From the time his first, futurist poems were published in 1912 until his suicide at the age of thirty-six, Vladimir Mayakovsky made theatrical appearances in his written work and perfected an iconoclastic voice James Schuyler called “the intimate yell.” As the poet laureate of the Russian Revolution, Mayakovsky led a generation that staked everything on the notion that an artist could fuse a public and a private self. But by the time of Stalin’s terror, the contradictions of the revolution caught up with him, and he ended in despair.
A major influence on American poets of the twentieth century, Mayakovsky’s work remains fascinating and urgent. Very few English translations have come close to capturing his lyric intensity, and a comprehensive volume of his writings has not been published in the past thirty years. In Night Wraps the Sky, the acclaimed filmmaker Michael Almereyda (Hamlet, William Eggleston in the Real World) presents Mayakovsky’s key poems—translated by a new generation of Russian-American poets—alongside memoirs, artistic appreciations, and eyewitness accounts, written and pictorial, to create a full-length portrait of the man and the mythic era he came to embody.