AbeBooks' Reading Copy



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Tickets please for this Soviet era children’s poem in a steam engine


I am biased but AbeBooks is a treasure trove. Yesterday, I came across this amazing item. You would only find it by searching for “avant garde steam locomotive” hence my eagerness to showcase this undated leporello from Russia’s Soviet era. A leporello is a single sheet of paper that has been folded several times. Some people also refer to the zig-zag style fold as an “accordion pleat.” This one comes in amazing condition and just look at the red star on the front of the steam engine – no doubt where this poetry originates.

Vladimir Mayakovsky
(1893-1930) was a Russian poet of immense significance and ‘Kem byt’ is his most famous children’s poem. The title translates as Whom Shall I Become? and it encourages children to create their own identities and suggests various professions.

Mayakovsky was writing at height of the Russian Revolution and gained fame as a revolutionary poet even though his interests were far broader than mere politics.

He was jailed under the Czarist regime for subversion and began writing poetry during his imprisonment. He wrote poems that supported the Bolsheviks during the uprising and penned an elegy for Vladimir Lenin, but eventually he fell out of favor for being too avant garde. His life ended in a desperately sad fashion when he killed himself with a pistol. After his death, Stalin praised his work and positioned him as a hero of the revolution.

The price for this ultra scarce piece of poetry – $2,990

Posted by on January 19, 2012.

Categories: art, author, poetry

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