Tuesday, February 16, 2010


PAST ONE O'CLOCK. . . (1930)

Past one o'clock. You must have gone to bed.

The milky way streams silver through the night.

I'm in no hurry; with lightning telegrams

I have no cause to wake or trouble you.

And, as they say, the incident is closed.

Love's boat has smashed against the daily grind.

Now you and I are quits. Why bother then

To balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts.

Behold what quiet settles on the world.

Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.

In hours like this, one rises to address

The ages, history, and all creation.

trans. George Reavey

A brilliantly sized and scoped feeling nonanthology~anthology of writings by and about Vladimir Mayakovsky, the unofficial poet laureate of the Russian Revolution, as if official ever meant anything to such a big-hearted river man. Here are short essays, ruminations, art work, daring photographs, plenty of the stalwart poems, and just getting the right breed of translators and thinkers to tinker with this mighty one. Testimonials often like to align Allen Ginsberg, Frank O'Hara and Kenneth Koch as the "most conspicuous inheritors of Mayakovskian energy and style", and somehow leave out the most most conspicuous: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Hirschman, Margaret Randall, Thomas McGrath and Charles Bukowski. Can't you just see Bukowski and Mayakovsky delivering mail together!

from HOW ARE VERSES MADE? (1926)

I walk along, waving my arms and mumbling almost wordlessly, now shortening my steps so as not to interrupt my mumbling, now mumbling more rapidly in time with my steps.

So the rhythm is trimmed and takes shape — and rhythm is the basis for any poetic work, resounding through the whole thing. Gradually, individual words begin to ease themselves free of this dull roar.

Several words just jump away and never come back, others hold on, wriggle and squirm a dozen times, until you can't imagine how any word will ever stay in its place (this sensation, developing with experience, is called talent). . .

Where this basic dull roar of a rhythm comes from is a mystery. In my case it's all kinds of repetitions in my mind of noises, rocking motions, or in fact any phenomena with which I can associate a sound. The sound of the sea, endlessly repeated, can provide my rhythm, or a servant who slams the door every morning, recurring and intertwining with itself, trailing through my consciousness, or even the rotation of the earth, which in my case, as in a shop of visual aids, gives way to and inextricably connects with the whistle of a high wind.

Rhythm is the fundamental force, the fundamental energy of verse. You can't explain it, you can only talk about it as you do about magnetism and electricity. The rhythm can be the same in a lot of poems, even in the whole oeuvre of the poet, and still not make the work monotonous, because a rhythm can be so complex, so intricately shaped, that even several long poems won't exhaust its possibilities. . .

It's a good idea to write a poem about the first of May in November or December, when you feel a desperate need for May.

In order to write about the tenderness of love, take Bus No. 7 from Lubyansky Square to Nogin Square. The appalling jolting will serve to throw into relief for you, better than anything else, the charm of a life transformed. A shake-up is essential, for the purposes of transformation.

trans. G.M. Hyde

(Farrar), edited by MICHAEL ALMEREYDA