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Velemir Chlebnikov

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Biography

Velimir Khlebnikov (Russian: Велими́р Хле́бников; first name also spelled Velemir; last name also spelled Chlebnikov, Hlebnikov, Xlebnikov), pseudonym of Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov (November 9, 1885 (October 28, 1885 (O.S.)) – June 28, 1922), was a central part of the Russian Futurist movement, but his work and influence stretch far beyond it.

Khlebnikov belonged to the most significant Russian Futurist group Hylaea (along with Vladimir Mayakovsky, Aleksei Kruchenykh, David Burliuk, and Benedikt Livshits), but had already written many significant poems before the Futurist movement in Russia had taken shape. Among his contemporaries, he was regarded as “a poet’s poet” (Mayakovsky referred to him as a “poet for producers”) and a maverick genius.

Khlebnikov is known for poems such as “Incantation by Laughter”, “Bobeobi Sang The Lips”, “The Grasshopper” (all 1908-9), “Snake Train” (1910), the prologue to the Futurist opera “Victory over the Sun” (1913), dramatic works such as “Death’s Mistake” (1915), prose works “Ka” (1915), and the so-called ‘super-tale’ (сверхповесть) “Zangezi”, a sort of ecstatic drama written partly in invented languages of gods and birds.

In his work, Khlebnikov experimented with the Russian language, drawing upon its roots to invent huge numbers of neologisms, and finding significance in the shapes and sounds of individual letters of the Cyrillic alphabet. Along with Kruchenykh, he originated zaum.

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