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To Shine, in Verse


Let’s go, my poet,
let’s dawn
and sing
in a gray tattered world.
I shall pour forth my sun,
and you—your own,
in verse.”

Vladimir Mayakovsky, An Extraordinary Adventure Which Befell Vladimir Mayakovsky In A Summer Cottage

We look at the world through our own lens. It’s relatively easy to be optimistic about the future when you aren’t facing a violent end, or the relentless oppression of an authoritarian government. Bullies tend to sap the creativity out of most poets and artists. But every now and then you run into one that stands up to the bully, puts their work out there and lets it speak for itself despite it all.

Mayakovsky published this charming little poem about having tea with the sun in 1920. I visit it now not to celebrate the void of positive leadership in Russia since then, but rather the resilience of the poet in the face of darkness. Mayakovsky would eventually succumb to that darkness, committing suicide a decade or so after writing this dance with light. Humans aren’t meant to live in darkness. We must find a source of energy and hope to carry on.

We choose to focus on the positive in this world, not because we’re delusional, but because the only hope for our collective future is in optimism and love. Mayakovsky’s poem ends with a radiance that illuminates us still. It offers an example to press on with our work, to fight for what is right and true. For not everything in the world slips into darkness. We still might shine.

Always to shine,
to shine everywhere,
to the very deeps of the last days,
to shine—
and to hell with everything else!
That is my motto—
and the sun’s!

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