Mayakovsky fever

Mayakovsky fever

The Futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky is being honored in the city with a wide-ranging festival.

Published: October 24, 2012 (Issue # 1732)


An exhibit of artworks that was assembled for the festival will travel to Moscow and Riga once the event ends.

It is no secret that Russians love to idolize their poets.

In recent weeks the city has seen a resurgence in events dedicated to the works and lives of Russia’s favorite poets and bards, such as Kino frontman Viktor Tsoi and Soviet legend Vladimir Vysotsky.

In a new festival that began Friday at Mod club, titled “Mayakovsky Takoi,” which can be roughly translated as “Mayakovsky As He Is,” the Silver-Age poet Vladimir Mayakovsky joins the list of venerated great lyricists, in a program of events that stretches over four weekends.

The poet, who shot himself in 1930, is a cult favorite among Russians of all generations, as was evident at the festival’s launch on Friday, at which hip youths, grunge rockers and elegant elderly women intermingled freely. The program of the night was dedicated to love lyricism, and included an opening lecture on constructivism as well as recitations of Mayakavosky’s poetry set to a musical accompaniment and a closing concert headlined by Jenia Lubich.

An exhibit of artworks has also been assembled for the festival. Created by students, amateurs and local artists, as well as award-winning contemporary artists such as Igor Cholariya, and disabled youth from the Osobiye Masterskiye organization, the exhibit will travel to Moscow and Riga after the festival ends.

According to the organizers, the festival is aimed at “proving Mayakovsky’s relevance to today by revitalizing the persona and ideas of the poet in various genres … reinterpreted by the young poets, actors, beginner artists and musicians of St. Petersburg.”

“Our main goal is to popularize the poetry of Mayakovsky among youth subcultures,” said Yulianna Matrosova, the festival’s main organizer.

It is this popularization that accounts for the diversity of genres and formats included in the program. Children’s poetry, a dance theater performance and a reggae ska concert will be held on Oct. 26 at Mod, while Nov. 2 will see a lecture on film posters during the day at Radio Baby bar and a program called “The Dark Side of Mayakovsky” in addition to a late-night dark electro concert with a ’20s dress code at Dada club that same night. The festival will close with readings of social and revolutionary poems back at Mod club on Nov. 10. Each day of the festival begins with a lecture on subjects such as the avant-garde and agitprop.


Vladimir Mayakovsky in 1910.

The last event of the festival is likely to be the most resonant, as the hallmark of Mayakovsky’s work was satirical and biting criticism of capitalism and bourgeois society. Alexia Kan, a local artist who contributed to the art exhibit with her work “Mayakovsky and Me Against the New Bourgeois” and helped to organize it, spoke to The St. Petersburg Times about the relevance of Mayakovsky today.

“The festival doesn’t dictate anything in terms of politics,” she said. “Everyone has their own view. But you can see the relationship between the works on show and such things as the revolution that the youth is waiting for, as well as recent events such as Pussy Riot.

“The artists used the groundwork of Mayakovsky to express their views about the current day and revolutionary ideas,” she said.

“I think that the program on the closing day will be read not because we empathize with people back then, but because we are experiencing that today. That’s why we are reading it, presenting it, and uniting under this format. Mayakovsky lives, and the revolution is in our minds. And all of this is relevant.”

Mayakovsky will also be celebrated at a separate event at the legendary Stray Dog cellar bar, where the writer himself was a regular visitor and participant in poetry nights at the beginning of the last century. Readings of his most famous works set to the accompaniment of piano and flute will be held on Nov. 29.

Eighty-two years after his death, Mayakovsky seems to be as topical as ever.

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