А вы могли бы? (What about You?) by Vladimir Mayakovsky

I splintered the landscape of midday

by splashing colours from a tumbler.

I charted on a tray of aspic

the slanting cheekbones of Atlantis.

Upon the scales of an iron turbot,

I found ladies’ lips, aloof.

And you, could you have played a nocturne

using a drainpipe for a flute?

.

by Владимир Владимирович Маяковский
Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky
(1913)
translation by Maria Enzensberger

Mayakovsky’s poem recited by Veniamin Borisovich Smekhov

Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.

А вы могли бы?

Я сразу смазал карту будня,
плеснувши краску из стакана;
я показал на блюде студня
косые скулы океана.
На чешуе жестяной рыбы
прочел я зовы новых губ.
А вы
ноктюрн сыграть
могли бы
на флейте водосточных труб?

Маяковский в 1913 году (Mayakovsky in the Year 1913) by Anna Akhmatova

Although I didn’t know your days of glory

I was present at your tempestuous dawn

and today I’ll take a small step back in history

to remember, as I’m entitled to, times gone.

With every line, your words increased in power!

Unheard of voices gathering in swarms!

Those were no idle hands that threw up such towering

and menacing new forms!

Everything you touched suddenly seemed

somehow altered, different from before,

and whatever you destroyed, remained

that way, and in every syllable the roar

of judgement. Often dissatisfied, alone,

driven on by an impatient fate,

you knew how fast the time was nearing when

you’d leap, excited, joyful, to the fight.

We could hear, as we listened to you read,

the reverberating thunder of the waters

and the downpour squinted angrily as you slid

into your wild confrontations with the city.

Your name, in those days unfamiliar, flashed

like streaks of lightning through the stuffy hall.

It’s with us still today, remembered, cherished

throughout the land, a thundering battle call.

.

.

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1940)

translated by Peter Oram

The poem recited by the actress Vera Voronkova (Вера Воронкова)

Additional information: The subject of this poem is the poet and playwright Vladimir Mayakovsky.

Beneath is the original, Russian, version of the poem in Cyrillic.

Маяковский в 1913 году

.

Я тебя в твоей не знала славе,

Помню только бурный твой расцвет,

Но, быть может, я сегодня вправе

Вспомнить день тех отдаленных лет.

Как в стихах твоих крепчали звуки,

Новые роились голоса…

Не ленились молодые руки,

Грозные ты возводил леса.

Все, чего касался ты, казалось

Не таким, как было до тех пор,

То, что разрушал ты,- разрушалось,

В каждом слове бился приговор.

Одинок и часто недоволен,

С нетерпеньем торопил судьбу,

Знал, что скоро выйдешь весел, волен

На свою великую борьбу.

И уже отзывный гул прилива

Слышался, когда ты нам читал,

Дождь косил свои глаза гневливо,

С городом ты в буйный спор вступал.

И еще не слышанное имя

Молнией влетело в душный зал,

Чтобы ныне, всей страной хранимо,

Зазвучать, как боевой сигнал.

Distances divide, exclude us [Extract from a poem addressed to Pasternak] by Marina Tsvetaeva

Distances divide, exclude us.

They’ve dis-weilded and dis-glued us.

Despatched, disposed of, dis-inclusion –

they never knew this meant fusion

of elbow grease and inspiration.

 

by Марина Ивановна Цветаева

(Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva)

(1925)

translated by Peter Oram

Interesting addition: Throughout much of 1926 Tsvetaeva kept up and intense correspondence with Rainer Maria Rilke and Boris Pasternak. The above poem was sent to Pasternak while Tsvetaeva was in exile and had moved from Prague to Paris thus increasing her distance from her homeland. She grew increasingly isolated amongst the other emigre community as she had praised the works of Mayakovsky which got her mistakenly branded as endorsing the Soviet system which eventually led the editors of the important journal The Latest News to stop publishing her works which, via her literary earnings, had allowed her to support her family through her contributions.

Маяковскому (To Mayakovsky) by Marina Tsvetaeva

Beyond the chimneys and steeples,

baptized by smoke and flame,

stamping-footed archangel,

down the decades I call your name!

Rock-steady or change-at-a-whim!

Coachman and stallion in one!

He snorts and spits into his palm –

chariot of glory, hold on!

Singer of city-square wonders,

I salute that arrogant tone

that rejected the brilliant diamond

for the sake of the ponderous stone.

I salute you, cobblestone-thunderer!

– see, he yawns, gives a wave, then he swings

himself back into harness, back under

the shafts, his archangelic wings.

by Марина Ивановна Цветаева (Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva)

(18 September 1921)

translated by Peter Oram


Fun facts: This poem is dedicated to Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (Владимир Владимирович Маяковский) who was a Russian Soviet poet, playwright, artist, and actor.

During his early, pre-Revolution period leading into 1917, Mayakovsky became renowned as a prominent figure of the Russian Futurist movement. Though Mayakovsky’s work regularly demonstrated ideological and patriotic support for the ideology of the Communist Party and a strong admiration of Vladimir Lenin, Mayakovsky’s relationship with the Soviet state was always complex and often tumultuous. Mayakovsky often found himself engaged in confrontation with the increasing involvement of the Soviet State in cultural censorship and the development of the State doctrine of Socialist realism.  In 1930 Mayakovsky committed suicide. Even after death his relationship with the Soviet state remained unsteady. Though Mayakovsky had previously been harshly criticized by Soviet governmental bodies like the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP), Joseph Stalin posthumously declared Mayakovsky “the best and the most talented poet of our Soviet epoch.”

Original Russian Cyrillic version:

Маяковскому

Превыше крестов и труб,
Крещенный в огне и дыме,
Архангел-тяжелоступ -
Здорово, в веках Владимир!

Он возчик и он же конь,
Он прихоть и он же право.
Вздохнул, поплевал в ладонь:
- Держись, ломовая слава!

Певец площадных чудес -
Здорово, гордец чумазый,
Что камнем — тяжеловес
Избрал, не прельщась алмазом.

Здорово, булыжный гром!
Зевнул, козырнул и снова
Оглоблей гребет — крылом
Архангела ломового.

18 сентября 1921