Sunday, September 30, 2007

Work, Sleep, Work, Carry Wood

A program called Open World invites Russian poets to the states. This year they invited four really good ones. Of these four Andrei Sen Senkov is by far my favorite. From his weird visual poetry to his long sequences of fragments the work exhibits signs of a childish curiosity and presumptuousness. As soon as I have a bit more time I plan to translate some of his work. For now I leave you with this: John Ashbery, poet laureate of MTV.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Faulkner, Stalin, Russia, South

I was reading Faulkner this weekend when I had an epiphany. As I read I again started thinking of the age old theme of incest…Then my mind wandered to Woody Allen's film about Russia: Love and Death. You know the one where Allen and Keaton are cousins, but still get married. Here I stopped, and made a parallel that seemed so obvious I was surprised I hadn't thought of it before: "Russia is Europe's South."

The parallels began to pile up: 1) Both Russians and Southerners are a mixed race (Russians have a lot of Asian blood as the result of Tatar-Mongol occupation), and are extremely racist 2) both fought a long war (civil war and Cold War) and subsequently lost while suffering great casualties (in Russia’s case the great causality was the Soviet Union), 3) both are still struggling to cope with their defeat, 4) both are still extremely proud, even defiant. Today's south is still primarily a republican stronghold (i.e. a place of "honor", "values", etc.) Russia is extremely conservative (the majority of Russians think Putin is a great guy). Both, have an emphasis on traditional values. Also, I seems to me that contemporary Russia is heading toward a large neo-Christian movement, which might have a great role to play in future politics.

There are of course countless differences and exceptions, but I think there is something to this parallel. Consider for instance a novel like Absalom, Absalom! Sutpen (a member of the lower class by birth) climbs his way to the top one corpse after another. The oligarch movement in Russia, and especially the recent government acquisition of gas and oil, is made up of men such as Sutpen ( unscrupulous and shrewd)

Also, Russian serfdom was abolished in 1861, which is of course when the American Civil War began.

Finally, I am going to make not an ideological, but a physical, comparison between Faulkner and Stalin. Faulkner is on of the most famous figures of the Southern history, and Stalin is one of the most famous figures of Russian history. Let us see how the two men match up:

1) Both men changed their names: William Faulkner’s original name did not have a “u”. Nobody knows why he added the “u”, some speculate that he wanted his name to sound more aristocratic. Stalin’s original name was: Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. The name “Stalin” is a derivative of the Russian word for “steal” –not only does is sound cooler (no pun intended) but it’s also easier to pronounce.
2) Both men were short: Faulkner was 5' 5½. Stalin was 5’4. (Also, Stalin's left foot had webbed toes, and his left arm was noticeably shorter than his right –a true Caliban.)
3) Both men lied almost compulsively about their background. For instance, Faulkner (who saw no action in WWI) said he was shot down over Germany. Stalin… well let us agree that he was not the paragon of honesty.
4) Finally, both men never left home without their mustaches.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


So this is the first video.
It has almost nothing to do with Eugene
Ostashevsky. (These are two different links.)
Ostashevsky is a pretty good poet, translator, and probably teacher.
He is one of my favorite writers working today.