He was born in Bagdadi, Georgia.
He joined the Russian Social Democratic Worker's Party aged 14 and was imprisoned on numerous occasions for his political activities; during a period of solitary confinement in Butyrka prison in 1909 he commenced writing poetry. He subsequently joined the Moscow Art School on his release where he became acquainted with members of the Russian Futurist movement and became a leading spokesman for the group. He was close friends with David Burlyuk whom he saw as his mentor.
The 1912 Futurist publication A Slap in the Face of Public Taste contained Mayakovsky's first published poems: Night and Morning. His work continued in the Futurist vein until 1914; his artistic development then moved increasingly in a more narrative direction and it is this work, published during the period immediately preceding the Russian Revolution which was to establish his reputation.
A Cloud in Trousers (Oblako v shtanakh, 1915) was Mayakovsky's first major poem of any length and deals with the subjects of love, revolution, religion, and art as from the perspective of a lover who has been spurned. The language of the work is the language of the streets, and Mayakovsky goes to considerable lengths to deconstruct the idealistic and romaticised notions of poetry and poets.
In the summer of 1915, Mayakovsky fell in love with a married woman, Lilya Brik (whose husband, Ossip apparently did not object to the affair, becoming Mayakovsky's publisher), and it is to her that the poem The Backbone Flute (Fleita pozvonochnik, 1916) is dedicated.
The poem War and the World (Voina i mir, 1916) is concerned with the horrors of World War I and Man (Chelovek, 1917) is a poem which deals with the anguish of love.
At the onset of the Russian Revolution, Mayakovsky was in Smolny in Petrograd, and a witness to the coup.
He died in Moscow.
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