Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
At the Top of My Voice is divided into two parts. In a subtitle, the poem is called a “First Prelude to a Poem on the Five Year Plan,” which suggests that the poem is about Stalin’s controversial economic plan. It might more accurately, however, be called a defense of the life and work of Vladimir Mayakovsky. Part 1 describes the survival of Mayakovsky’s work after the “petrified s——t” of the centuries has been removed. The speaker describes his poetic function as a “cesspool cleaner” who has been “mobilised and drafted/ by revolution.” His poetry has not been lyrical, but “my pages of fighters;/ pass in review.” He uses military metaphors rather than ones drawn from nature. His poetry is rooted in the triumph of the revolution. He learned “dialectics” not from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel but from actual conflict.
As in the Lenin poem, he rejects any statues of himself, calling them “marble slime.” Instead, he is to have a “common monument” with all the “brothers and mates” who fought for the revolution. The first part of the poem ends with a demand to “step hard on the throttle” for the five year plan. The poet is content with “clean-laundered shirts,” no greater honors are necessary. In a defiant final declaration he offers a defense of his life: “I’ll lift up high,/ like a Bolshevik party-card,/ all the hundred volumes/ of my/ Com Party books.” Mayakovsky did not possess a Communist...
(The entire section is 439 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Brown, Edward J. Mayakovsky: A Poet in the Revolution. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973.
Obolensky, Dimitri, ed. The Penguin Book of Russian Verse. New York: Penguin Books, 1962.
Porter, Robert, ed. Seven Soviet Poets. 2d ed. London: Bristol Classical, 2002.
Shklovsky, Viktor. Mayakovsky and His Circle. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1972.
Stahlberger, Lawrence L. The Symbolic System of Mayakovski. The Hague, the Netherlands: Mouton, 1964.
Triolet, Elsa. Mayakovsky, Russian Poet: A Memoir. Translated by Susan de Muth. London: Hearing Eye, 2002.