Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I'm still here -- and reading Vladimir Mayakovsky

For those of you who come by here from time to time, I haven't disappeared, just laying back a little during the summer. I'll be back soon.

One of the things I'm currently reading, and that I recommend, is Selected Poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky, translated from Russian by James H. McGavran III, published 2013 by Northwestern University Press in their Northwestern World Classics series. (The book has the English translations only, not the original Russian.) The translations, although not everything I might hope for, have vigor and muscle, and McGavran uses some imagination in catching a little of the feel of Mayakovsky's wild play with word sounds and invention of words.

This is the first large selection of Mayakovsky's poem available in English for many years, and it includes a good sampling of his work covering several decades up until his death in 1930. Translator and editor McGavran doesn't give any hint of having left-leaning politics, though neither does he shy away from translating Mayakovsky's politics in the poems he's chosen for the selection. The book includes several of Mayakovsky's longer poems (including a couple I haven't seen translated before), as well as shorter poems, and also a prose autobiographical sketch by Mayakovsky that covers his life up through about 1928.

Mayakovsky's poetry is a large subject, and I'm hoping to write more about it after I've had more time with the book. For now, passing along my recommendation.

Northwestern University Press has also published Mayakovsky: Plays translated by Guy Daniels (2013; this appears to be a new edition of a collection originally published ca. 1995), I haven't seen this book up close, just saw it listed in the Northwestern U. Press website. The publisher's webpage for this book is here.

A good website devoted to Russian poetry is hosted by the Northwestern University Department of Slavic Languages and Literature, here. The website includes text of Russian poems and English translations; online audio, in a variety of formats, of Russian poetry read aloud (in some cases, apparently read by the poets themselves); and other material.

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