Story – Andrei Vosnezsensky was born in 1933 in Moscow, and died June 1st 2010, as in today, peacefully at home at the age of 77. He was one of the leading poets of the Soviet Union, in an era noted for great poets.
At age 14 he began a friendship with Boris Pasternak (who was already a noted poet, and later authored of Doctor Zhivago, and won a Nobel) who became a mentor for him. In 1957 Andrei graduated from the Moscow Architectural Institute with a degree in Engineering. But famously he witnessed a night time fire at the Architectural Institute that year and wrote the poem “Fire in the Architectural Institute” about the experience, and later said “I believe in symbols. I understood that architecture was burned out in me. I became a poet." He published his first book of poems in 1958, and was famous all over Russia by 1960. By 1963 he was “more famous than the Beatles” in Russia, and was soon shipped off to tour other countries, as part of the cultural exchanges of the Cold War Thaw of the 60s.
Vosnezsensky was famous for performing his poems as well as just writing them and was among the best poetry performers in the world in the 20th century. He was also famous for developing friendships with many other poets, artists and intellectuals, including for example Marilyn Monroe, Allan Ginsberg, and Yevgeny Yevtushenko.
His best piece is probably “I am Goya” one of his early pieces about the horrors of war, which was also a performance wowwer and delivered throughout his career. I also like his “Anti-Worlds” which was adapted into a theater performance a few years after he wrote it. In his later career he wrote a very successful rock opera called “Juno and Avos,” and a Russian pop hit “Millions of Scarlet Roses” sung by Alla Pugacheva.
I am grateful for my intellectual mentors.
I am grateful for the courage to pursue a career that was risky at best.
I am grateful for poets who struggle to make war horrible again, despite all the defense mechanisms we have built up to filter out the awful truths.
Other Notables for me for this day
Birth of Alanis Morissette (musician), deaths of John Dewey (philosopher), Helen Keller (activist), the Martyrdom of Mary Dyer, 1660, hanged for repeatedly preaching Quakerism in Massachusetts before freedom of religion. Baudelaire’s classic poetry Le Fleur Du Mal was published in 1857. On more morally ambiguous notes, (but certainly effecting me), this is also the day that CNN launched 24-hour news in 1980, and that GM filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009.