Perhaps no writer embodied the optimism, the energy and the violent artistic genius that followed the Russian Revolution more, in his poems and in his very self, than Vladimir Mayakovsky. His career, as a very public poet – the rock star of the Russian Revolution – captures all of the romance and hope of that period.

His suicide, in 1930, at the age of 36, is remembered still as a turning point. Mayakovsky took his life, and the nightmare of Stalin began.

In America, inadequate translations have kept Mayakovsky in relative obscurity. Michael Almereyda’s Night Wraps the Sky: Writings by and About Mayakovsky has been designed to present us with the full force of his creativity, charm and impact.

The great poems themselves are here, in fresh and exciting translations. But Almereyda also includes contemporary accounts of packed house readings, scholarly interpretations by wonderful writers like John Berger, letters, diary entries, etc., to give us as close to a sense of Mayakovsky and his times as he possibly can.

The result is an almost unbearably exciting reading experience. In poems like “A Cloud in Trousers” or “An Extraordinary Adventure That Happened to Vladimir Mayakovsky One Summer at a Dacha” (in which the poet yells at the sun for being a loafer, and the sun comes down to have a long talk with him: they end up being the best of comrades), the imagination stretches and bends to the verses, the very air we breathe seems more vital and delicious. Here is affirmation, solidarity and love – the most tender feelings of love. The book has the power to amaze.

Grade: A+

Night Wraps the Sky: Writings by and about Mayakovsky is currently available.