Esenin, Sergei Aleksandrovich Born 3 October 1895 in the village of Konstantinovo in the Ryazan province. In 1899, he went to live with his maternal grandparents. When he was three and a half, his uncles put him on a horse with no saddle and set it galloping off. Young Sergei held on for dear life. He learned to swim in a similar fashion. They took him out in a boat, stripped him naked, and tossed him into the water. When he was eight, he would act as hunting dog for an uncle, swimming in the lake after ducks which had been shot. He began writing poetry when he was nine.
He finished primary school in 1909. Hoping to turn Sergei into a rural schoolteacher, his family sent him to a teachers seminary in the village of Spas-Klepki. Reportedly, he loved church servies and singing in the choir. And it was here that he got serious about poetry. Following the advice of a teacher, he set off for Moscow in March 1913 to pursue poetry.
In 1914 he married Anna Izryadnova, and they had a son in January of 1915. Izryanova describes Esenin as arrogant, proud, ambitious, and possessive. Soon, he abandoned the family and Moscow for Petrograd, which he saw as the real literary capital.
He was so nervous that he broke into a sweat when he first met Aleksandr Blok on 9 March 1915. Blok gave Esenin encouragement and help, calling him a "naturally gifted peasant poet". Esenin, in turn claims that he learned lyricism from Blok and Kliuev, and form from Bely.
Esenin's first collection of poems, Radunitsa, was published in February 1916. His fame rose quickly, and he even read his poetry in the presence of the empress and her daughters, for which he received a gold watch and chain. Esenin's sympathies, however, were with the revolutionaries and he warmly greeted both the February and October revolutions. Somewhere around this time Esenin married a second time, to Zinaida Raikh.
In 1918, three more collections of his work were published: "The Infant Jesus", "Transfiguration", and "Rural Breviary". In March 1918, he moved to Moscow, and in May his daughter was born.
He considered 1919 the best time of his life. He was given control of a bookstore, a publishing concern, and The Stall of Pegasus, a bohemian literary cafe. At this time he formed the Imaginist literary movement wtih poets Anatoly Mariengof, Vadim Ahershenevich, and Riurik Ivnev. They proclaimed the primacy of "the image per se" and spoke of the image "devouring" meaning. Metaphors were referred to as "minor images". Esenin said:
Just realize what a great thing Imaginism is! Words have become used up, like old coins, they have lost their primordial poetic power. We cannot create new words. Neologism and trans-sense language are nonsense. But we have found a means to revive dead words, expressing them in dazzling poetic images. This is what we Imaginists have created. We are the inventors of the new.In 1918 or 1919, Esenin applied to join the Communist Party, but he was considered too individual and "alien to any and all discipline". In 1920 two more collections were published, "Treriadnitsa" and "Triptich". A second son is born in 1920. The collection "Hooligan's Confession" is published in 1921.
Despite his intensely social life, slowly, a sense of alienation and lonliness grew in him. In 1921 he notes, "Generally speaking, a lyric poet should not live long."
In November 1921, he met American dancer Isadora Duncan, 17 years his senior. They were married on 2 May 1922, and 10 May 1922, they set off for a tour of Eurpoe and America. Traveling was difficult for Esenin, however, and the next month in Berlin, he suffered a nervous breakdown. He recovered, and after stopping off in Paris and Venice, he and Duncan set off for America. They arrived in New York on 1 October 1922.
They had a stormy and difficult time in the USA, which was not helped by Esenin's experience with bootleg liquor. He hated New York, saying it was so abominable as to invite suicide. He feared losing his spiritual sense of art. As his mental and physical health declined, he and Duncan returned to Paris. His struggles with drinking continued and one night, he smashed all the mirrors and woodwork in his room at the Crillon Hotel. Influential friends succeeded in freeing Esenin from the police, and Duncan moved him to a mental hospital. By 5 August 1923, they were back in Moscow. By the end of October, their relationship was over.
Esenin was bored and deeply depressed, suffering from alcoholism and hallucinations. Unable to find a spiritual anchor, he seemed to some as helpless as a two-year-old child. Although his marriage to Duncan was never officially dissolved, he married again to Galina Benislavskaya. His drinking continued. The only time he was sober was when he wrote. But he felt his writing skills waning. He said that he was beginning to write verse, not poetry.
In 1923 he published "Stikhi skandalista" (Verse of a Creator of Scandals), and in 1924, the "Tavern Moscow" collection appears. In 1925 he published "Song of the Great Campaign" and several collections, including "Soviet Rus" and "Land of the Soviets."
In early 1925 he went to Baku where he wrote his "Persian motifs" and "Anna Snegina". In June, he left Benislavskaya, sold the rights to his collected works to the State Publishing House, and married Sofia Tolstaya, Leo Tolstoy's granddaughter. A persecution mania grew in him as did his hallucinations, and he finally entered a clinic in November. He suddenly left the clinic on 21 December, resumed drinking, and set off for Leningrad. He took a room in the Hotel d'Angletrre, and hung himself from the water pipes in the icon corner on 28 December. He left a suicide poem written in his own blood:
"Good-bye, my friend, good-bye.According to Anatoly Mariengof:
If Sergei decided to leave us, he must have somehow come to doubt his own creative powers. There could not be any other reason for his death, just as he had no other aim in life save his poems.
"Sergey Esenin" by Constantin V. Ponomareff. Twayne Publishers, Boston. 1978
Terras, Victor. "Handbook of Russian Literature", Yale University Press, 1985.