When I was a ten-year-old book worm and used to kiss the dust jacket pictures of authors as if they were icons, it used to amaze me that these remote people could provoke me to love. - Erica Jong
Konstantin Dmitrievich Balmont (1867-1942)
Konstantin Dmitrievich Balmont was, perhaps, the most outspoken proponent of Impressionism during the early stages of the Russian Symboist movement.
Balmont was born on June 4th in Gumnishy Shuisky county in the governance of Vladimir. When he was still 10 years old, he wrote his first poems, but was criticized by his mother, and did not write anything for the next 6 years. In high school, he began to write again. Balmont's work at this time was heavily influenced by the works of the Russian Soviet poet Nekrasov.
In 1884, Balmont was expelled from the Gumnishy Shuisky school for being a member of a group that was distributing "illegal literature".
At the end of 1884, he was enrolled in a school in the city of Vladimir.
In fall of 1886, he enrolled in Moscow State University (MGU), with a major in Law. One year later he was accused of participation in "student disorder" and was sent to Shuya. After another unsuccessful attempt at an organized education, this time in the Demidovsky Lyceum in Yaroslav, Balmont began his own self-education.
In 1890 in Yaroslav, Balmont came out with his "Poetry Collection", but it brought him no fame or success. He later destroyed almost the entire printrun. During this period he worked on translations of Scandinavian history, Italian literature, and the works of his favorite English poet Shelly. He also gave several public lectures.
Since fall of 1894, Balmont greatly valued his friendship with the poet Brusov. His collection of poems entitled "Beneath the Northern Sky" was published in 1894.
Near the turn of the century, Balmont traveled extensively. He went to France, Holland, England, Italy, and Spain. These trips were not merely sightseeing expeditions, but creative trips. For him, they served as a poetic conquest of foreign lands.
In 1899, he was accepted as a member of the Association of Amateur Russian Literature Writers. In the 1890's, he put out two other collections of poetry. "In Boundlessness" came out in 1895, and "Tranquility" came out in 1897. The 1900's were a period of artistic takeoff for Balmont. "Burning Building" came out in 1900, "We shall be as the Sun" came out in 1903, and "Only Love" came out later that same year. Balmont's name became famous. He was publishing two to three books a year. "White Lightning," "Calls of Antiquity," and "Birds in the Air" were all published in 1908. "Green Garden," and "From Otherwordly Poets" were published in 1909. "White Architect," and "The Edge of Osiris," came out in 1914. By 1914, the publishing house Scorpion had published his compositions in a 10 volume set. This period of his life was very productive.
At the end of January, 1905, Balmont traveled to Mexico and the USA. He spent the summer of 1907 back in Russia. Here, the Revolutionary disposition of the masses had an effect on Balmont, and he cooperated with the Bolshevik "New Life". He wrote satirical poems, took part in rallies, and awaited the effects. After this, he went to Paris for over 7 years. In 1912, he made a grand trip around the world. He travelled to London, Plymouth, the Canary Islands, South America, Madagascar, Southern Australia, Polynesia, New Guinea, Ceylon, and other places. After a political pardon in 1914, which was issued in conjunction with the 300 year anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, he returned to Moscow.
During WWI in 1914, Balmont was once again in France. In May of 1915 he managed to get back to Russia. He traveled the whole country, from Saratov to Omsk, from Kharkov to Vladivostok, giving lectures and speeches.
In 1920, Balmont requested permission to leave the country. In 1921, he and his family traveled out of the country. They stayed gone for a year, and never returned to Russia. Balmont's works of this time show great apprehension, sadness, and discontent.
Balmont died on December 24, 1942 in Paris, while the city was occupied by Nazi troops.