlisted for the 2018 Read Russia Prize
‘Vladimir Mayakovsky’ & Other Poems is the only single-volume selection in English to fully represent the work of one of Modernism’s vital literary forces. The poems encompass Mayakovsky’s pre-Revolutionary surrealism as well as his exclamatory agitprop of the 1920s, by which time he had become the pre-eminent Soviet poet. New translations of key works are included alongside several poems that have never been translated into English before, while an introduction and notes provide helpful contexts and elucidations. Screenplays, dramatic scripts and advertising slogans give a sense of the unusual breadth and invention of Mayakovsky’s project, and his skill both as poet and propagandist. ‘A poet needs to be good at life as well’, he writes; his job is to ‘smooth brains with the file of his tongue’. Womack’s translations help to revise the predominant image of Mayakovsky as a hectoring egoist, offering a more nuanced impression of a poet whose concern was as much comradeship and intimacy as politics and posterity: ‘all of this – do you want it? – I will abandon for one single tender human word.’
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