The New Yorker, “The Secret Lessons of Soviet Children’s Poems”

As a teen-ager in tsarist Russia, Mayakovsky was already attending anarchist meetings and distributing socialist leaflets. A stint in prison converted him into a poet; the Revolution made him a Communist. Proclaiming himself a “Bolshevik in art,” Mayakovsky founded innumerable avant-gardist groups that variously inspired or horrified the Soviet authorities in the nineteen-twenties. When he killed himself, in 1930, ostensibly because of romantic rejection, authorities were able to smooth his image into that of an exemplary Soviet writer. “Bridled” and “saddled” like the hobbyhorse he described, Mayakovsky’s legacy is still contested today. Renegade poets gather at his monument in Moscow to read their oppositional verses, while protests take place in Mayakovsky Metro Station and marches start from Mayakovsky Square.

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