Vladimir Ilyich Lenin by Vladimir Mayakovsky
‘Never have I wanted to be understood so much as in this poem,’ said Mayakovsky of his 3,000 line epic Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Written immediately after the death of Lenin in 1924, it proudly and passionately sets the story of the Bolshevik leader’s life against the history of capitalism and the trajectory of Soviet communism. By turns declamatory, lyrical, journalistic and colloquial, the poem is an extraordinary record of the utopian excitement of the early years of the Revolution – as well a warning that Lenin should not become an icon. It was Mayakovsky’s most significant work; no other book of his was ever printed in such large numbers.
A public reading of the poem at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1930 received a 20 minute standing ovation. Out of print in English for over thirty years, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin remains relatively unknown in the west, where Mayakovsky is predominantly regarded as a tortured love poet. Based on Dorian Rottenberg’s 1967 translation, Rosy Carrick’s new bi-lingual edition of the poem firmly re-establishes Mayakovsky’s reputation as one the most important political poets of the twentieth century.