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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. 4 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 cr 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. 4 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 the wind-swept fringe of his tunic. At bricks I bawl, thrusting the dagger of despe 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 the wind-swept fringe of his tunic. At bricks I bawl, thrusting the dagger of desperate words into the swollen pulp of the sky: "Sun! Father mine! If at least thou wouldst have mercy and stop tormening me! For my blood thou spilled gushes down this nether road. That is my soul yonder in tatters of torn cloud against a burnt-out sky upon the rusted cross of the belfry! Time! You lame icon-painter, will you at least daub my countenance and frame it as a freak of this age! I am as lonely as the only eye of a man on his way to the blind!" - A Few Words About Myself, pg. 56-59 * * * Four words, heavy as a blow: ". . . unto Caesar . . . unto god . . ." But where can a man like me bury his head? Where is there shelter for me? If I were as small as the Great Ocean, I'd tiptoe on the waves and woo the moon like the tide. Where shall I find a beloved, a beloved like me? She would be too big for the tiny sky! Oh, to be poor! Like a multimillionaire! What's money to the soul In it dwells an insatiable thief. The gold of all the Californias will never satisfy the rapacious horde of my lusts. Oh, to be tongue-tied like Dante or Petrarch! I'd kindle my soul for one love alone! In verse I'd command her to burn to ash! And if my words and my love were a triumphal arch, then grandly all the heroines of love through the ages would pass through it, leaving no trace. Oh, were I as quiet as thunder then I would whine and fold earth's aged hermitage in my shuddering embrace. If, to its full power, I used my vast voice, the comets would wring their burning hands and plunge headlong in anguish. With my eyes' rays I'd gnaw the night - if I were, oh, as dull as the sun! Why should I want to feed with my radiance the earth's lean lap! I shall go by, dragging my burden of love. In what delirious and ailing night, was I sired by Goliaths - I, so large, so unwanted? - To His Beloved Self, The Author Dedicates These Lines, pg. 132-135 * * * 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 form the stars. In hours like these, on rises to address The ages, history, and all creation. - Past One O'Clock, pg. 236-237

  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. 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 plan to kill his kids. But the poem I cite suggests he would have, had he the chance. He visited America in 1925, and wrote 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 plan to kill his kids. But the poem I cite suggests he would have, had he the chance. He visited America in 1925, and wrote Бруклинский мост, standing on Brooklyn Bridge. He starts with an address to my fellow Amherst College grad, President Coolidge, "Give, кулидж, / A shout of joy!/ I, too, celebrate good things."(72) For some, life here had no worries, but others howled, hungry. "Отсюда / безработный / в Гудзон / вниз головой" men out of work leapt into the Hudson from here. Well, not exactly the Hudson. "I see: / Here stood / Маяковский." I seize on it, this good thing, as a tick on an ear. Brooklyn Bridge! Quite a thing." He concludes. 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. Specimens of insects are frozen, preserved by cryobionics, for 50 years, until 1979, by which time the Central Committee has eliminated personal feelings, song and dancing except marching at state occasions. Professor Присыпкин is unfrozen, the specimen of the unreformed individual, guitarist singer, drinker, and smoker--"'Disgusting!' the viewers react. Viewers at the zoo, where he and the Bedbug on his collar are retained in a glass cage. Specimens. "'Bedbugus normalis' and er...'bourgeoisius vulgaris'. They are different in size, but identical in essence. Both of them have their habitat in the musty mattresses of time. "'Bedbugius normalis', having gorged on a single human, falls under the bed. 'Bourgeoisius vulgaris', having gorged on the body of all mankind, falls onto the bed. That's the only difference"(300). This second, powerfully imitative, like birds twittering, or in theater loges. The Bedbug ages very well, esp in the Max Hayward trans. Though it's from 1930, it seems more like the fifties. Wonderful final scenes of non-proletarian man on exhibit in a zoo, with a bedbug--both exotica in the future.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    I only read The Bedbug out of this collection, and it was surprisingly not too bad. I rather enjoyed the satire of the second half, and there were some pretty great lines. The first half however, I'm still trying to figure what it was about. *shrugs* I had zero hopes for this play, and it actually afforded me some mild enjoyment in the end. Let's see if I can actually remember any of it for my midterm exam later today though ;)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Griffin Alexander

    For me this is the gold standard for Mayakovsky in english (second perhaps being Jack Hirschman's limited renderings in Electric Iron). This was the first book I dug out of the Hunter college library of the poet's after hearing a memorable line a friend of mine stumbled across, and I carried it with me in its tough little university binding in my coat pocket for what felt like months, reading it all over NYC, on the street seated on the curb, in the park, in the subway, on the bridge, over and o For me this is the gold standard for Mayakovsky in english (second perhaps being Jack Hirschman's limited renderings in Electric Iron). This was the first book I dug out of the Hunter college library of the poet's after hearing a memorable line a friend of mine stumbled across, and I carried it with me in its tough little university binding in my coat pocket for what felt like months, reading it all over NYC, on the street seated on the curb, in the park, in the subway, on the bridge, over and over again. In this way, perhaps I am biased as to the quality of the translation as it was my gateway and watermark as to what Mayakovsky should sound like in english, which is perhaps unfair. But I've been rereading it again for the first time in a while along with all of the other translations of his work I have (growing into a sizable collection) and these are still the best renderings. George Reavey did an unbelievable job—unbelievable especially given that of his own poetry nothing has ever especially impressed me. I wish Reavey had done more comprehensive translation of his other long works, something sorely lacking still some 45 years down the line. The poems here accomplish that utmost rarity as translated works in that their rendering into english achieves what Borges speaks of when he says that what is perfect in poetry does not feel strange but rather feels inevitable. Here is a shorter one of my favorites. TO HIS BELOVED SELF, THE AUTHOR DEDICATES THESE LINES Four words, heavy as a blow: ". . . unto Caesar . . . unto God . . ." But where can a man like me bury his head? Where is there shelter for me? If I were as small as the Great Ocean I'd tiptoe on the waves and woo the moon like the tide. Where shall I find a beloved, a beloved like me? She would be too big for the tiny sky! Oh, to be poor! Like a multimillionaire! What's money to the soul? In it dwells an insatiable thief. The gold of all the Californias will never satisfy the rapacious hordes of my lusts. Oh, to be tongue-tied like Dante or Petrarch! I'd kindle my soul for one love alone! In verse I'd command her to burn to ash! And if my words and my love were a triumphal arch, then grandly all the heroines of love through the ages would pass through it, leaving no trace. Oh, were I as quiet as thunder then I would whine and fold earth's aged hermitage in my shuddering embrace. If, to its full power, I used my vast voice, the comets would wring their burning hands and plunge headlong in anguish. With my eyes' rays I'd gnaw the night— if I were, oh, as dull as the sun! Why should I want to feed with my radiance the earth's lean lap! I shall go by, dragging my burdens of love. In what delirious and ailing night, was I sired by Goliaths— I, so large, so unwanted? (1916)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Read "Conversation with a Tax Collector About Poetry"

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Johnston

    “As you see— the nails of words nail me to paper.”

  9. 4 out of 5

    Walker White

    This is an excellent introduction to Mayakovsky's work. I cannot speak to the translations per say, but it is clear that even if the subtle internal rhymes of the lyrical poems, their play with language and innovative use of Russian neologisms, are all but entirely lost, the translators allowed Mayakovsky's striking and creatively original imagery to shine through with clarity. Indeed, these futurist poems are remarkable for their sharp break with tradition and their power in expressing Mayakovs This is an excellent introduction to Mayakovsky's work. I cannot speak to the translations per say, but it is clear that even if the subtle internal rhymes of the lyrical poems, their play with language and innovative use of Russian neologisms, are all but entirely lost, the translators allowed Mayakovsky's striking and creatively original imagery to shine through with clarity. Indeed, these futurist poems are remarkable for their sharp break with tradition and their power in expressing Mayakovsky's outsized (yet almost adolescent) torment and heartbreak. Much of Mayakovsky's innovation comes from his willingness to have the hallmarks of modernity (speed, urban life, machinery, world war one, and later: Bolshevism) seep jaggedly into his love poems. His writing, violent and expressive as it is, evokes not only the poet's personal anguish but also the turmoil and upheaval of 20th century Russia. Rupture is ever present. It is true, the early autobiographical cycle and the two long poemas, "A Cloud in Trousers" and "The Backbone Flute,"are by far the strongest pieces of poetry in here. That being said, the other poems help to give a deeper understanding of Mayakovsky as a person and a poet. And then of course there is "The Bedbug," which somehow manages to be a frightening piece of Utopian propaganda and cutting satire all at once. It displays Mayakovsky's inventiveness and innovation, this time for the stage. As with the poetry, there is exciting play and repartee with language and puns throughout. "The Bedbug" is an essential piece in the repertoire, to be sure. Lastly, Patricia Blake's introduction is an entertaining and insightful read. It helps contribute to this indispensable collection, a worthy homage to an integral early 20th century writer and contributor to Russian arts and letters.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 5 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

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

  16. 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").

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chase

    I think the translations here might be a bit dogshit. Immensely underwhelming considering Mayakovskys reputation. Theres an almost juvenile sense of imagery and phrasing that runs through these poems that I frankly didn't vibe with. Playful and energetic: yes. Groundbreaking: nae. I guess coming down from the high of Lorca everything seems diminished. Alas and onwards comrades!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cooper Renner

    Mayakovsky’s poetry reads like a precursor of the Beats, or a bridge between Whitman and the Beats. Had Ginsberg read him? I don’t know. The play (The Bedbug) is a short romp, a satiric look at both the Soviet Union of 1928 and am imagined future socialist world.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Oliver St john

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

  20. 5 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.

  21. 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

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elisa

    what a f**king genius

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    A superb introduction to Mayakovsky. The poems are joyfully arrogant; lively and full of love for language, and The Bedbug is a masterpiece of surreal absurdism.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Derek Shouba

    Great stuff. Well, the poetry anyhow.

  25. 5 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! Like the pul 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! Like the pulse of a corpse. ----------- You're teasing me now? "You have fewer emeralds of madness than a beggar has kopecks!" But remember! When they teased Vesuvius, Pompeii perished! ----------- Formerly I believed books were made like this: a poet came, lightly opened his lips, and the inspired fool burst into song- if you please! But it seems, before they can launch a song, poets must tramp for days with callused feet, and the sluggish fish of the imagination flounders softly in the slush of the heart. And while, with twittering rhymes, they boil a broth of loves and nightingales, the tongueless street merely writhes for lack of something to shout or say. *I read The Introduction and Selected Poetry from this book but not The Bedbug.*

  26. 5 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 mak 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.

  27. 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 them i am missing you and shaking with an unreasonable jealousy that i a 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!

  28. 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!).

  29. 5 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. 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.

  30. 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.

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