"I" Commentary

One of Mayakovsky's earliest works, the "I" cycle, a collection of four poems, perhaps best represents the style of Futurism. The title poem, I, demonstrates the aesthetic of the movement, with it's use of the city as its landscape, a character in itself. This is significant because Futurism was a very left-leaning movement, in full support of the revolution and the working class. Because cities are the heart of industry, it is therefore the heart of the worker in Russia. This work is an interesting introduction to the following three poems because it evokes ideas of loneliness and desolation that occur in the other poems in the cycle, as well as throughout most of the poems in Mayakovsky's career. Equally important here is also the fact that Mayakovsky himself is the center of this poem. In I, the city exists inside of Mayakovsky: his own soul to pavement, and all of the pain that exists in a city exists inside of him and around him. Even the clouds are nooses, and Mayakovsky states that he is alone in his sorrow. This is a theme that appears time and time again in his poetry, that he is alone in his greatness and his suffering. And sadly, his suicide note later brings to light that for Mayakovsky, there was "no other way out" than to punctuate his heart with a bullet.


Mayakovsky uses an surprising mix of styles in the following poem, A Few Words About My Wife. Mayakovsky never married and had not yet succumbed to Lili Brik, so it is unclear who this woman is. However, the ascetic of Futurism is clearly present as in the previous poem, with the urban landscape that his «wife» flirts with. However, what is interesting is the romantic imagery of the poem, of his wife riding around the moon and the stars. For Mayakovsky, this is odd because there are rarely any descriptions of nature or scenery in his poems at all. This goes back to his childhood in Georgia: his father was a forest ranger, who loved nothing more than the beauty of the Caucuses. Mayakovsky, however, stated "After electricity, I lost interest in nature. Too backward." The effect of this romanticism is that the poem plays out almost cinematically, whereas the majority of his poem are more streams of consciousness.

The idea of lost love is also introduced here. His wife here is unfaithful, and leaves him to play with the city. Mayakovsky crushed, weeping «fresh pails» from his eyes. Even his poetry is unfaithful, and walks the streets as a prostitute. Again, Mayakovsky is left with is his own sadness. Like a city he could not escape from, here he cannot even drown out the feelings of his broken heart, because he hears his love's laughter in the sounds of the streets


Mayakovsky calls to his mother in several poems, and indeed she was a very important person to him. She sewed him his famous yellow shirt, and she was the one he returned to when his imprisonment was over in 1910. This poem seems to echo these events. In the third "I" poem, A Few Words About My Mother, he is apologizing to her for his antics in his yellow shirt while she is stuck at home, inseparable from the wallpaper. However, for Mayakovsky these are necessary things. Says historian Edward J. Brown, «We have here the first suggestion of Mayakovsky's self-appointed vocation as a poet..for that he has to leave his mamma. Like the young Jesus, he had work to do."

Mayakovsky invokes his mother again in Cloud in Trousers. He says,
Hello?/ Who's speaking?/ Mamma?/ Mamma!/ Your son is gloriously ill!/ Mamma!/ Tell his siters, Lyuda and Olya/ he has no nook to hide in.
Like a «mamma on blue cornflower wallpaper,» a mother who is identified with home, here too we get the sense that for Mayakovsky, his mother represents complete safety and comfort when his world is in shambles (he is literally on fire in this part of Cloud.) But although he calls to her, a few lines later he says Glorify me!/ For me the great are no match. Perhaps without this egoism, he could not endure breaking his mother's heart, which may be why he continuously calls to her. This is the beginning of one of Mayakovsky's greatest contradictions, the fact that he declares that he is the greatest poet of his time, yet constantly speaks about how there is no place in society for him, calling to his mother for help to ease his pain. These ideas almost always occur together in his poetry, with the exception being the edited version of An Extraordinary Adventure…. This is perhaps part of the pain Mayakovsky has to endure: he is aware of his own greatness, yet it is not enough to calm a soul that constantly needs to be satiated by love in any and every form he can find.


This poem A Few Words About Myself introduces the idea of Christ. Like he does to his mamma, he seems at first to call for heavenly help, for he is tormented by the pain he sees in the world. But, as historian Edward J. Brown says, Mayakovsky no longer believes that this historical Christ can help society: like electricity, he is outdated. Instead, Mayakovsky says that in time, «you at least daub my countenance// and frame it as a freak of this age!», labeling himself a new Christ of his time, and effectively believes himself to be a martyr. He will carry the weight of the pain he sees, even if he has to leave mamma, even if his lovers leave, and even if he ends up the loneliest man in the world.

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