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The Bedbug and Selected Poetry

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This selection of Mayakovsky's work covers his entire career--from the earliest pre-revolutionary lyrics to a poem found in a notebook after his suicide. Splendid translations of the poems, with the Russian on a facing page, and a fresh, colloquial version of Mayakovsky's dramatic masterpiece, The Bedbug.


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This selection of Mayakovsky's work covers his entire career--from the earliest pre-revolutionary lyrics to a poem found in a notebook after his suicide. Splendid translations of the poems, with the Russian on a facing page, and a fresh, colloquial version of Mayakovsky's dramatic masterpiece, The Bedbug.

30 review for The Bedbug and Selected Poetry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Have you seen a dog lick the hand that thrashed it?! The five stars are for the poetry. the play is a satire which endures because of its all too human kernel. The verse is loud, a clamoring. Metallic. I appreciate a verb like shock in this instance. Current is also a valuable word when considering these riveting lines of Mayakovsky. Seeking council the other day I went to my Director--who sighed from over steaming bowl of noodles and said, No wisdom. She could use some Mayakovsky about now. My cra Have you seen a dog lick the hand that thrashed it?! The five stars are for the poetry. the play is a satire which endures because of its all too human kernel. The verse is loud, a clamoring. Metallic. I appreciate a verb like shock in this instance. Current is also a valuable word when considering these riveting lines of Mayakovsky. Seeking council the other day I went to my Director--who sighed from over steaming bowl of noodles and said, No wisdom. She could use some Mayakovsky about now. My crazy sister noted the other night on social media that Hollywood should leave politics alone. These poems couldn't help her.

  2. 5 out of 5

    mwpm

    I love to watch children dying. Do you note, behind protruding nostalgia, the shadowy billow of laughter's surf? But I - in the reading room of the streets - have leafed so often through the volume of the coffin. Midnight with sodden hands has fingered me and the battered paling, and the crazy cathedral galloped in drops of downpour upon the cupola's bald pate. I have seen Christ escape from an icon, and the slush tearfully kiss

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    'Poetry is what's lost in translation,' yadda yadda, but Mayakovsky's English effigy is compelling nonetheless. A high-school teacher assigned 'A Cloud in Trousers'--out of Koch's Word on the Wind anthology--and I was officially obsessed. This book was a dogearred angsty missal. I still love his wacky, unexpected, collage-like imagery, his strangely tender semaphore speech (that's my attempt to get around 'intimate yell,' Schulyer's unbeatable description). Mayakovsky's gruff, Rodchenko-posed im 'Poetry is what's lost in translation,' yadda yadda, but Mayakovsky's English effigy is compelling nonetheless. A high-school teacher assigned 'A Cloud in Trousers'--out of Koch's Word on the Wind anthology--and I was officially obsessed. This book was a dogearred angsty missal. I still love his wacky, unexpected, collage-like imagery, his strangely tender semaphore speech (that's my attempt to get around 'intimate yell,' Schulyer's unbeatable description). Mayakovsky's gruff, Rodchenko-posed image even adorned my locker door, just below Camus (that one in profile, cigarette daggling from his lips, overcoat collar Bogartishly turned-up) and Baudelaire (haunted and haggard, in one of Carjat's portraits). This book, plus Les Fleurs du Mal, The Rebel, Poem of the Deep Song and Absalom, Absalom! made my world.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) was a Russian poet and dramatist who had a powerful influence on the writers of his day. He initially supported the aims and programs of Bolshevism – in addition to writing serious poetry he created many propaganda posters – and traveled widely outside Russia, but he gradually became disillusioned with the nature and direction of the Soviet Union under Stalin, writing satirical drama that was quickly suppressed. He died playing Russian roulette. Mayakov Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930) was a Russian poet and dramatist who had a powerful influence on the writers of his day. He initially supported the aims and programs of Bolshevism – in addition to writing serious poetry he created many propaganda posters – and traveled widely outside Russia, but he gradually became disillusioned with the nature and direction of the Soviet Union under Stalin, writing satirical drama that was quickly suppressed. He died playing Russian roulette. Mayakovsky’s poetry can be vigorous, rough, and powerful: “Your thought,/ musing on a sodden brain/ like a bloated lackey on a greasy couch,/ I’ll taunt with a bloody morsel of heart;/ and satiate my insolent, caustic contempt.” He can also be exquisitely sensitive and introspective, as in his last poem, “Past One O’Clock”: “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 these, one rises to address The ages, history, and all creation.” In “The Bedbug,” a delightfully satirical and amusing play, Mayakovsky uses the figure of Prisypkin, a former Party member in about 1920, to contrast those dedicated to the purity of the Revolution with those intent on working for their own material and social advantage. At the end of the first half of the play, a fire consumes the place and personages present for Prisypkin’s wedding. In the second half, fifty years later, Prisypkin is discovered frozen in a block of ice in the basement of the burned-out building and is resuscitated, along with a bedbug crawling out of his collar; mutual misunderstandings between Prisypkin and “modern” Soviet citizens inevitably ensue, and Prisypkin and the bedbug are left living in a cage in the zoo. For us today, the play provides prescient insights into the nature and course of Russian history over the course of the 20th century, even as it sheds light on the intellectual ferment and variety of Russia in the late 1920’s.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    Mayakovsy's poems are filled with depressing lines, like, "I love to see children die..." When I first read this line in Russian, I thought I had the second verb wrong. Nope. I sure hope I'm missing his irony, but I'm happy to miss it. His verse is self-absorbed, depressing and narrow: so he'd make a great American poet, the male equivalent of Sylvia Plath, except he didn't try to kill his kids. But the poem I cite suggests he would have, had he the chance. He was a satirist of society, so Mayakovsy's poems are filled with depressing lines, like, "I love to see children die..." When I first read this line in Russian, I thought I had the second verb wrong. Nope. I sure hope I'm missing his irony, but I'm happy to miss it. His verse is self-absorbed, depressing and narrow: so he'd make a great American poet, the male equivalent of Sylvia Plath, except he didn't try to kill his kids. But the poem I cite suggests he would have, had he the chance. He was a satirist of society, so elevated by Stalin to litarary sainthood. His play Bedbug, here, has quite a bit of slapstick--about marriage between a heiress and a working stiff, then futuristic robots. The one passage I enjoyed was M's use of committee-meeting language at the nuptials: "This marriage is now convened." Occasionally there are revealing period-reflections, for instance, communist newspapers from all over the globe--Chicago, Indonesia--report the nuptials. But the Bedbug ages pretty well, esp in the Max Hayward trans. After all, it's from 1930, but seems more like the fifties. Wonderful final scenes of proletarian man on exhibit in a zoo, with a bedbug--both exotica in the future.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Read "Conversation with a Tax Collector About Poetry"

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melusina

    Mayakovsky opened my eyes, ears, nose, ears - myself. Having discovered his poetry, in particular, equals to having discovered another planet with living organisms. I felt smashed in the face on nearly every page, some of the lines burnt my eyes (or tongue if I read them aloud) and I felt alive with the lines elevating my pulse, my blood pressure, and reviving a weary body and encouraging a vivid mind to continue a losing game - exactly because books and writers like Mayakovsky existed. Let his Mayakovsky opened my eyes, ears, nose, ears - myself. Having discovered his poetry, in particular, equals to having discovered another planet with living organisms. I felt smashed in the face on nearly every page, some of the lines burnt my eyes (or tongue if I read them aloud) and I felt alive with the lines elevating my pulse, my blood pressure, and reviving a weary body and encouraging a vivid mind to continue a losing game - exactly because books and writers like Mayakovsky existed. Let his words pull out the roots of yourself. As for The Bedbug, it is a play with a most curious twist, rather extraordinary and ahead of its time. It can be read on many levels, which is the beauty of this unique play. Do not hesitate a second: read it now!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Bell

    Mayakovsky is notoriously difficult to translate, so I have little to say of the translation. Many older compilations suffer from an excessive focus on his Soviet themed odes to Lenin and the revolution. This book has an entirely appropriate focus on his lyric poetry and his love poems. For those interested in avant garde literature or in Russian poetry in the 20th century, this is a great read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rich

    The great Russian futurist many people never really have ever read or heard of. Surreal, sarcastic, biting, self deprecating, and tender at times. A lot of his later work reads like Bolshevik propaganda, but when he hits his stride, like in "A Cloud In Trousers," he's simply amazing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    My favorite poem in this collection is "The Cloud in Trousers."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Misti Rainwater-Lites

    He had that fire I look for and rarely find. I like my poetry hot, so hot the flames leap from the page. God. Yes.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Oliver St john

    Really beautiful at times and not like much else. Very angry. The Bedbug was fun

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura Edwards

    I really liked some of the poems, others just weren't for me. I rounded up since I didn't finish the play and can't really make an honest comment on it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elisa

    what a f**king genius

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Horrocks

    This is my favorite collection of Mayakovsky's poems. I think it has the maddest aesthetic on the actual page which really matches his tone

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    I enjoyed this. There were quite a few poems, parts or lines I didn't get meaning from or saw in a negative light ("I love to watch children dying." I really don't know what to think about the 'A Few Words About...' poems) but overall the images and the words Mayakovsky used were powerful and often amusing. My favourite poem was 'Conversation with a Tax Collector about Poetry' and a few of my favourite parts are below; All right, marry then. So what. I can take it. As you see, I'm calm!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    i cant even have this book near me because i would transcribe the whole damn thing here, because it is astoundingly something vladia! where are you now! please do you hear me? do you hear me! you know i am listening! you are such a bear, and you know that with a smile.... but thats just a look. you are a darling. i love and miss you with my own fifteen-bear-strength... i miss even your books just beyond my reach, even if i can see i cant even have this book near me because i would transcribe the whole damn thing here, because it is astoundingly something vladia! where are you now! please do you hear me? do you hear me! you know i am listening! you are such a bear, and you know that with a smile.... but thats just a look. you are a darling. i love and miss you with my own fifteen-bear-strength... i miss even your books just beyond my reach, even if i can see them i am missing you and shaking with an unreasonable jealousy that i am ashamed of! but... and i am smiling too. hey vladia! hye!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Sauer

    Some really intense poetry that's almost visual. Um, let's see...it's the Russian Revolution and love gone cosmically wrong seen throught the crazy, fatalistic, angst-riddled eyes of Mayakovsky (he was a big fan of hyperbole). His experiments with rhythm and spacing and lenght of lines are pretty creative. And there's the original Russian versions right across from the English translation. But the version of the slapstick yet tragic Bedbug while great is highly edited from the original which makes itBedbug Some really intense poetry that's almost visual. Um, let's see...it's the Russian Revolution and love gone cosmically wrong seen throught the crazy, fatalistic, angst-riddled eyes of Mayakovsky (he was a big fan of hyperbole). His experiments with rhythm and spacing and lenght of lines are pretty creative. And there's the original Russian versions right across from the English translation. But the version of the slapstick yet tragic Bedbug while great is highly edited from the original which makes it streamlined but a little diappointing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Izzy

    I have only read "The Bedbug" and I highly recommend it to you all. I love the fictional satiric way the author chooses to deal with socio/political issues. The play is funny and wit, coming up with the idea and writing it definitely reflects the author's ingenuity. My only regret is that I cannot read or understand Russian and so I had to read a translated version which I believe takes out some of the beauty of the words and rhymes. Definitely, a fan of Mayakovsky

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I bought this book yonks ago, when I read an article on him in the New Yorker. For some reason I read it on the subway, and I loved it. It's a bit histrionic, but the little biographical snippets in the footnotes are interesting. One time he read a poem out to a group of friends and they laughed at him, and he ran out crying. One of his books was banned as indecent in Latvia. Bet that was great publicity.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Crabtree

    I honestly had a better translation of the bedbug copied from an alternate source. Mayakovsky is the "loneliest eye on the way to the blind!" If there were the monarch butterfly in the socialist cannon, he is surely a cloud in trousers. As Evgeny Zamyatov says with paraphrased: Mayakovsky was the Futurists and he was one of the great poets. If there was no Mayakovsky, the futurists are nothing and the world has lost one of the greatest.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Art

    The Bedbug is one of my favorite plays, so this is a re-read. Full of crazy scenes. At his wedding, the protagonist gets into a fight to defend his bride, her veil catches fire, the fumes from all the alcohol set the hall ablaze, the firemen get there two hours later to flood the place but the protagonist is never found. Fifty years later the body is found, frozen in the basement and revived (along with his bedbug!).

  23. 5 out of 5

    AL

    If you like modern experimental Russian poetry, check it out. I find the Russian sensibility one of my favorites, and this book gives a good overview of his work for the Western reader. I like seeing the original Russian on the facing page, but my knowledge of the language makes it look like gibberish, so I can't compare the translated verse to their original cognates. Worth the journey, if you like poetry at all. A dwindling breed for sure.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Audacious. Unapologetic. Surprisingly comical, of course, with a sardonic twist. Brooding & yet full of vigor. Ostentatious with an actual license to be. In the introduction it is apparent that the man was every bit as demagogic as his boisterous word. And still, he thoroughly occupies the mold with the cliché of so many great artists. At least his creative & powerful voice lives on for us to enjoy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bobby

    "They understand, the smart fellows: here is a man in ecstasy. The assembly of visions and ideas is brimmed to the lid. Here even bears might grow wings."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    Poetry written with an ear to the sounds of the street corner, the backyard, the factory, and the bedroom. Amazing. "The Backbone Flute" is a lyric that snakes through the grass at night on the tips of dew.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Radoslaw

    Absolutely one of my favorite poets of all time. Later poems get bogged down in ideology but early poems are pure energy and insanity. Reminds me a lot of Brook, too, read this book and see if you have a similar reaction.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Danılo Horă

    I liked the introduction and the selection, which comprehends most of his work. The english rendering is really not bad, but the translation inaccuracies are way too compromising. I've read Andrey Kneller's translation of "Backbone Flute" (my all-time favorite) and liked it much much better.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Zygmunt

    I laughed ("Conversations with a Tax Collector about Poetry"). I cried (the "You" segment of "I Love"). I wanted to go back to New York ("Brooklyn Bridge").

  30. 5 out of 5

    Will

    the best introduction in english to one of the most underappreciated geniuses of the 20th century; a renaissance man. believe in change.

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