Gallery of Russian Poets

On Esenin's Death

Esenin's "Famous" Poems

Poem for Esenin- by Mayakovsky

Esenin and the Russian Revolution

Timeline of Esenin's Life


"The poems come from his very core, and any excess came from his heart"

-Alexander Voronsky

Sergei Esenin is remembered in Russia as the "most profound poet" in the age of the Revolution. He was a poet of the people, and his books, tattered and worn, could be found in the hands of migrant workers. Like his beloved Russia at the time, Esenin's life was filled with turbulence, one aspect being that he married five times, and had four children, in his short life of 30 years. Esenin grew up in the country with his grandparents after his mother and father moved to the city. He was deeply affected by the nature that surrounded him, and his early poetry is full of images of nature and the message of nature.

Esenin's first and second marriages produced three children, Yuri, Tatiana and Konstania, but a year after he was separated from his second wife, Zinaida, he began his life as a wandering bohemian poet. However, his life as a bachelor did not last long, because he soon met Isadora Duncan, and American dancer 17 years his senior. The two artists, despite the fact that neither could speak the other's language, decided to marry, and then moved to America. This marriage as well ended soon after its conception, and Esenin's next wife Galina, was considered a "civil marriage". I am not sure how I feel about the term "civil", because during this marriage, Esenin had a child, Alexandr, by another woman, Nadezhda. Esenin never knew Alexandr. He did marry Sophia Tolstoy, a granddaughter of Leo Tolstoy. This was his last marriage.

Esenin's life was not just tumultuous due to his constantly changing marital status. He was often remembered (by friend Alexander Voronsky) as having a dual personality. On the one hand he was a polite, calm and restrained. But he could also be rude, boastful and arrogant. This supported his dual image as a devout and simple peasant singer, while also a rowdy and blasphemous exhibitionist.

Esenin attracted huge audiences with his mesmerizing, passionately artistic speaking style. He was the most popular poet of the early revolution, and the object of a considerable cult that belonged to the "imaginist school", which advocated absolute independence for the artist.

Esenin traveled often, but as one Soviet Literature article states "[he would go to] different continents and different countries but...he longed for home." When in New York he wrote to Moscow (Nov 12, 1922) "In Russia you might have your eyes full of smoke and dripping with tears, but it was still better than here."

The last two years of his life were marked by extremes of heavy drinking and debauchery, and these years are vividly recorded in his poetry. When he journeyed to the Caucasus, he began a cycle of love poems called the Persian Motifs. In them he longs for the perfect love. In this time, Esenin was using cocaine, and after his return from the Caucasus, his life and energy went rapidly down hill. He felt inadequate, unused to the peasants of Russia quoting soviet slogans, and tormented by the idea that he hadn't fulfilled his "messianic role of poet of the people". He had been in support of the Revolution, and upon his return, tried once again to join the band wagon -he praised steel and stone as the secret of Russia's coming strength. However, he felt alienated from Bolshevik Russia, and so abandoned these ideals rather swiftly. In seeing Esenin's preparation to return to Baku (from the Caucasus), Voronsky felt sure that "he [Esenin] didn't have long to live...his fire was dying out".

It was in this time that Esenin wrote one of his most famous, The Man In Black. After checking out of a mental hospital in 1925, Esenin registered for a hotel room in St. Petersburg. It was there that he hung himself. Before he died Esenin wrote the poem "Goodbye, My Friend, Goodbye" in his blood. This is one of Esenin's most beautiful and famous poems. Some consider that the death of Esenin, "...The most Russian of poets...", marked the end of tolerance of artistic freedom in the Bolshevik Regime.

Whatever your perspective, it cannot be denied that Esenin was one of the most popular poets of the revolution. Perhaps this was because he was never above the commoner, however, he was constantly reflecting, and appreciating their position during the Revolution of Russia.