Sunday, January 28, 2007

Some Foundations

As I wrote in my previous post this blog will focus on my work in young Russian poetry. One of the things I've been working on is figuring out who to translate, which means developing some criteria. This, of course, raises the question of criteria in general. What counts as what, and why? The question of genre and quality. Blah Blah Blah...As I write this I chat with my cousin about a Last FM station: Artists similiar to Goldmund that she listened to last night. She writes me the following:

…in fact, I was thrilled by this electronic composition, but couldn’t understand why. What did it remind me of? Why was this sound so piercing? It was indescribable, as if I was a step away from understanding what the sound meant, but was always just a step away; what did it mean, and how was it connected to the rest of the events in my life? After letting the station play for a few hours, and listening to different genres, it hit me like a diamond bullet: it wasn’t the music that was making me feel this way, but my old crapped out computer speakers. After fixing the speakers, I realized why the sound was so mellifluous, and even allaying, --it reminded me of the clogged up sink in our old Stalin era apartment! It was as if from the adjacent room I had received a Soviet transmission from twenty years ago, worn, broken, but still warm. It was like receiving a radio signal on the other side of the galaxy after most of the life on earth had long since expired…

I translated the above from Russian, and took a bit of poetic license, but I think the description of that sublime feeling, which art can bring, gets across well enough. When we first have a positive encounter with an aethetic object we don't really know why the encounter is so moving, and only after much searching do we realize why the thing is so powerful and beautiful.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

New Russian Poetry and Argentina

I haven't posted for a while. Two reasons: 1) I've been out of the country, 2) I've been doing some work with Zone ( I recommend to anyone interested in my work to visit Zone.

Now that I am back in the U.S. I hope to get some more translations published, and work on some collaborative projects dealing with Russian poetry. Last year some translations were accepted by Caketrain, Absinthe: New European Writing, Cimarron Review, and, of course, Zone. This year I want to actually make this blog into more than just a chronicle of my adventures. In 2007 I want to focus my efforts on New Russian Poetry. By posting translations, reviews, and interviews I hope to make this blog a window into the world of young contemporary Russian Poetry.

But before I switch gears I want to write a final, disheveled, post about my last trip.

My trip to Argentina/Uruguay was fruitful enough. A small flier with my picture may still be laminated to various surface areas across downtown Buenos Aires. The flier is for a reading I did at the bookstore Crack-Up ( (A copy of this flier and the picture can be seen on my previous post.)

In Uruguay I visited the small town of Cape Polonio . The place is basically a year round Burning Man --beautiful nude girls walk along the white sand beaches through piles of dead sea lions. I didn't take any digital photos while in Cape Polonio, but I did meet Andrea Hoffman whose photos can be found on ( Andrea's attraction to me was bewildering for two reasons: 1) Most people in Cape Polonio thought that my friend Andrew and I were gay, 2) I speak no Spanish(the Spanish word I use most is "capybara", the phrase I use most is "dis culpa"). But the attention was nice, and now I apparently have a place to stay in Chile.

The gay thing was something new. It arose, I think, as the result of Andrew repeatedly using the word "condom" instead of "lighthouse", my very pale skin, and my shy demeanor ( I rarely spoke). What being shy and pale has to do with being gay is beyond me. But several people asked us if we had met the internet. Although, we were two smiling happy boys traveling alone...Anyway our trip to Uruguay could easily be titled: Broke Back Uruguay. (One could remove the last two u's for more dramatic effect.)

After our stay in the capital I decided that Monte Video (a name open to endless puns) is my favorite city on the planet. It is a real port city with large three mast ships in the docks, sand beaches, and an ocean horizon that lights up at night like a string of Christmas lights. The city is old, peaceful, and in the summer almost abandoned. The old Spanish buildings and cobble stone streets are derelict, giving one the feeling of Europe after global economic collapse. Andrew and I would walk about at night with a bottle of Pinot or Malbec in hand, looking for the dingiest sailor bars open at three in the morning. At many of the bars, as in Cape Polonio, people assumed we were gay. At times, gaudy old men would eye us when we walked through the door, some of whom would offer to buy me drinks, which I kindly refused. (The part about the drinks is fictional, but I thought it conjured up a nice image).

I recommend Uruguay to anyone who wants to escape the winters of the northern hemisphere.

Finally, here is an email about my apartment in BA.

Email Home

So as of the moment I am: lascivious and scared. The fear slowly overcoming the lust. I've been having these nightmares. I told Andrew about the nightmares, and apparently Roger has had some crazy dreams of his own in this place –dreams similar to mine. I don't know if you've ever heard me talk about the alien dreams. There is a series of half-sleep states that are commonly associated with the sensations reported in alien abductions and visitations by incubi, succubi, angels, etc. The characteristic qualities are: inability to move and a sense of an "other" presence. So right now I am sitting in the apartment alone, afraid to go into the bedroom. Andrew just called and told me all the shit Roger experienced in this apartment: violent lucid dreams, footsteps, moving chairs, humanoid shapes standing for hours at a time on the roofs of adjacent apartment buildings. I also hear strange noises, like someone is walking around in the apartment. I wonder why such a nice place was given up by Brian (an American friend). I would be interested in speaking with him about this place. The other night we were all hanging out pretty late. It was pouring rain, but he refused to spend the night on the couch. He chose to wait for an hour in the rain instead of sleeping here. Every time I begin to sleep I feel like there is someone else next to me. Also, Andrew says that Buenos Aires is intersected by one of earth's ley lines – a phenomenon linked to dreams as mad as the city of clocks where the goats have sex with the pigs.
It is 10 pm.
Me, Andrew, Meghan, Killian, Phong, Alex, and Alice spent Christmas with Mariana's family. They are a cheery bunch of Argentines who live in Quilmes. Quilmes is an old German community outside of Buenos Aires famous for its giant brewery. The brewery is a magnificent edifice reaching into the sky with its tall smoke stacks, filling the air with the thick smell of hops. There is a church there. The man in the front plays a guitar. His mind is a carpet. In the church there is no carpet, but it smells of hops and the passing trains.Mariana's father (I don't remember his actual name) has a thing for Russians. I being a Russian, and a vegetarian, was a thing to be exhibited. There was a goat splayed on the wooden table. I enjoyed my role, but am afraid I did not perform as well as I could have had I been able to form a complete sentence in Spanish besides: ¿Qué hora es? During dinner her father would turn to me, tell me something in Spanish, and wait for my response. When he saw that I didn't have the faintest idea what he was talking about he would say: kolbasa or petchen. Kolbasa is Russian for sausage, and petchen is Russian for liver. After saying petchen he would stare at me until I repeated the word. He would smile and say: kortoshka (potato). I would smile and reply: Da, da kotoshka-petchen. He would light up completely, and exclaim: vodka-Volga. I would fall in to the back of my chair laughing and throw in another: Kortoshka-petchen. He would say: rebro (rib). I would answer kolbasa. Everyone at the table would laugh. Someone might come in with: sputnik-dacha. Then the table would return to their regular conversation. The father would stand up to lop a few more pieces off the roasted kid he'd prepared out back. I'd push the beets around my plate until another: perestroika-vodka. After dinner we played chess. If I took a knight he'd say: vodka-Kursk If he took one of mine I'd say: plaskagubtsy (pliers).

Now I am back in this haunted apartment listening to Stevie Wonder. Superstition blasts out of the speakers. The dead palm tree on the porch makes an ominous arboreal sound. I imagine the penguin wine jug whispering to me in that augmented whisper Hollywood films so love to use when depicting the voice in the mind of a schizophrenic. It would say: "Cut down your curtains and walk to the stove, put your hands in the oven until the fingers fall away, use the burned stumps to write 1516S1-002 across the walls in the bedroom." Or maybe: "Remember Peter you are the Prince of Peace. We are all counting on you. We have many enemies. There are many obstacles to be surmounted. We must be strong. We must persevere." I wonder what I would do if the penguin became the Penguin –if it talked to me, and walked around the apartment chatting with the guitar and the book shelf? What if a beautiful naked woman on a flying pig landed on my balcony? Or, if the walls suddenly fell away to reveal a series of stone corridors? An old love suddenly walks out of the bedroom, and sits down next to me. I am paralyzed with fear. She playfully cocks her head. "What's wrong," she says. I do not reply. "Jesus Peter cut it out you're starting to scare me." I try to speak but cannot force the air through my throat. "What's the matter! Why are you looking at me like I'm a ghost?"
"Where did you come from?"
"Peter! Stop it! You're beginning to creep the shit out of me."
I look out the window. Everything is the same except that on the top of the tallest apartment building across the street I notice a silhouette. He stands –facing me. I quickly turn back to the apparition. She is gone! There is no sign of her! I realize that I must be dreaming, but everything is very lucid. A growing anxiety builds deep inside of me. I look out the window –he is still there. I wave. He waves back. I stand up. I do not know what to do. I sit back down. He stands and watches me. I hear a noise in the bedroom. Like someone is folding sheets, or possibly tossing in their sleep. I am too scared to move. I watch him on the roof. He stands. He does nothing. I feel myself stand up, but it feels as if I am being carried under water. I see a mosquito. It terrifies me. Its blood splatter is the shape of a star. If I smear it surely it will transform into a comet – those petulant stars dragged across the galaxy. O my anopheles. It is the most frightening thing I have seen in my life. If comes at me. My hands slap together. I open them –the mosquito is between the palms, barely moving. I go blind with fear. What have I done. I feel the sense of infinite largeness and smallness. Killing the mosquito was like flipping the switch to infinity; I am convinced it was an avatar. I hear strange sounds all around me. I think I am about to pass out –NO. My legs carry me to the bedroom. I see myself lying down –eyes closed, chest falling and rising. I stand over him. I study his face. I wonder how high his legs will kick when I stuff the pillow in his face. I try and get into his mind. The more I try and get into his mind the closer I bend over him, until I am hovering just above his face thinking about his thinking. His face begins to make a grimace –NO. The brows are pushed up and together –he is scared. He hasn't even heard the sound of the pelicans. I cannot move; I am floating over the bed, watching him. He also seems to be floating, then we fall. I am in bed. There is no one else in the room. I cannot bring myself to get up, but I do get up. I rise, and walk to the balcony. I look to where he was standing –he is still there. The silhouette is still there. I get goose bumps. I grip the railing with white hands. The longer I squeeze the redder they get until my knuckles are like roses. One hand rises, and makes a wave. He waves back. A dog barks. It barks like the beating of wings –NO. There is a flock. Hundreds of parrots fly over the building with the figure on top.. They seem to fly through him. They are coming toward me. My hands grip the rails. Another dog barks, and another, and another. The parrots fly towards me. I lose consciousness. But I do not fall. I come to, still standing. The parrots are gone. There are a few green feathers on the porch. A large indigo beetle crawls out of the dead palm. It crawls over a feather toward me. There is no more barking, no wings, the palm is silent, the sound of cars is almost entirely gone. I want the desert. I want to sit in my hammock with a glass of lemonade in the middle of the moon. I can hear the clock in the kitchen. The beetle crawls toward me. I am usually intrigued by such mechanoids. They have no fear of gibbets or hemeroids. I am usually fascinated by beetles. God's favorite creature according to Darwin, or was it Haldane. God knows. It has almost reached my shoe. I want to stomp it, but do not. It crawls on top of the shoe, and up my pant leg. I can feel its weight pulling down the cloth of the pant leg. An ambulance drives by with its distinct wi-wi. Doppler; because Einstein was right. The beetle crawls higher and higher until it reaches my stomach. I stand. I am gripping the railing. My knuckles are roses. It crawls up to my shoulder and down my left hand. It crawls off the hand onto the railing. It spreads its wings. It flies. I watch it. A black dot moving across the street. Moving up. Moving toward him. He stands on the roof. I watch the black dot fly to him. Go! Coleoptera! Go! I lose site of it. Did it reach him? One of the green feathers is blown off the balcony. I watch it spiral down to the street. Turning and turning, falling but never hitting. "So you like to write stories?" says a female voice from behind. I try to move but cannot. I am standing like a character from a tableau vivant. How still do I have to be before they let me into the Folies Bergères? I hear the door to the apartment open, but I do not hear it close. I am before the door now. The door hangs open. It is Midnight. I hear the elevator begin to move in its shaft. The elevator moves up –illuminating the floors –1,2,3,4,5,6,7. The elevator stops. A short man with a large head walks out of the elevator, through the open apartment door, into the kitchen, and onto the balcony. He climbs the railing, opens his arms, and falls. I look over the railing. He fell only about two meters. He is lying on the air –floating face up, looking at me with his hands behind his head, one heel placed on top of the other. "It's weirder than déjà vu. It's not as if I feel like I've done this all before, but that I was here as another life." He says this and then lights a malodorous Parisienne. He slowly floats back onto the balcony. He stands smoking. His cigarette stinks of smoldering sagebrush and naugehyde. I notice a small light where the humanoid shape used to stand on the adjacent roof. I notice the same kind of small light on top of another building. There are more and more lights. They are on roofs, on balconies, in windows, in the streets. The entire city is luminescent with these little red embers. I take a cigarette from my shirt pocket.


Peter D. Golub