Majakovsky’s shortest poem: a formidable image of Spring

The shortest poem by Majakovsky dates from 1913, the most fruitful period for the celebrated Russian poet, and is entitled “Exhaustive Picture of Spring.” Before any discussion, it is good to read it:

After the fox lines - 

An image of spring as imagined by Majakovsky

Commentary on the verses

The title itself is a statement of intent. We know how Majakovsky used irony and crudity to emphasize his ideas and make them resonate like drum and cannon shots. In this case, he, as a founder of Russian Futurism, touches on the germs of Hermeticism and pushes us toward images that almost recall Ungaretti.

The poem is sparse, consisting of only three lines, two of which are composed of a single word. This choice can only lead to extreme semantic consequences: on the one hand, an exaltation of the spring season that leaves one literally “speechless”; on the other hand, conversely, an existential ravine where the reader admires an emptiness that desperately seeks meaning.

The poet chose the second option, painting a picture that, mindful of the richness of Botticelli, turns into its dramatic opposite. Not a lushness of new plants and flowers ready to bloom, but only “leaves,” new, yes, newly regenerated, but far too helpless and lonely to set the tone for the reality that reopens to life after a northern winter.

This is perhaps the very seed that Majakovsky allowed to grow within himself. An expanse of silences that would like to turn into roars but, alas, find only an equally miserable, incapacitated, eager but bored landscape of its own. Revolution is not what is brewing in his Spring, but only the trampling of lonely foxes, leaving faint traces that lead nowhere.

In such existential isolation, the aspiration of the futurist pushes into the still virgin territories of hermeticism. Perhaps more out of necessity than a desire for artistic experimentation. The poet, whom we know well, began at a very young age to take a stand against the pre-revolutionary Russian establishment and never chose the path of compromise.

His theses, like blades or hand grenades, tear at the reader’s flesh and inseminate in it the disruptive force of a guerrilla character that cannot help but bring to mind the“warrior spirit that roars inside me” of Foscolo’s “At Night.” Even Majakovsky, never tired of adding verses to underscore his fixed idea, succumbs, perhaps only for a moment, almost to despair, observing in Spring, a symbol as wrong as ever, the emergence of a childlike protest. Which is made of cries, but it’s also helpless to turn cries into cries and cries into action.

In just three verses, we find all this. The immense desire for awakening and the bewildering truth lies before the poet’s eyes. In other, far longer and more explicit texts- such as the extraordinary poem the poet dedicates, “To the Beloved Self”- we can capture this discontent that courts frustration. But it is not worth spending time on long speeches in this case. Spring is all here: covered with newly bloomed shoots only to be trampled by a few hungry foxes looking for a “piece of bread.” The misery that does not grab weapons, that lets life live on without screaming its pain.

It’s Spring. Silence. Nothing else.

Short biographical note on Majakovsky

Vladimir Vladimirovič Majakovsky, a leading figure in Russian literature, was known for his innovative poetry and involvement in the political scene in the early 20th century. Born in 1893 in Baghdati, Georgia, Vladimir Majakovsky experienced a turbulent childhood marked by the death of his father and the family’s financial difficulties. Despite these challenges, Majakovsky showed an early talent for writing and a keen interest in social issues.

In his adult life, Majakovsky became actively involved in the Russian Revolution of 1917, aligning himself with the Bolsheviks and advocating socialist ideals in his works. His poetry often reflected his revolutionary enthusiasm and commitment to bringing about social change. Majakovsky’s bold and dynamic writing style, characterized by his use of language and imagery, distinguished him from his contemporaries and established him as a leading voice of Russian futurism.

Throughout his career, Majakovsky produced diverse works, including poems, plays, and essays exploring themes of love, politics, and the human experience. Some of his most famous works include “A Cloud in Pants,” “The Backbone Flute,” and “Listen!”

Majakovsky’s tragic death in 1930 shook the literary world, leaving behind a legacy of innovative poetry and a commitment to social justice that inspires readers worldwide. The poet’s legacy endures, as his contributions to Russian literature and his dedication to artistic and political expression remain valid and relevant today.

For references and further reading

Volodya: Selected Works
  • This groundbreaking collection draws together for the first time Vladimir Mayakovsky’s key translators from the 1930s to the present day, bringing some remarkable works back into print in the process and introducing poems which have never before been translated
  • The radical scope of its representation makes for the most comprehensive account of Mayakovsky’s work to date – an account which charts not only the extraordinary range of his creative output,, but also the fascinating and turbulent history of Mayakovsky’s cultural and political representation in the western world
  • Leggi di più

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