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The Bedbug and Selected Poetry

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  2,782 ratings  ·  45 reviews
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.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 1st 1975 by Indiana University Press (first published 1929)
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Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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.
with sodden hands has fingered
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
Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
'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 ...more
Apr 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 21, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Dec 21, 2009 marked it as to-read
Read "Conversation with a Tax Collector About Poetry"
Walker White
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sep 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Kevin Bell
Apr 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
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.
Sep 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
My favorite poem in this collection is "The Cloud in Trousers."
Misti Rainwater-Lites
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oliver St john
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really beautiful at times and not like much else. Very angry. The Bedbug was fun
Laura Edwards
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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.
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
what a f**king genius
Sarah Horrocks
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Dec 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Nicholas Sauer
Jul 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Some really intense poetry that's almost visual. Um, let's'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 ...more
Zachary Crabtree
Sep 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: 20th
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.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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!).
Nov 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
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.
"They understand,
the smart fellows:
here is a man
in ecstasy.
The assembly of visions
and ideas
is brimmed
to the lid.
even bears
might grow wings."
Nov 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Danılo Horă
Jul 24, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
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").
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Vladimir Mayakovsky (Владимир Маяковский) was born the last of three children in Baghdati, Russian Empire (now in Georgia) where his father worked as a forest ranger. His father was of Ukrainian Cossack descent and his mother was of Ukrainian descent. Although Mayakovsky spoke Georgian at school and with friends, his family spoke primarily Russian at home. At the age of 14 Mayakovsky took part in ...more
“If you like
I'll be furious flesh elemental,
or- changing to tones that the sunset arouses- if you like-
I'll be extraordinary gentle,
not a man but - a cloud in trousers.”
“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” 26 likes
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