Saturday, April 14, 2018



Compleat Catalogue of Comedic Novelties by Lev Rubinsteintranslated by Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky
(Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn, 2014)


IT'S NO GOOD: POEMS / ESSAYS / ACTIONS by Kirill Medvedev, Translated by Keith Gessen, with Mark Krotov, Cory Merrill and Bela Shayevich 
(n+1 and Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn, 2012) 


I LIVE I SEE: SELECTED POEMS by Vsevolod Nekrasov, Translated by Ainsley Morse & Bela Shayevich
(Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn, 2013)    

Poems will train us to think like poems, if we open ourselves to such training

Clarity is always only of a surface. Sunlight on a sector of the neocortex. When clarity and equanimity coincide we might be forgiven if we choose to linger for a while. We know what else is also available, not always even slightly beneath the surface. I like dogs, but sometimes I hate their owners. Hate hat hut hit hot cot coat moat boat. As a general rule, I like dogs a lot, but sometimes I boat their authors. Vsevolod Nekrasov wrote facts and anti-poems. I remember how I came upon my fortune, whoring among the pirates, a better human than you will ever be.

Humor -- 1. the quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature or speech ("his tales are full of humor").

Middle English (as humour ): via Old French from Latin humor ‘moisture,’ from humere (see humid). The original sense was ‘bodily fluid’ (surviving in aqueous humor and vitreous humor, fluids in the eyeball); it was used specifically for any of the cardinal humors (sense 3 of the noun), whence ‘mental disposition’ (thought to be caused by the relative proportions of the humors). This led, in the 16th century, to the senses ‘state of mind, mood’ (sense 2 of the noun) and ‘whim, fancy,’ hence to humor someone ‘to indulge a person's whim.’ Sense 1 of the noun dates from the late 16th century.

Reading is often adapt archaic with indulge to prevent content, however gerund humoring 3rd person proportions, they thought the body noun was infectious spirits vanished. Plural or comic, a state or brand of funny. The news today is filled with poems and anti-facts. No place simpler than the analytical toes of an alleged agenda. China heats up their bid for waltzing leaders. By anger shoes in Wisconsin street claim forthcoming lies shielded apologies. Rumors step aside in escape from Detroit. So much belief-tracking horror surprises underground redemption. Spider eyes are traditionally resistant to bacterial nightmare crystals 9 billion light-years from our invisible swarm of holes. Debilitating multi-state memories infect your amazing brain!


Compleat Catalogue of Comedic Novelties by Lev Rubinstein

"The author's version is itself just a version."
page 78: I dreamt two whole arguments in my support, but of course I could not remember them
page 346: If it happens, we won't be around to see it. We'd be lucky to live until our own death

page 309: You could engage in establishing cause and effect connections and forget about everything else
page 299: A wet branch knocks against the window
------Douglas Messerli: might take us out of a world in which ...all values are necessarily parenthesized, and we can once again speak of “love,” “nature,” “experience,” even “reality” in a way that is once more meaningful and fresh.
page 187 page 1: Obviously, nothing at all should appear here
page 153: I'm here
page 101: Life is given to us humans for a reason. / You really should try, my dear, to reat it well
------Catherine Wagner: Rubinstein's work reminds me of those visual puns known as figure/ground illusions—the famous rabbit/duck picture, for instance—that instruct the viewer not to choose between one view and another, but that it's possible to train the eye to flip between both views. Rubinstein lets me acknowledge both my human emotion and its quoted, cultural ground.
page 3: Here, everything begins.
page xxiv: The author's version is itself just a version.
------Douglas Messerli: These maxims are banal and are still somehow significant, representing a kind of “and/and” pattern that is very different from American thinking.
[You are torn between cross-examination and whatever your ears say is the truth.]
page 102: Life is given to us humans for a moment. / Go and do as many good things as you can
------Philip Metres: Rubinstein's work is a dirty conceptualism, redolent of lyric affect.
[You are torn between so many good things and whatever your eyes say is the truth.]
page 159: How would you say: "I'm here."
page 189 page 3: Here, nothing should appear besides what is already here.
page 302: You'll forget what you wanted
[You are torn between chains and chance and whatever your ears say is change.]
page 310: You could engage in classifying doubts from the viewpoint of their unsolvability
------Douglas Messerli: ...words such as “soul,” “tear,” “angel,” beauty,” “truth,” etc., that would be unthinkable in either current US conceptualism or in works by Fluxus writers or those influenced by Cage. [...] something akin to units of breath, created by the pauses within the sequence of cards. In book form these read, given the limits of space, as stanzas [...] surprising for the US reader, moralistic aphorisms and proclamations. [...] a new era in which the Postmodern, followed by a larger stage of Postmodernity, will surely take us in different directions than Postmodernism itself.
[You are torn between truly cosmic proportions and whatever your eyes say is the forbidden zone.]
page 304: Don't recognize yourself in the mirror
page 193 page 7: Here some very distinct memories could materialize
page 160: (until I realized the meaning of the faint scent of loss)
page 104: Life is given to us humans as a dream. / So we sleep till someone taps us on the back
[You are torn between comedic novelties and whatever your ears say is lyric affect.]
------Philip Metres: What I love about his version of conceptualism is that his poems can be read either as a parody of discourses or as the renovation of the fragments of truth which they attempt to illuminate;

Page 223: This time let's begin like this:
Fifty-three ideas, ruminating in columns.
The delta is divided by concentric markers.
The lyrical text is discrutable by antenna.
The poems line up, sailing an annual eros.
We are lost in diverse traditions of collaborative literature.
page 117: What is least distinct is worth paying most attention to, for it is said, "One can't distinguish the wings of a flying dragonfly."
Nothing north of the hoax as a monument to their by-lines.
The moat-mob, how newly meandering, a spark of potato in a canoe.
Scribbled code, aleph-basalt, arachnid caliper, the rancid lake.
6-branched careening middles.
Encyclopedic perseverance among the reptiles.
The year of the hollow throat, and youthful mishearing.
page 87: Behold again, the nightingale
Thankfully speedway epoxy.
How many more curvilinear kayak knotted crock-pots, monolithic suburban knack?
In the shadow of a bell anymore tarot indefensible sphincter, unhitched the payroll recycled.
The poet has established with poems, in the late University, essays as pure as soup. Poetic hell and work. Human college Fact, West during has; avant. I, the eye, has a collection of movies, for use at the library, took 19.
It was political, and respected by language, their scene poet, their own scene power, multiplied by rephrased fevers, little did we know. Ha. Little do we know, a suit like a version of crimes shifts protest from ongoing notes. The new outside blinks like a beast in dust. During the misery in the war of laughing texts are turbulent and pouring, happily difficult to understand (like a feather in a circle).
page 77: I dreamt that you only have a real chance four times in life.
Clean icebergs levitate.
Literature debates energy.
Alert gas sags for the blanket annex.
An alphabet harbors sinuous legumes.
The same apple, singular sepals in a vacuum.
The dirty fog of the essay.
page 72: What doesn't strive upward?
page 72: Water doesn't strive upward.

page 261: A serious conversation
page 261: A serious conversation (continued)
page 285: Please write: "I don't remember how these days were going...

page 363: This is all me
page 381: Now here I am

page xii: One other thought. It seems to me that today we are living through an overt de-heroization and the erosion of the avant-garde as a means of artistic and day-to-day existence. Now, thank God, just about everyone is an avant-gardist.
------Lev Rubinstein: The author's version is itself just a version. 


It's No Good by Kirill Medvedev

Medvedev: I will stay out of his way. He is writing about Prigov, and I believe him:  "The new epoch we're finally entering, the epoch without a USSR, is defined by the fact that the USSR can no longer help anyone. You can no longer use it positively or negatively -- you just can't. The only thing you can do now is live without it."  We can say -- and believe -- at the end of the Reagan Regime: the USA can no longer help anyone. Make it new, make it up, make America great again. Make America up again (in relation, again, to the [non-existent] Soviet Union, or some similarly concocted current shadow). He quotes Prigov: "Live where living is impossible: / Now that's life!"

Although he was born in 1975 and has been described as a poet, musician, and left-wing activist based in Moscow, it is impossible to completely ignore Medvedev while reading his poems, essays and actions. He convinces us: "I for one identify with my texts completely; I consider them the expression of my own -- conscious, semi-conscious, or unconscious -- emotions and ideas." In 2006, Medvedev arranged the text of an interview with the activist crane operator Alexander Zakharin into a poem entitled, "How's This For A Poem", including the following lines:
 appeals to the Presidential Representative for Human Rights have been fruitless...

         ...The workers will have to defend themselves

I quit work a couple of years ago. The dog down the street finally quit barking. I have never been to Russia. Earlier this month I became officially retired. Medvedev said, while explaining his decision to start a Livejournal blog: "I've made the choice not to publish any more poems anywhere for the next five years." That was in 2005. He was semi-retired, or provisionally retired, from  the occupation of poet. In 2007 he wrote and published a poem entitled "In Praise of Evolution" (we cannot even pretend to read it without getting in its way): the revolution is not at present an actual revolution, it is only part of a "slow evolution", which gives the toothache capitalist anti-comrades more "time to exploit, crush and kill."

contradiction -- contradict -- "assert the opposite of a statement" -- "be in conflict with" -- from contra dicere ‘speak against.’

To assert the opposite of a state...

         thinking about how
         my poems
         are the poems of an unemployed person

Keith Gessen, in his introduction: "So it wasn't as if Russian poetry had never not rhymed, and it wasn't as if it had never been to the supermarket. The difference may have been that Medvedev, while doing away with much of the formal apparatus of Russian lyric poetry, had retained its messianic element."

The dog down the street is barking again. Hours on end, every day, it's impossible to think. I think about going down there and killing it with a kitchen knife. Medvedev says: "I know perfectly well that 90 percent of the people who care about poetry do not care about any of this -- what difference does it make where the poems are published and on whose dime and who owns the printing plant; all that matters is whether they're good poems, right?" What else is in his mind? Conscious, semi-conscious, or unconscious? Dogs? Knives? Jobs? Emotions and ideas? In his first books of poems he writes about translating Charles Bukowski:

         when I was translating the poems
         of charles bukowski
         I was convinced that I was writing
         the best poetry then being written in russian

He says he has nothing in common with Bukowski, that he translated him "in a voice that wasn't his voice". I would like to see a couple of those poems translated back into English by someone who isn't familiar with Bukowski's work. Weighing toward power between cultural commodities, the pop-seven mythic foot journal of dominant culture, the green gimmick outside its causal culvert, even the spiders have stopped publishing their webs. Was the compilation openly crinkled? The literate author is already also a text? Freely critical of sincere moons in profitable literature, he wrings a force entirely meaningful from the petroleum of moths in literature. Therefore, walking a mile in the shoes of another reinvented wheel, observations in flames, fiercely transcendent. Nor working, since the audio reborn, generates the union of tricycle coat-rack resplendently "aesthetic politics" -- adapts during narrative orbiting -- hiatus: choices: dismissal: motivations: paradoxical: nexus. Semicolons rattle (raffle) poetic technique.

The poem entitled BIG RUBBER COCK begins

         I saw it every day on the way to school.
         I know that's not the best way
         to start a poem,
         but there's nothing I can do about my memories.

Poems can no longer help anyone. It is less true now than ever. It is the equivalent of saying: memories can no longer help anyone. There are splotches and smears of black tempera on my faded yellow t-shirt, traces of last night's emprientes session. Take a shower. Change your shirt. One of our cats crouches on the carpet in a rectangular patch of sunlight. The poem entitled BIG RUBBER COCK continues:

         these cocks were everywhere,
         they weren't even manufactured here,
         they were imported from America,
         which didn't know their true value,
         no one knew their true value,
         in fact no one knew the value of anything,
         we all lived like poets...

The fucking dog is still barking. You want to know what this has to do with poetry? It's a good thing I don't own a gun.


I Live I See by Vsevolod Nekrasov

Nekrasov has a visual poem which consists of a blank page with a period in the lower right corner. It is a sentence with no words, a blank mirror. We look at it, we read it, and there is nothing there. We fill in the blank with ourselves. It is the sound of one hand zen-slapping us in a forest while no one is watching. In my mind I compose a response: the same blank page, except for the word "I" added at the upper left -- and the period changed to a colon.

Repetition -- "where we" -- drawn in a straight line from exhaustion to recombination, taunts words onto the page, line breaks taken case by case.

Question: What does the dog symbolize?
Answer: The dog is not symbolic. It points to its owners, who embody a self-righteous ignorance and arrogance. A lazy, selfish, inconsiderate irresponsibility considered as a clear sign of superiority.
Question: Why do you want to kill the dog?
Answer: I don't want to kill the dog. I want to destroy the causes of the dog's behavior.
Question: You want to kill the dog's owners?
Answer: Of course not. The dog's owners are victims of the system in which they live. I want to destroy that system.
Question: Because of the behavior it produces?
Answer: Because of the behavior it produces.


A book of poems is a field of permissions. The only rule is do not refuse them.

Fragments are intended as fragments. Do not translate them into sentences and paragraphs.

Scraps are intended as scraps. Do not translate them into theories and contexts.

Self-collage = self-as-collage. As a beginning: juxtaposed scraps and fragments sequenced along irregular reading-routes. Also as a beginning: constellated & recombinative.

Poems will train us to think like poems, if we open ourselves to such training.


The ass is the antiface

What is anti-anti-nonsense?
It is just the same old nonsense


Patricia Cox Miller, from "In Praise of Nonsense"
Magical writing takes the form of ordinary writing by using its letters and so is faithful to it, but it betrays that writing by its nonsensical use of those letters and is thus faithful to the writing that is an invisible inscription on the soul. Yet it betrays the invisible inscription as well by writing it in actual letters! Magical language is thus thoroughly paradoxical, betraying and safeguarding with every vowel.


Ah Poem

Ha haha haha haha
Ah ahah ahah ahah

But ah ahah ahahahah
Ha haha hahahaha


Nekrasov, as a self, exhausts the language of the self, poetic phantoms that bridge the perils of madness, together with our eyes unadorned we suggest a poet who simply is not terrified of the poetic self.

I am I after all I am I

but not I
and not I

Twisted as if known, in the river of mirrors our letters meander, as whole as they are replaced. Subjectivities uncoiled, somnambulate as invented others, desire for the fish on fire, Rimbaud's burning vowels. The same errors over and over anticipate the same facts. The anti-poem is a poem precisely because it refuses to be a poem. I agree with Burroughs, let's dispense with the "the" and the "to be"!

Anti-poem a poem precisely because it refuses a poem.

Anti-poem a poem precisely
because it refuses a poem.

Anti-because poem it a
refuses poem
a precisely poem.

Anti-refuses a
because poem precisely
poem poem
it a.


Nekrasov insists: if we read poems, we must write poems.


Had written of sworn poems worn from the awful fall afoul, in an inner English, socially inspected and detoured to the quotidian (usage is aware of absolutes, but appalled by standardized spelling). Fifty years after the river of poems and aligned during variable abilities. Had been able afterwards, words soaked in their verbatim, mostly hosted by their ghosts and hoisted by their toes. Prose poems are also always, at the very least their own facts. An anti-poem is easier to identify as a fact than as a poem.

fact -- a thing that is indisputably the case.
late 15th century: from Latin factum, neuter past participle of facere ‘do.’ The original sense was ‘an act or feat,’ later ‘bad deed, a crime,’ surviving in the phrase before (or after) the fact . The earliest of the current senses (‘truth, reality’) dates from the late 16th century.


pages 174 and 175 (complete)

I repeat

   be repeated

I repeat

   be repeated

I repeat

   be repeated

   be repeated

   be repeated

I repeat


the marginalized
is the avant-garde
of something

and as it turns out

the underground
is counterculture


We are trying not to deny the same, refuse the same, forget the same, act the same, think the same, or be the same. Time learns its dictionary of action from the opinions of isolation. A sub-group lesser to the edge of business has peripheral confidence in the public. Marginal within you, as if they are not powerless or unimportant, their status to oppress influences ("the insects live underground, in an underground parking garage") an abbreviated slang hidden or situated below the surface. Experimental definitions of the people develop unusual or radical societies, whose ideas are borrowed from the encyclopedia of mnemonic grammar, invent plural vanguard alternative avant meaning mnemonic pictures, definition is describing avant in a given dictionary. Repetition in both prose and poetry is more memorable as a device or an event, repeats the undesirable instance, speech dreams effective from syllables, no repetition in writing, no repetition in  time, no repetition in a full sentence, commonly a few happens again, a few happen against, no repetition in speech, no repetition to add emphasis quite simply literary the same thing, no poetical words or acts. No repetition in nonsense, in anti-nonsense, in  the praise of nonsense, or in the praise of anti-nonsense. No repetition in the barking of dogs.


the dog barks*

the wind blows

all night

the dog barks

the wind blows*

         *the country calls

(page 124)


March / April 2018


Jim Leftwich is a poet who lives in Roanoke, Virginia. Recent publications include  Volumes 1 , 2  &  3  of  Rascible & Kempt (Luna Bisonte 2016, 2017, edited by John M. and C. Mehrl Bennett), Tres tresss trisss trieesss tril trilssss: Transmutations of César Vallejo (Luna Bisonte, 2018) and Sound Rituals, collaborative poems by jim leftwich & billy bob beamer (mOnocle-Lash, 2018, edited by Olchar Lindsann).