Teach us love (PoemTalk #171)

Eugene Ostashevsky, 'Language' and 'The Anatomy of Monotony'


Al Filreis convened Matvei Yankelevich, Ahmad Almallah, and Kevin Platt at the Kelly Writers House to talk about two poems by Eugene Ostashevsky: “The Anatomy of Monotony” [audio] and “Language” [audio]. They were included in The Unraveller Seasons (2000). The recordings of the two poems we use in this episode come from a 2005 reading at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York, available at Ostashevsky’s PennSound page

Our discussion takes us to the great Ostashevskyan topics — knowledge otherwise somehow alienated; language that embodies or transliterates a kind of violence; the (sound) differences between knowing and saying no (and similarities); his sincere (and doubtless Russian Absurdist-influenced) plea to “teach us love / teach us love / teach us love / teach us love” even though “We are wholly unfamiliar with it.” Because the episode was recorded before the February 24, 2022, Russian military invasion into Ukraine, listeners will have to reckon for themselves the many places in our conversation when we would no doubt have commented on the war (continuing at the time of the podcast’s release) and on the role of the avant-garde Russian American poet in relation to Russian cultures historical and contemporary. (Above at right: from left, Matvei Yankelevich, Kevin Platt, Ahmad Almallah.)

Episode #171 of PoemTalk was recorded and then edited by Zach Carduner. A few weeks after we recorded this PoemTalk, we gathered again to to discuss Matvei’s new book, Dead Winter, before a live audience. That video is available on YouTube and is presented below.