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James Womack and Jamie Rann : Vladimir Mayakovsky and Other Poems

Join us for an evening of poetry with James Womack, reading from James's newest translations of Vladimir Mayakovsky. Introduced by University of Oxford lecturer and Mayakovsky expert, Jamie Rann, who will tell us all about Mayakovsky's life and work. In English

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (July 19 1893 - 14 April 1930) was a Russian Soviet poet, playwright, artist and stage and film actor. During his early, pre-Revolution period leading into 1917, Mayakovsky became renowned as a prominent figure of the Russian Futurist movement; being among the signers of the Futurist manifesto, A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (1913), and authoring poems such as A Cloud in Trousers (1915) and Backbone Flute (1916). Mayakovsky produced a large and diverse body of work during the course of his career: he wrote poems, wrote and directed plays, appeared in films, edited the art journal LEF, and created agitprop posters in support of the Communist Party during the Russian Civil War. Though Mayakovsky's work regularly demonstrated ideological and patriotic support for the ideology of the Communist Party and a strong admiration of Lenin, Mayakovsky's relationship with the Soviet state was always complex and often tumultuous. Mayakovsky often found himself engaged in confrontation with the increasing involvement of the Soviet State in cultural censorship and the development of the State doctrine of Socialist realism. Works that contained criticism or satire of aspects of the Soviet system, such as the poem 'Conversation with the Taxman about Poetry' (1926), and the plays The Bedbug (1929) and The Bathhouse (1929), were met with scorn by the Soviet state and literary establishment.In 1930 Mayakovsky committed suicide. Even after death his relationship with the Soviet state remained unsteady. Though Mayakovsky had previously been harshly criticized by Stalinist governmental bodies like RAPP, Joseph Stalin posthumously declared Mayakovsky "the best and the most talented poet of our Soviet epoch".

James Womack was born in Cambridge in 1979. He studied Russian, English and translation in St. Petersburg, Reykjavík and Oxford. He currently lives in Madrid, where he works as a freelance translator from Spanish and Russian, and is co-editor of the publishing house Nevsky Prospects, which produces Spanish translations of literature, mostly from Russian. Amongst others, he has translated works by Alexander Pushkin, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Ivan Turgenev, Roberto Arlt and Silvina Ocampo. His first collection of poems, MISPRINT, was published by Carcanet in 2012.

Jamie Rann is Departmental Lecturer in Russian at the University of Oxford. He has previously worked at Queen Mary University of London and as an editor of The Calvert Journal, an online guide to contemporary creativity from Russia and Eastern Europe. His translations of contemporary Russian literature include The Living and The Icarus Gland, both by Anna Starobinets.