The Poet as Revolutionary

"Every artist," wrote V.I. Lenin, "everyone who considers himself as such, has the right to create freely according to his ideals, independently of everything." Who would have guessed that the author of this noble thought is none other than the originator of one of the world's most repressive social systems! Even the most remote similarity between the ideal and the present Soviet reality is a sheer coincidence. Yet behind this cruel irony lies the secret of the Russian Revolution.

Intimately linked with the Russian Revolution is the life and work of the artist, painter, and poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930). The paradox of the Revolution is reflected in the personal tragedy of the artist. It is impossible to talk about Mayakovsky's art without considering the times that produced the artist. Both East and West were exploding in the 1900's with new ideas. The men and women who championed these new ideas sought to abolish established norms and genres in the arts and to overthrow established social orders. Certainly this was true about Mayakovsky. There is no way one can abstract or "subtract" the artist from his work.

Nevertheless, Juliette Stapanian's scholarly and pedantic study of Mayakovsky's poetry is a remarkable effort in that direction. Relying strictly on an analytical method called "graphic scansion," Stapanian first attempts a step-by-step examination...

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