Expansive Poetics – 64 (“A Slap In The Face of Public Taste”)

AG: So what was lost, or what was the energy that’s lost, it’ll be interesting to read, going back eight years earlier (from 1920) (to) the (Russian) Futurist Manifesto. I think that was the last thing  (or one of the last things) I read in the last term’s class. Let’s see if I can find it. Student: Yes, that was the last thing. AG: Let me see if I can get it. It was called “A Slap In The Face of Public Taste”  Student: … Read More

Expansive Poetics 63 (Osip Mandelstam)

Osip Mandelstam

[Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938)]

AG: Another funny little poem, 1920, by (Osip) Mandelstam, who looked like this as a young man…[Allen shows photograph of Mandelstam] –   Let’s see.. where am I? I’ve got these people mixed up. No, no… Student: (Nikolay) Gumilev? AG: (Osip) Mandelstam now. I’m interleaving them. (Mandelstam and Gumilev). This, being Mandelstam now as a young man Student: Let’s see that picture. Tumblr_lf2pwjm7eH1qzrkvzo1_500 AG: Very elegant, with big, big, satin cravat. Already Mandelstam had begun digging that it was going to be death to all the poets. Mandelstam himself died in a prison camp in … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 62 – Nikolay Gumilev)

[Nikolay Gumilev (1886-1921)]

Allen reads Russian poet, Nikolai Gumilev’s poem “The Lost Tram-Car”

Заблудившийся трамвай

Шел я по улице незнакомой И вдруг услышал вороний грай, И звоны лютни, и дальние громы, Передо мною летел трамвай. Как я вскочил на его подножку, Было загадкою для меня, В воздухе огненную дорожку Он оставлял и при свете дня. Мчался он бурей темной, крылатой, Он заблудился в бездне времен… Остановите, вагоновожатый, Остановите сейчас вагон. Поздно. Уж мы обогнули стену, Мы проскочили сквозь рощу пальм, Через Неву, через Нил и Сену Мы прогремели по трем мостам. И, промелькнув у оконной рамы, Бросил нам вслед
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Expansive Poetics – 61 (The Stray Dog Cafe)

File:Stray dog logo 1912.jpg
[Stray Dog Cafe, St Petersburg  (1912 logo)]

AG: The Stray Dog Café – There’s a little tiny footnote on it in a Russian literary quarterly, which also has  translation of a poem by Anna Akhmatova of the (19)40’s,(19)50’s, and (19)60’s, which she compiled secretly, and was published outside of Russia, her major poem. “Poem Without A Hero”. – “The dog that she mentions is a vagabond dog, a bohemian St Petersburg cafe, decorated in part by Olga, Sergei Sudeikina‘s husband, habituated by most of the writers and the artists of the period, 1912-1915. Before the Revolution, it was named … Read More

Expansive Poetry – 59 (Heroic Loud-Mouthed Style)

Lilya Brik in Alexander Rodchenko’s poster for the Soviet publisher Gosizdat, 1924

[Lili Brik in poster designed by Alexander Rodchenko in 1924 for the Soviet publisher, Gosizdat]

AG: ..heroic style, loud-mouthed style, hot-air style, exaggeration style, post-Surrealist style, imaginative, hyperbole, rhetorical, ecstatic , inspired, open-mouthed, oratorical, oratory, dreamy, day-dreamy, fantastical, inspired  – (meaning inspiration, meaning breath). Inspiration-exhalation-expiration. By “inspired”, I mean breath – the quality of breath, which is unobstructed breath, or that breath known when the body is a hollow reed and the mind is unobstructed and improvisation and images flow through the body without check and with abundance. Expansive imagination. It’s a state of body and a

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Expansive Poetics- 57 (Mayakovsky – At The Top of My Voice)

Vladimir Mayakovsky

[Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)]

Ann Charters: So we’d like to do a few more things before we end, and the poem which you have in your anthology, “At The Top of My Voice“, which was written a few months before the suicide, in January 1930.

AG: Should we have that in Russian first? Ann Charters:  Yeah AG: You want me to read it in English first? – or do you want to do it in Russian first? Richard Poe has prepared the Russian. Student (RP): Can I go first? AG: Pardon me? Student (RP): Can I go first? AG: … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 56 (Mayakovsky-The Bedbug)

Vladimir Mayakovsky Ann Charters: How much time do we have?
AG: We actually have have half an hour, but what I would like to do is get a piece of that [“The Bedbug”]  then go to “..At The Top of My Voice” (which Richard Poe has prepared in Russian, and we have in English). Then, if we have time, I’d like to get three short poems of (Osip) Mandelstam which comment on Mayakovsky‘s themes..and then I’d like Peter (Orlovsky) to read (Sergei) Esenin’s “Confessions of A Bum” (because we talked about Esenin, but nobody has heard any … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 55 – (Mayakovsky and Tatiana)

[Tatiana Yacovieff du Plessix Liberman (1906-1991)]

Ann Charters:  Well, again, with Mayakovsky, this his public declaration – “Conversation with a Tax Collector About Poetry“ [“Разговор с фининспектором о поэзии] – was followed shortly on by another private experience that actually marks the end, or the beginning of the end, of his life.  On a trip to Paris he fell in love with another lady, the first lady he truly loved after Lili Brik. And what this meant was not necessarily the end of Mayakovsky, except that the woman he chose to fall in … Read More

Expansive Poetics 54 – (Mayakovsky – Public Poetry)


AG: What did we have? What is the next thing we were going to do? Because I have an idea. Ann Charters; Well, I was going to talk (next) about his (Mayakovsky‘s) work for the Party. I mean, what does a poet do who’s taken up by the Communist Party? AG: Okay Ann Charters: Yeah? AG: That’d be interesting,  yeah. Ann Charters: Interesting? No kidding! Very interesting! – I mean, before he kills himself, right?.  In 1926.. okay, I’m skipping over the part where Mayakovsky has his trip to America, because we’re going to have a … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 53 – (Mayakovsky and Lili Brik)

 [Vladimir Mayakovsky and Lili Brik]

Lili, drawing by Mayakovsky, 1916 [Lili Brik, drawn by her lover Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1916,one year after their meeting] 

Ann Charters: So about this, this is a long, long, poem, which, is in my feeling one of his (Mayakovsky‘s) masterpieces – to Lili (Brik) – it’s a Surrealistic poem, (it’s a poem like the “Backbone Flute“, by the way, the poem about his suicide..) AG: “Spine Flute” or “Backbone Flute” – weird title! Ann Charters: Yeah, right – not “A Cloud in Trousers” but a “Backbone Flute”, the one we talked about.. AG: Uh-huh Ann Charters: But … Read More