July 19 (Mayakovsky’s Birthday)

[Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)]

Today, July 19, the great poet, Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky, was born in Baghdati, Georgia. We’ve featured Mayakovsky numerous times here on the Allen Ginsberg Project. For example, here and here.

The fourteen-part series, Allen’s 1981 focus (with in-class presentation by Ann Charters)  begins here, and continues  here, here and here  (Expansive Poetry) .

Further posts  here (Akhmatova and Mayakovsky), here (Mayakovsky on Esenin), here (Mayakovsky and Mandelstam), here (“The Bedbug”), here (“At The Top of My Voice“), here (Mayakovsky and the Revolution), here (Mayakovsky and … Read More

Ginsberg-Taylor-Orlovsky-Pickard 1979 Warwick continued


[Allen Ginsberg and Steven Taylor, 1979]

Allen Ginsberg, Steven Taylor, Peter Orlovsky and Tom Pickard reading at Warwick University, November,  1979  continues from here

AG: Steven Taylor, please favor us with a song (Steven Taylor being a poet as well as being a musician)

ST: I’m going to sing a song that I wrote after first reading the poetry of Anna Akhmatova, the Russian woman poet who was banned by (Joseph) Stalins government in 1929 and was not published after that time. She identified with the wife of Lot in the Bible, who was turned … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 83 (Anna Akhmatova – 4 – A Poem Without A Hero)


Allen continues his survey of the works of Anna Akhmatova AG: And the later, even more complicated poem. “A Poem Without A Hero”, including herself, in other words, a poem in which even she is not the hero because the devastation is so total, and so devastating. I don’t think that’s been published in Russia yet (1981) but it’s published in English. And the “..Poem Without A Hero” is her summary of everything we’ve been studying, actually, of the Russian poets. It was begun in August in Leningrad under siege. There’s only one translation of it into English … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 82 (Anna Akhmatova – 3)

Akhmatova, Anna

[Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)]

Allen’s discussion of Anna Akhmatova’s “Requiem” continues, 

AG: This (passage) is discussing her son, I think, this next one – “At dawn they came and took you away./ You were my dead – I walked behind./ In the dark room children cried,/ The holy candle gasped for air.Your lips were chill rom the ikon’s kiss/sweat bloomed on your brow – those deathless flowers!/ Like the wives of Peter’s troopers in Red Square/ I’ll stand and howl under the Kremlin towers.” – There was a revolt among the private troops of Peter the Great – 1400 troops, so … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 81 (Anna Akhmatova – 2)


(Anna Akhmatova’s “Requiem”) was never actually published in Russia complete, (and) the manuscript was passed to Sir Isaiah Berlin, an English Russophile, scholar, specialist, (who) managed to visit her just after the war, when the war was won. There was a little period of confusion when people could go in and out and see each other, and so Isaiah Berlin went and had a long conversation with her, as if it (he) were a visitor from another world, or “a visitor from the future”, as she later called it, and brought back manuscripts, (or brought back her manuscripts), … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 80 (Anna Akhmatova – 1)

Anna Akhmatova in 1924, photo by Moisey Nappelbaum Moscow House of Photography

[Anna Akhmatova (1889-1996) in 1924 – Photograph by Moisei Nappelbaum]

AG: (Now) I wanted to move on to Anna Akhmatova, who lived… (Sergei) Esenin died 1925, (Vladimir) Mayakovsky (allegedly) committed suicide 1930, (Nikolay) Gumilev was shot 1923, (Velimir) Khlebnikov starved to death in 1923, (Osip) Mandelstam died of cold and starvation in a work camp in Siberia somewhere between 1937 and 1940, although nobody knows exactly when. Esenin’s friend, (Nikolay) Klyuev…what year did he die? Peter Orlovsky: (19)35. AG: (19)35, coming back from six years exile in Siberia, with a suitcase full of … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 74 – (Mandelstam And Stalin)

[Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) & Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938)]

[Prisoners mining gold at Kolyma, the most notorious Gulag camp in extreme northeastern Siberia – from the 1934 documentary film, Kolyma, courtesy the Central Russian Film and Photo Archives]

AG: The next poem, I think I mentioned before. I’ll read you.. I have only one version here but I’ll read you another also. This is a celebrated poem which got him in trouble, when it was circulated around. It was the attack on Stalin

Мы живем, под собою не чуя страны, Наши речи за десять шагов не слышны, А где хватит на … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 68 (Acmeism)

[Nikolay Gumilev, with his son Lev Gumilev and his wife Anna Akhmatova, 1913]

Allen’s July 30 1981 Expansive Poetics class (with particular emphasis on Russian literature) continues. AG: I thought what we should do is I’ll read you just a few paragraphs about Acmeism now, and then we’ll get right into the poems of (Osip) Mandelstam, which I’ve been slowly circling about.  There’s a description of Acmeism, or a few paragraphs, by (Nikolay) Gumilev, who was a theoretician. I’m not going to be long on this, just so that you get some idea of their approach, … Read More

Expansive Poetics – 66 (The Arrest of Osip Mandelstam)

 Allen Ginsberg’s  August, 1981 Naropa class continues 

AG: The confrontation between the extreme Dada group and the Futurists and the actual leaders of the Nazi movement, and the confrontation between the Russian poets and (Josef) Stalin and police bureaucracy in Russia are really totally dramatic situations, which we’ve never (really) had in America completely, so totally so. Dan Berrigan – and a few others – every poet in America has been arrested, at one time or another, on a peace march, or sitting down – Peter Orlovsky was arrested for lying down … Read More

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