Authors: Sergei Esenin

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Russian poet

Author Works


Radunitsa, 1915 (All Soul’s Day, 1991)

Goluben’, 1918 (Azure, 1991; includes “Preobrazhenie,” “Transfiguration,” “Prishestvie,” “The Coming,” and “Inonia”)

Ispoved’ khuligana, 1921 (Confessions of a Hooligan, 1973)

Pugachov, 1922

Stikhi skandalista, 1923

Moskva kabatskaia, 1924

“Cherni chelovek,” 1925

Persidskie motivi, 1925

Rus’ sovetskaia, 1925

Strana sovetskaia, 1925

Anna Snegina, 1925

Sobranie sochinenii, 1961-1962 (5 volumes)

Selected Poetry, 1982


“Kliuchi Marri,” 1918


Sergei Esenin (yih-SYAY-nyihn) was born into a peasant family in the village of Konstantinovo–since his death officially renamed Esenino–in Ryazan province, Russia. When he was two years old his father moved to Moscow, and the boy was brought up by his grandparents. At the age of nine he began to write poems. He attended the village elementary school until the age of twelve, when he was sent to a teachers’ college. There he read Alexander Pushkin for the first time and decided that the life of a teacher was not for him.{$I[AN]9810000558}{$I[A]Esenin, Sergei}{$S[A]Yesenin, Sergei;Esenin, Sergei}{$I[geo]RUSSIA;Esenin, Sergei}{$I[tim]1895;Esenin, Sergei}

In the spring of 1912 he went to Moscow and at first lived with his father. Soon, however, he became involved with the Surikov Circle, a collection of working-class and peasant writers. He found work at a printing press and registered at the Shanyovsky People’s University, where he attended a miscellany of lectures. During this time he was writing a great deal, but although he sent many of his poems to St. Petersburg magazines, none was accepted for publication. In 1914 he decided to go to St. Petersburg, and there he met Nikolai Klyuyev and Aleksandr Blok, both of whom greatly influenced his work.

With Klyuyev’s help Esenin’s first collection of poems, Radunitsa, was published in 1915. The work was an immediate success. Shortly afterward, however, Esenin was drafted into the army and in 1917 was sent to the front. The contemporaneous advent of the revolution surprised millions of Russians, and countless numbers of soldiers simply deserted, Esenin among them. He returned to St. Petersburg and his writing, and in 1919 he published the poem “Inonia,” which exalted the revolution and prophesied what Esenin called the restoration of village “wooden” Russia.

Esenin had married the actress Zinaida Reich in 1917, but they had soon after become estranged. In 1919 he joined the circle of Moscow Imaginist poets, a group of literary bohemians. Many critics trace Esenin’s wild life with the Imaginists–which involved brawls, prostitutes, taverns, and jails–to a disillusionment with the revolution. He met famous American dancer Isadora Duncan, who was then in Moscow, and in 1922 they married. Though neither could speak the other’s language, they had a bond in their extravagant and dissipated style of living. They made a grand tour of Western Europe and the United States, but in 1923 they separated, and Esenin returned to Russia.

Esenin described his psychological experiences during those years in such poems as Moskva kabatskaia (Moscow of the taverns) and Confessions of a Hooligan. In 1925 he married a granddaughter of Leo Tolstoy; she remained his faithful companion during his increasingly prolonged depressions. That year he published “The Black Man,” a confessional narrative. Esenin continued to drink and began to write lyrics in which he prophesied his own death. On December 28, 1925, alone in a Leningrad hotel room, he cut his wrists, wrote a farewell poem with his own blood, and hanged himself. The last lines of that poem fix his mood: “In this life to die is nothing new, but, of course, there is as little novelty in living.”

BibliographyDavis, J. Esenin: A Biography in Memoirs, Letters, and Documents. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1982. Davis culls the autobiographical material from the poet’s work and complements it with biographical commentaries, shedding light on various aspects of Esenin’s life. These materials, in turn, shed light on his poetry.De Graaff, Frances. Sergei Esenin: A Biographical Sketch. The Hague, the Netherlands: Mouton, 1966. In his valuable study of Esenin’s life and poetry, De Graaff combines biography with the poet’s works, bolstering his observations with citations from many poems, in Russian and English. Includes an extensive bibliography.McVay, Gordon. Esenin: A Life. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1976. In this definitive biography of Esenin in English, the author encompasses the poet’s entire life, including his tragic death by suicide, about which McVay chronicles the events in detail. The book offers brief analyses of Esenin’s works along with copious illustrations.Mariengof, Anatoli. A Novel Without Lies. Translated by Jose Alaniz. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000. A detailed memoir of Mariengof’s association with Esenin and the literary avant-garde of the 1920’s.Prokushev, Yuri. Sergei Esenin: The Man, the Verse, the Age. Moscow: Progress, 1979. In this biography of Esenin by a Russian scholar, Prokushev offers the Russian point of view about the poet and his poetry. The emphasis is on the biographical details. It is somewhat tinted ideologically, stressing Esenin’s often failed efforts to adapt to the Soviet reality, his love for Russia, and the realistic aspects of his poetry. Despite its politically motivated slant, the book is full of interesting observations.Thurley, Geoffrey. Introduction to Confessions of a Hooligan, by Sergei Esenin. Cheadle, England: Hulme, 1973. A book of translations of Esenin’s poems about his struggle against alcoholism. In the introduction, Thurley examines circumstances that led to the writing of these poems.Visson, Lynn. Sergei Esenin: Poet of the Crossroads. Würzburg, Germany: Jal-Verlag, 1980. Visson undertakes a thorough, expert analysis of the stylistic features of Esenin’s poetry, with extensive quotations from the poems, in Russian and in English, offering penetrating insights into the artistic merits of Esenin’s poetry and gauging the scope of his contribution to Russian poetry.
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