Ivan Sokolov on Clayton Eshleman (1935-2021)

Ivan Sokolov
The Poet Is Always under Arrest: A Study in Cave Tones

Published as part of a feature in NLO (Russia), edited by Vladimir Feschenko: "American Experimental Poetry: The Poetics of Language and Ethnopoetics." 

Beware:  This is a (human assited) machine translation from Russian. Consult the orginal in NLO (2021)
Published here with the permission of the Ivan Sokolov.

where vallejo césar
let open sesame
Аleksandr Skidan

We will burn the ultimate essence!
sar Vallejo

Clayton Eshleman's name (1935-2021) says little to the Russian reader, though this author's work runs a red and blue vein through the solar plexus of contemporary American literature. Author of dozens of books of poetry, several collections of essays, and a striking combination of ambition and meticulous translation projects, Eshleman is recognized and appreciated both as a writer and as a literary figure. From 1967 to 1973, he published the magazine Caterpillar, where Zukofsky, Brakhage, and Duncan were published, and from 1981 to 2000, Sulfur (with a title referring both to sulphur and, continuing the insect line, to the yellow butterfly), a major contribution to post-war avant-garde poetry that drew Eliot Weinberger, Michael Palmer, Marjorie Perloff and others. Most of his poetry collections have appeared at two publishers marked, curiously, by a sign of dark bestiality –– Black Sparrow (publisher of Bowles and Creeley) and Black Widow (which also publishes books by Pierre Joris, Jerome Rothenberg). To date, Eshleman has had three volumes of selected poems (1986, 2008, 2015), a monograph (Minding the Underworld: Clayton Eshleman and Late Postmodernism by Paul Christensen, 1991) and a collection of articles (Clayton Eshleman: The Whole Art, edited by Stewart Kendall, 2014). The poet has won many awards. [Image: Eshleman and Joris]

Toward a poetry and poetics of the Americas (34)

Diocelina Restrepo, 'What the Great Armadillo Said in Dreams to Me'

Narrated by Diocelina Restrepo, Yukpa People, Sokorpá, Colombia

Assembled and translated by Javier Taboada after Anne Goletz’s research

From Rothenberg and Taboada, the big book of the Americas, now in progress

“our food, the worm

“is among you

“we suffer, for our land has been burned

Vitaly Komar: The Avant-Garde, Sots-Art and the Bulldozer Exhibition of 1974

Komar and Melamid, "Ideal Banner" (1972)

I greatly admire the art of Vitaly Komar as well as  his collaborations with Alex Melamid. When Vitaly and Anna Halberstadt were visiting with Susan Bee and me last week, our conversation turned toward Russian Futurism, OBERU, and the more contemporary Moscow Conceptualism. It turns out Vitaly went to art school with Dmitri Prigov, whose Soviet Texts was recently published by Ugly Duckling Press. About Prigov's new book, I wrote: "This Prigov cocktail is a knockout: one part Brecht, one part Jarry, one part OBERIU, a twist of bitters; shaken, not stirred. Prigov is the unparalleled debunker of the Soviet unconscious. His conceptual audacity, verbal pyrotechnics, and hilarious political satire have made him one of the premiere innovative poets and parabolists of the postwar generation. Simon Schuchat brings to life, in English, this essential Russian artist."

Vitaly sent me this essay and I am glad to present it here. 


1. The Avant-Garde and the Roots of Unofficial Art 

     The Russian avant-garde’s revolutionary struggle with the traditions of the old culture led to the division of art into ‘official’ and ‘unofficial.’  Prior to World War I,  the first avant-garde opposed the academic salon art that was fashionable at the time. After World War II and Stalin’s death, the second avant-garde opposed official Socialist Realism.  However, by that time Soviet Russia’s unofficial artists had shed the naïve nihilism of the early 20th century avant-garde. They were aware of the ancient Roman aphorism: “The new is simply what has been well forgotten.”  They believed in the value of pluralism, in the gradual evolution of fashion, and certain traits of their art were reminiscent of late modernism.

Jerome Rothenberg

A selection of books translated into other languages 2000–2021

announcement circa 2013 of a selected poems in Romanian
Announcement circa 2013 of a selected poems in Romanian.

[The dream, shared with many, was of a poetry that could reach across borders and languages, for which translation of course was the primary tool and the translators the ones who made it happen.  For me the process began even earlier than the forty twenty-first-century works that I’m highlighting here, my first translated books being Vroege Gedichten (Early poems), translated into Dutch/Flemish by Jan Mysjkin in 1960, and Poemas Gorky (The Gorky poems), translated into Spanish by Sergio Mondragón and Margaret Randall in 1966.

A poem by Tarik Hamdan

Tarik Hamdan, born in 1984, is a Palestinian poet living in Paris.

I translated this poem a year ago for a video from Trimukhi Platform.

A poem by Tarik Hamdan
translated by Charles Bernstein