Of an independent and rebellious nature, the youthful Mayakovsky joined the Bolshevik Party in 1908 and was arrested several times as a result. He spent nearly one year in prison. He also embarked on a writing career, associating himself briefly with the Futurist School. His first poems were published in 1912. He enthusiastically supported the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, and later assisted in preparing textual and visual party propaganda during Russian’s civil war. In 1923 he helped found LEF (“Left Front”), a circle of like-minded writers organized to promote literary and cultural experimentation.
Although much of his output is considered propagandistic and didactic, serving the communist cause, Mayakovsky nonetheless also is recognized for the freshness of his literary imagery. His poetry is stark and challenging, confronting readers with the dramatic forces of change, energy, and movement. Metaphors represent the “leap” of modern society and civilization into the future, leaving behind a tired and anachronistic past. His lengthy poem 150,000,000 (1919-1920) speaks for the aspirations of the Russian people as they emerge from their backwardness. Although political in its purpose, his literary skill is evident. His verse is irregular in meter, deliberately uneven, so as to create a jarring mood. His poetry, to be effective rather than tendentious and posturing, is especially dramatic when read aloud with fervor and varied...
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