Introductions for Matvei Yankelevich & Rob Fitterman

Matvei Yankelevich’s first book Boris by the Sea is just out from Octopus Books. He’s also published several chapbooks including The Present Work (Palm Press). His translations of Daniil Kharms were collected in Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms (Ardis/Overlook) and received praise from the TLS, The Guardian, The New York Times, and elsewhere. He recently edited a portfolio of Contemporary Russian Poetry and Poetics for the magazine Aufgabe (No. 8, Fall 2009). In NYC, he teaches at Hunter College and Columbia University School of the Arts. He lives in Brooklyn where he edits and designs books for Ugly Duckling Presse.

The Project has a very close relationship with Ugly Duckling Press and the Wednesday Night Reading Series has hosted many UDP authors, so tonight I’m really happy to have Matvei read.  He describes his book Boris By the Sea in a BOMBlog interview as “a bunch of theatrical gestures—or writing gestures” and “little writing events”. It’s written in a stripped down language, with the tone of fable where the moral seems to be “I just don’t know what the moral is”. The creation runs away, doesn’t keep us company, or we loose our mode of accessing our creation. It’s absurd, with all these Borises, to be lonesome. Consciousness (inner world) meets the resistance of objects (outer world), problems of one’s body moving through the outer one manifest – Boris tries to see what his shoulder blade looks like by trying to pull it around to the front – language just registers these encounters. One of the most compelling aspects in the book, for me, is that Yankelevich moves from poem to prose to theater to an idea, a novel without words, assuming different genres, which resonates with a line on pg. 21, “that without a role a person is as good as dead”. Language has something to do with creating a role, but again the moral here is uncertainty, the question “what?” and the mystery is retained in the translation between “who am I?” and “who is that?” Please Welcome Matvei to the Poetry Project.

Rob Fitterman is the author of 12 books, including war, the musical, Notes On Conceptualisms (with Vanessa Place) and rob the plagiarist. His latest book, Sprawl:Metropolis 30A is the fourth book, and likely the last, of his Metropolis series. He teaches writing and poetry at New York University and in the Bard College, Milton Avery School of Graduate Studies. Tomorrow, I believe, is the last day of business for Rob’s Word Shop where individual letters and words can be purchased. The conversations are being recorded and will be collected in a book form at the end of the month.

Rob Fitterman really captured my attention when I read an interview with him online at Coldfront Magazine – Ken Walker asked him what his top five favorite films are and Rob replied with a Cineplex list of show times with Avatar at #1 and with Ninja Assassin at #5. His answer becomes just as viable as any “sincere” list. It taps into the public ethos at a specific moment much like a list of anyone’s favorite films would simply offer a transitory glimpse of one’s taste, but the glimpse would be taken as “the truth” about a person, something to form opinions around. This is all to say that the poet Rob Fitterman has many strategies, “many Rob’s” – “to create poems that look in on the subject from without rather than gazing out on the world from within”. (Those are the words of Morgan Myers). In a piece like “A Hemingway Reader”, Fitterman uses erasure of the novel The Sun Also Rises leaving only “I” statements, which, in a mirroring section, provides him access to a version of memoir otherwise impossible. An optimist, Fitterman’s work proposes a different spin on universality where contingency and multiplicity are its true nature. Please welcome Rob to the Poetry Project.