I Live I See: Selected Poems
I Live I See: Selected Poems

Vsevolod Nekrasov

translated by Ainsley Morse , Bela Shayevich

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"these fragments are brain signatures...inside a difficult time and place" — Aram Saroyan

Eastern European Poets Series #31

I Live I See presents a comprehensive survey of the work of Vsevolod Nekrasov (1934-1999), the Soviet literary underground’s foremost minimalist. Exploring urban, rural, and purely linguistic environs with an economy of lyrical means and a dark sense of humor, Nekrasov’s groundbreaking early poems rupture the stultified language of Soviet cliché while his later work tackles the excesses of the new Russian order. I Live I See is a testament to Nekrasov’s lifelong conviction that art can not only withstand, but undermine oppression.

I Live I See: Selected Poems is the first collection of Nekrasov's work in English translation.

Preface by Mikhail Sukhotin. Afterword by Gerald Janecek. Translator's note by Bela Shayevich and Ainsley Morse.

Excerpt ˇ

Excerpt

but in the meanwhile it’s life

 

how's life

well you know how it goes

however it seems

 

it goes on

 

or

it goes back and forth

 

sometimes it's

like life

 

sometimes it's like

what kind of life is this

 

this is just vile

 

Close ˆ

About the Author

Vsevolod Nekrasov

Vsevolod Nekrasov (1934-2009), a lifelong resident of Moscow, became active in the literary and artistic underground in the late 1950s. Through the fall of the Soviet Union, his work only appeared in samizdat and European publications. At the beginning of his career, Nekrasov was associated with the experimental writers and artists of the Lianozovo group, and went on to become one of the founding members of Moscow Conceptualism.

Nekrasov's poetry, which is often characterized as minimalist, uses repetition and paranomasia to deconstruct and recontextualize his linguistic environment—he targets everything from stock Soviet political mottos to clichés people mutter to one another in everyday situations. For example, by juxtaposing phrases the average Soviet citizen would have taken for granted with arbitrary-seeming homophones, Nekrasov calls official Soviet language to task for the numbness and thoughtlessness it promotes. When not overtly political, his poems examine this same tension between ‘outward speech’ and ‘inward speech,’ that is, between the language we use when talking to others and talking to ourselves.

About the Translator

Ainsley Morse has been translating 20th- and 21st-century Russian and (former-) Yugoslav literature since 2006. A longtime student of both literatures, she is currently pursuing a PhD in Slavic literatures at Harvard University. Recent publications include Andrei Sen-Senkov's Anatomical Theater (translated with Peter Golub, Zephyr Press, 2013), as well as her co-translation of Vsevolod Nekrasov (UDP, 2013). Ongoing translation projects include prose works by Georgii Ball and Viktor Ivaniv and polemical essays by the great Yugoslav writer Miroslav Krleža.

Bela Shayevich is a writer, translator, and illustrator living in Chicago. She is the co-translator of I Live I See by Vsevolod Nekrasov (UDP, 2013). Her translations have appeared in It's No Good by Kirill Medvedev (UDP/n+1, 2012) and various periodicals including Little Star, St. Petersburg Review, and Calque. She was the editor of n+1 magazine's translations of the Pussy Riot closing statements. 

Advance Praise

Nekrasov's artistic method is a sort of critique of poetic reason, only the result of the critique is poetry; the dissected, devalued verse line is reborn -- into lyric.—Vladislav Kulakov
I’m fascinated that [Nekrasov] was doing these works in Soviet Russia while similar kinds of work developed in the—relatively—free world. I really like the poems, which do intersect with word art shown in galleries like Barbara Kruger’s. But there’s something in Nekrasov that pushes the envelope in a new way, like these fragments are brain signatures, psychological reflexes, inside a difficult time and place.—Aram Saroyan