translated by Philip Metres, Tatiana Tulchinsky
Poetry | $22 $20
"An engaging translation of a major work of contemporary Russian poetry." — Charles Bernstein
Almost ten years ago UDP published Catalogue of Comedic Novelties, a representative selection of Lev Rubinstein's "note-card poems," a seminal body of work from one of the major figures of Moscow Conceptualism and the unofficial Soviet art scene of the 1970s and 1980s. These texts form what Rubinstein called a "hybrid genre": "at times like a realistic novel, at times like a dramatic play, at times like a lyric poem, etc., that is, it slides along the edges of genres and, like a small mirror, fleetingly reflects each of them, without identifying with any of them." As American scholar Gerald Janecek has noted, the texts are made up of "language ready-mades (commonplace expressions, overheard statements, sentence fragments)" and organized "in such a way that we seem to be observing the creation of a poem from raw material."
This new edition collects for the first time all of Rubinstein "note-card poems" and includes a preface by American poet Catherine Wagner, an introduction by translator Philip Metres, and a short essay by the author.
Some of These texts have previously been translated into German, French, Swedish, and Polish; now Rubinstein's complete card-catalog of "comedic novelties" has been re-opened—in a precise and sensitive translation—to the English reader.
Lev Rubinstein's note-card poems, here transcribed for the page and imaginatively translated by Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky, are an eye-opener! Their particular brand of conceptualism has affinities with our own Language poetry as well as with the French Oulipo, but its inflections are purely those of contemporary Russia—a country struggling to make sense to itself after decades of repression...We can literally read between the lines and construct a world of great pathos, humor—and a resigned disillusionment that will strike a resonant chord among American readers.—Marjorie Perloff
Lev Rubinstein's Catalogue of Comedic Novelties is a poetry of changing parts that ensnares the evanescent uncanniness of the everyday. By means of rhythmically foregrounding a central device—the basic unit of work is the index card—Rubinstein continuously makes actual a flickering now time that is both intimate and strange. Metres and Tulchinsky have created an engaging translation of a major work of contemporary Russian poetry. In the process, they have created a poem 'in the American' and in the tradition of seriality associated with Charles Reznikoff and Robert Grenier.—Charles Bernstein
Rubinstein's "texts" can be compared with computer hyper-texts, where each message conceals a larger context and where you unavoidably leave certain files unopened on each page as you go on… His poetics can be described as that of fatally missed opportunities and in this sense he brings to mind Chekhov, a fact that has been noted by many critics.—Ekaterina Degot, Commersant Daily
Lev Rubinstein is the true heir of the OBERIU artists of the late 1920s. Like his most illustrious predecessor, Daniil Kharms, Rubinstein creates deadly serious, devastatingly funny comedy that incorporates a broad range of literary forms. In the precise translations of Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky, this witty and elegant work is available to an English-language public in its full glory for the first time.—Andrew Wachtel
At the end of the prose tract Democratic Vistas, Walt Whitman calls for a kind of book that is written 'on the assumption that the process of reading is not a half sleep, but, in the highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast's struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem.' Lev Rubinstein's Catalogue of Comedic Novelties is exactly this kind of book. It is interactive, engaging, and sometimes exhausting as a good workout should be. The reader is constantly implicated in the meaning making process of the poem, invited to fill in the blanks, to recreate the context from a series of intriguing and mysterious clues. Reading Rubinstein indeed strengthens one's imaginative muscles, but it is importantly a ludic as well as calisthenic activity. His poems are funny, utterly playful, 'comedic' to use his own description, yet not without pathos.—Michael Leong
Rubinstein’s work … drives a wedge between cultural production and the culturally produced. I’m not expected to do anything or buy anything, I’m flickering between emotion and ironic awareness; that is, I’m learning about the way I work when I encounter language...Rubinstein lets me acknowledge both my human emotion and its quoted, cultural ground.—Catherine Wagner, Galatea Resurrects