Abroad Commentary

Written while Mayakovsky was abroad in New York, Mayakovsky's Brooklyn Bridge is his testament to the glory of architecture and urbanism. He speaks of how humbled he feels at this great steel construction, how much he loves the drone of the city, and that at night all hardships are forgotten. For Mayakovsky, the bridge represents the triumph of the working class, a testament not just to materials and architecture, but the hard work and ingenuity of man. He takes his appreciation to the extreme, believing that the bridge will survive the ages and will one day reemerge, centuries later, as a representation of his time.

This would seem to be one of the few poems where Mayakovsky is not the focus, but this changes near the end of the poem. The bridge becomes Mayakovsky's own canvas, and states that if the bridge will withstand the test of time, then he will ensure that he does too, with the hope that one day everyone will know that he, Vladimir Mayakovsky, once stood on at that very spot, composing verses.


Another one of Mayakovsky's travel poems, Homewards! was written on the boat Rocheambeau on his way to Paris. The song «Marquita» again echoes his insatiable need with love. This is continued by his need to «plunge» into communism. In Mayakovsky's own belief, being a poet entitles him to reach communism from a «higher» place than most people, because he has the kind of keen sense that allows him to look at things differently than others. But more importantly, communism becomes companionship he is desperately looking for. This seems to recall his initial thoughts upon being released from solitary confinement in 1908, that he needs to really study marxism and political ideology because right now, he is just a child who was never taught anything. Like his feelings for Lili Brik, it is impossible for Mayakovsky to satiate this need to be loved. Thus, even as late as 1925 Mayakovsky is stating that he looks for love even in communism. He takes this idea to the extreme, calling to the politburo to assign him poetic goals, justifying himself by declaring that the «pen should be on par with the bayonet» or that the poet should be considered as important as any worker or solider. In effect, Mayakovsky is trying to prove his own worth to that which he loves, his companion of communism.

The first publication of this poem had a different ending, which Osip Brik apparently advised him to change because it did not suit the overall flow of the poem. The original ending was,

I want my country to understand me.
But if I'm not understood
What of it.
I shall pass through my native land
to one side
as a slanting rain passes by.

Although the altered ending evoking Stalin is interesting, especially for it's historical value, the original lines offer deeper insight to Mayakovsky's mentality only five years before he died. The fact that he directly states his wish to be understood by everyone, to be accepted and not forgotten, is an important confession for him, and brings to light as to why he continuously tries to prove himself and his own worth to society. It also seems to add the necessary balance seen in most of his works by adding the contradicting sadness to his optimistic call to the politburo.

The consequences of changing these lines is unclean. Because there is much controversy surrounding the Briks and whether or not they played a role in Mayakovsky's ultimate downfall, it is thought by some that if Brik did, indeed, recommend that Mayakovsky change these lines, that is shows just how influential and even manipulative the pair have been to the poet.

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