Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mayakovsky in America

In 2005, the complete journal of Mayakovsky's Discovery of America was presented for the first time.  It is a thin, colorful paperback that chronicles his round about trip to the United States via Cuba and Mexico in 1925.  He apparently had some trouble getting a visa directly to New York, given his political views, and was advised by his good friend, David Burliuk, to use a "back door," which turned out to be Laredo, Texas.

Mayakovsky, like many Futurists of his era, was fascinated by American industry and technology.  He saw it as a model for Soviet industry and was determined to get a first hand glimpse of these marvels of ingenuity.  He had some problems in Paris, having lost some of his cash to a "highly talented thief," making due the best he could over the next three months.

Cuba and Mexico held much more fascination for him, as it turns out, but New York also proved to be worth his wait when he finally reached the big city on July 30.  There he met up with Burliuk and other Russian emigrees, who provided him contacts and places to stay for his forays into the heartland of America.  He never made it out to San Francisco, as planned, citing loneliness for his beloved Lili as his reason for cutting his trip short.

However, an interesting book, Mayakovsky in Manhattan, came out in 1993 chronicling an affair Mayakovsky had in New York. It was written by his presumed daughter, Patricia Thompson, a.k.a. Yelena Mayakovsky.  It seems he didn't miss Lili that much.

His Poems about America were published during his lifetime, as were excerpts from his travel log, but it took nearly 80 years to collect his American sketches into one volume, bringing this long voyage of discovery to a close, as noted in the introduction to the volume.

The drawings are by David Burliuk for the original publication of his American poems.

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