Friday, September 28, 2012

Poem of the week - "A Cloud in Trousers" by Mayakovsky

Vladimir Mayakovsky was a firebrand Russian poet who flourished in the early decades of the 20th century. A passionate and no-nonsense poet (he despised the idea of using flowery language), he was widely popular outside of the newly formed USSR, and toured extensively in the US, France, Germany and Britain.

Like many brilliant but volatile literary figures Mayakovsky suffered bouts of depression and agitation. He shot himself at 37.

"Cloud in Trousers" is a long poem that earned him widespread recognition. Here's the prologue from that poem. Mayakovsky's assertiveness and brash confidence can be seen clearly in many verses:

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.

No grey hairs streak my soul,
no grandfatherly fondness there!
I shake the world with the might of my voice,
and walk – handsome,

Tender souls!
You play your love on a fiddle,
and the crude club their love on a drum.
But you cannot turn yourself inside out,
like me, and be just bare lips!

Come and be lessoned –
prim officiates of the angelic league,
lisping in drawing-room cambric.

You, too, who leaf your lips like a cook
turns the pages of a cookery book.

If you wish,
I shall rage on raw meat;
or, as the sky changes its hue,
if you wish,
I shall grow irreproachably tender:
not a man, but a cloud in trousers!

I deny the existence of blossoming Nice!
Again in song I glorify
men as crumpled as hospital beds,
and women as battered as proverbs.

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