Elena Guro Introduction - Essay

Introduction

Elena Guro 1877-1913

(Pseudonym of Eleonora Genrikhovna von Notenberg) Russian poet, short story writer, and playwright.

Guro was among the first representatives of the Russian Futurist movement of the early 1900s. Influenced by the visual art of the French Impressionist and Dada movements, the Futurists attempted to dispel the Symbolist notion of the mystical essence of poetry by focusing on form and craft rather than on ideal beauty and romantic language. Guro, the only woman among the early Futurists, often used single-word sentences in her prose and nonsense words in her poetry to illuminate the minute details of specific moments and to capture a childlike perspective. While she received little critical attention during her lifetime, she is now recognized as a unique voice in Russian literature.

Biographical Information

Born in St. Petersburg, Guro grew up in a cultured household. She studied painting at the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, and became respected as a professional artist after she was commissioned to illustrate the 1904 edition of George Sand's Grandmother's Tales. In 1909, Guro and her husband Mikhail Matyushin, an artist, composer, and musician, helped found the avant-garde art group Venok ("Wealth"), the members of which eventually formed the core of Russian Futurism. Guro published her first short story, "Ranyaya vesna" ("Early Spring"), in Sbornik molodykh poetov ("The Almanac of Young Poets") in 1905. Her collection of poetry, short stories, and plays, Sharmanka (The Hurdy-Gurdy), appeared in 1909. In 1910, with fellow Futurists David Burliuk, V. Kamensky, and Viktor Khlebnikov, she published a miscellany entitled Sadok sudei (A Trap for Judges). Suffering from leukemia, Guro died at her summer house in Finland in 1913.

Major Works

Guro's dream-like imagery, attempts to capture fleeting instants of perception, and reverence for nature and childhood are hallmarks of her work. Guro's books, including The Hurdy Gurdy, Osenniison (The Autumn Dream), and Nebesnye verblyuzhata (The Baby Camels of the Sky), are collections of short pieces in a variety of forms. Like other Futurists, she often interwove poetry and prose, experimenting with sparse language and unconventional prosody. Her child-like voice and use of lyrical nonsense words and phrases coincides with the Futurists' emphasis on the purely aesthetic aspect of language. Often her works evidence the strong influence of the plastic arts on Futurism by abandoning plot to describe a setting or a moment rather than tell a story, particularly in her pieces that juxtapose images of rural and urban experience.