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Enemies or Brothers? Essay

Russian revolution, Literature (Poetry), Politics, Untimely Death, Early 20th Century, Avant Garde—these are just some of the things that first come into mind when we talk of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Alexandr Blok, two of Russia’s most famous poets. Mayakovsky focused on Futurism while Blok focused on Symbolism. Despite the similarities in their lives, they do not exactly have the same philosophies. By examining their biographies and some of their works, we would be able to see if they are brothers of the same cause or if they consider each other as enemies. Futurism and Symbolism

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Before we move on to comparing the poets, let us first provide the context of the genres that these writers preferred. Artmovements. co. uk defines futurism as an avant garde (modern) art movement that originated from Italy. Speed, technology, and modernity are three of its most important characteristics. It depicts the dynamic nature of modern times, glorified war, and the industrial revolution. It also favored the growth of fascism (“Futurism”). Symbolism, on the other hand, is also an art movement that dominated Europe during the latter parts of 19th century.

Russian symbolism is based mostly on French symbolism. Russian symbolists are known for their mysticism. The symbolists, as it were, derive their art from the Muse that inspires them. Symbolists consider themselves a link that joins the people to a spiritual realm (Malcolm). The Poets Vladimir Mayakovsky was born on the 19th of July 1893 in Georgia in a town named Bagdadi, which, after his death, would be named after him. His fascination for politics started at an early age, as he already took interest in mass meetings, protests, and revolutionary songs.

His sister also helped in influencing his interest, as she would often bring propaganda material at home. After his father has died, the family moved to Moscow where his interest in politics grew. At age 14, he was already a member of the Bolshevik Party (a socialist group). Inevitably, he was arrested for the first time in 1908 but was released eventually on probation. It was also at this time that he was admitted to art school. Mayakovsky had his fair share of visits into prison. He was arrested several times, most of the time by accident.

Even in Prison, Mayakovsky found himself in trouble, as the rebel in him cannot seem to be contained. Finally, after several transfers, he found himself in solitary confinement, during which he wrote his first poem. He got out of prison on probation because he was still a minor then. Taking a break from politics, he entered into another art school where he met David Burliuk who introduced him to modernism. He focused on poetry after impressing Burliuk with a poem he wrote (Sovlit. com, “Blok, Alexandr Aleksandrovich”).

Together with Burliuk and others, Mayakovsky wrote A Slap in the Face of Public Taste in which the group criticized Pushkin and his followers. Quoting the text: “The Academy and Pushkin are less intelligible than hieroglyphics. Throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc. , etc. overboard from the Ship of Modernity…All those Maxim Gorkys, Krupins, Bloks, … etc. need only a dacha on the river. Such is the reward fate gives tailors. From the height of skyscrapers we gaze at their insignificance! ” (Burliuk, Kruchenykh, Mayakovsky, and Khlebnikov)

This is the work where conflict seemed to arise between Mayakovsky and Blok, as the former attacks Pushkin, Blok, and others in their newly published work. Blok, on the other hand, does not seem to retaliate to the work, as we would see later when we move on to his life. Mayakovsky later wrote his first collection of poems entitled I and a play named after him, Vladimir Makayovsky: A Tragedy. Not surprisingly, the play was performed with none other than himself as the lead. Reactions to the play were anything but appreciative. Literature that is politically inclined is what Mayakovsky is best known for.

He produced a significant number of poems, plays, slogans, etc. expressing his own political views against philosophies which he found to be inappropriate. While doing propaganda literature, he pushed for futurism, criticizing yet again Pushkin and his followers for their conventional approach (Sovlit. com, “Blok, Alexandr Aleksandrovich”). By association, Blok is also criticized since he is linked to Pushkin. In comparison to Mayakovsky, Alexandr Blok also started writing poems at an early age, but he started earlier than the former. At age five, he already wrote his first poem.

Blok was born on the 28th of November 1880, thirteen years before Mayakovsky, making him older than his critic. Blok got introduced to theater earlier than Mayakovsky—at sixteen, he decided to be an actor after being inspired by Shakespeare’s works. Also, like Mayakovsky, there was a person that influenced much of Blok’s career. Bely was impressed with Blok’s work, but soon, Blok started to change styles which caused him to fall out of favor with Bely. In a sense, both poets got themselves into trouble—Mayakovsky with the law and Blok with alcoholism. While suffering from alcoholism.

Blok was able to write Russia and the Intelligentsia, a collection of articles that shows Blok’s political stand on the social class tensions in society. He recognized this tension and criticized the Intelligentsia for ignoring this tension. This is Blok’s first political resemblance in comparison to Mayakovsky. However, unlike Mayakovsky, Blok had not remained loyal, as it were, to the genre that first inspired him, which is mysticism or symbolism. Before the end of the first decade of the 20th century, Blok has completely alienated the symbolist movement and even criticized it.

Blok was even quoted: “Nothing in this world is more horrible than mysticism,” confirming the turnaround in the perspective of Blok. During World War I, he worked first as a nurse and then as soldier, but life as a soldier was not as exciting as he would have preferred as he was destined to work more as an editor than a soldier, editing testimonies given by tsarist ministers. He wanted to be active in the fall of tsarist regime but was unable to do an active role other than his works. His most famous work, Dvenatasat, translated as “The Twelve,” is about the October Revolution, which is thought mostly to embrace Bolshevism.

In relation to Mayakovsky, as mentioned earlier, Mayakovsky was also a supporter at a very young age at that of the Bolshevist movement (Sovlit. com, “Blok, Alexandr Aleksandrovich”). With regard to the “attack” by Mayakovsky, it seems Blok did not have any counter-attack on the modernist group. Blok appeared to be a peace loving person. In a gathering dedicated to Pushkin, Blok was quoted “Peace! Freedom! For every poet they are indispensable” (qtd. in Terras). Not long after he made those remarks, he died from an unknown illness in August 7, 1921 (Sovlit. com, “Blok, Alexandr Aleksandrovich”). Conclusion

Mayakovsky and Blok do not exactly despise or like each other. Although Mayakovsky criticized him for his conventional style, Blok did not retaliate. Also, Mayakovsky had not made his criticism personal, as he was just expressing what he believed in. If anything, the two poets shared something more profound than their styles. Both expressed their political dismay for the government through their work, and that alone makes them brothers with the same cause.

Works Cited

Burliuk David, Alexander Kruchenykh, Vladmir Mayakovsky, and Victor Khlebnikov. “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste. ” The Nuiean Pop Cultural Archive.6 March 2009. . “Futurism. ” Artmovements. co. uk. 6 March 2009 . Malcolm, Lindsay. “The Symbolists. ” The Silver Age of Russian Poetry. 8 August 1999. 6 March 2009 . Sovlit. com. “Blok, Alexandr Aleksandrovich. ” Encyclopedia of Soviet Writers. 2001. 6 March 2009 . Sovlit. com “Mayakovsky, Vladimir Vladimirovich. ” Encyclopedia of Soviet Writers. 2001. 6 March 2009 .

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