Sunday, December 11, 2005

It's probably safe to say that you missed out on Soon Productions's presentation of Anna Moschovakis and Matvei Yankelevich last night, damn fine poets, accomplished publishers, and delightful people to boot. Anna started off with a series of poems titled "Critical Writing," "Critical Thinking," "Critical Loyalties," etc., and followed them up with "thirty percent translations" of a series by the Greek poet Yannis Ritsos. Then excerpts from a long work titled The Future or, Optimism: An Epic, ringing a hotel bell (the kind that you want to shout "Front!" when you ring it) to mark the section breaks. Her epic hero's name: Anodyne. "The book of doubt is a terrible comedy," "Nothing is happening so they make something happen," "Why can I only feel bodies through the glove of interpretation?", "I don't know what I believe about speech versus writinng which makes me unfashionable." Cool, discursive, sharply perceptive.

Matvei was charmingly disorganized, riffing at what seemed like high speed through a broad swath of material. Prose poems: "Your face seems to have an expression that should be wearing a bonnet," "And each one holding up a shoe phone to cry closer to your ear." Antic, sly. A poem dedicated to Doug Rothschild in thanks for having told him that an early New Yorker named Preserved Fish had been buried on 2nd Street. "Words fear their nature." A poem from CARVE, "Crow Fictions"—"Smart quotes resemble smart crows." A highlight were a selection of the translations of the Russian Absurdist poet Daniil Kharms, most of whose work was never published in his lifetime. A great poem about an unpronounceable bird's name. A subversive and very funny pean to Pushkin from 1937, when Pushkin was being remade by Stalin into the Great Soviet Poet—in one section Pushkin is irritated by his inability to grow a beard. Then back to Matvei's own work: a terrifying poem called "Buttons" about death and the unnameable, some poems addressed to "Boris," and finally a selection of short Bar Poems—"Let me go, notebook—let me breathe without thinking why I do it." Finally finally four of us were invited up to help perform a play Anna and Matvei had written together called A Spade A Spade, a kind of dark pastoral parabolic twist on the Gravedigger scene from Hamlet. I got to play a character named Pagan who tends to speak her own stage directions aloud, c.f.:
Polite applause!
Anna and Matvei deserved much better than polite applause. It was a treat to have them here and I hope we can pay them a visit in Red Hook before too many months pass.

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