The Presidential Library’s collections spotlight the way Yesenin lived and other memoirs of the author

3 October 2019

October 3, 2019 marks the 124th anniversary of the birth of the poet Sergei Yesenin (1895–1925) - a representative of the “new peasant” trend in art, which is consonant in its imagery with imagism. The Presidential Library’s collections contain a number of materials devoted to him: books; photographic postcards; video lecture Sergei Yesenin in the Dialogue of Cultures; scientific works devoted to his oeuvre; memoirs of people from Yesenin's entourage; published speech “S. Yesenin speaks at the opening of the monument to A. Koltsov (Moscow, November, 1918)”. The electronic reading room of the Presidential Library features all of the listed documents.  

Yesenin's first poems were published in Moscow magazines as early as 1914. A year later, the poet arrived in Petrograd for the sole purpose of meeting Alexander Blok and learning his opinion about his works. Right from the station, S. Yesenin headed to the store (right behind the Anichkov Bridge), where he was prompted with the address of the famous Blok living on Pryazhka, where his museum is housed today. An acquaintance took place. Sergei, embarrassed and blushing, read the poet his verses. Blok listened with increasing interest, and then called his new acquaintance "a talented peasant". He gave S. Yesenin a letter of recommendation with an appeal to S. Gorodetsky - and the poet’s collaboration with St. Petersburg magazines began, in which the young author was published along with A. Blok, N. Klyuyev, A. Mariengof, O. Forsh, S. Gorodetsky himself and others.   

A close friend of the poet Anatoly Mariengof in the book Memoirs of Yesenin (1926) describes how the peasant son, who set out to conquer the capital and deliberately “lost” in luxurious living rooms, taught his friend to live: “It will be difficult for you, Tolya, in varnish boots and with parting, hair to hair. How can one be without poetic distraction? Is it soaring under the clouds in trousers from under the iron?”  

One cannot but love him. Yesenin possessed a great charm of an open, deeply original person who was really interested in the interlocutor. And only close friends knew: the poet’s revival was sometimes simulated, and natural artistry was subordinated to a specific goal, the main thing in his life, from which he did not sleep at night. On this occasion, Vinogradskaya writes: “Days of continuous noise, din and songs were replaced by days of work on the verse. And then the days of longing passed, when all the colors faded in his eyes, and his blue eyes faded, turned gray”. 

Talent, as it is known, is a big burden and a big responsibility, so to speak, a “commission” from above. Not everyone can handle this burden. It happens that there is a kind of “professional burnout”, which, unfortunately, was noted by those close to Yesenin, who by that time was the author of world-famous poems (“Anna Snegina”, “Persian Motifs”). He himself understood this more sharply than others when he wrote a farewell poem to Anatoly Mariengof: “I’m afraid, because the soul passes, / Like youth and love”.

Those who would like to know more about Yesenin’s life will also be interested in electronic copies of photographic postcards depicting the poet in different years. In addition to well-known official images, among them, in particular, are home photographs: Yesenin in childhood, with parents, sisters, friends and colleagues, while serving on the military-sanitary train in the First World War. Sergei Yesenin had his Ryazan village Konstantinovo in his heart, could suddenly break loose at any moment. After the revolution, he monitored collectivization and worried when faced with facts of infringement of the interests of fellow villagers. So, for example, Mariengof wrote: "He loved the man in himself and carried it proudly".

And, perhaps, precisely because of this “patrimonial mark”, the image of peasant, reserved Russia was embodied in poetry precisely by Yesenin.