Saturday, November 23, 2013

“The Regular Program” (1975) (Lev Rubinstein, translated from Russian by Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky)

Paragraph One,
Speaks for itself;

Paragraph Two,
Outlines the basic concepts;

Paragraph Three,
Continues to outline the basic concepts;

Paragraph Four,
Continues to outline the basic concepts;

Paragraph Five,
Where the basic concepts continue to be outlined;

Paragraph Six,
Already operates with some basic concepts;

Paragraph Seven,
Demonstrates the sudden effect of recognition;

Paragraph Eight,
Secures the sudden effect of recognition by introducing it into the circle of basic concepts;

Paragraph Nine,
Grants the real possibility of getting oriented in the newly outlined circle of concepts;

Paragraph Ten,
Where there is time to think;

Paragraph Eleven,
Notifies about the prematurity of some initial conclusions;

Paragraph Twelve,
Points to the deficiency of the existing cosmogony;

Paragraph Thirteen,
Points to the necessity of defining the circle of alternative concepts;

Paragraph Fourteen,
For the first time urges one to concentrate and think;

Paragraph Fifteen

Paragraph Sixteen

Paragraph Seventeen

Paragraph Eighteen

Paragraph Nineteen,
Where the Author is ready to give some preliminary explanations;

Paragraph Twenty,
Where the Author confirms his readiness to give some preliminary explanations;

Paragraph Twenty-one,
Testifies to the decision of the Author to name the present text “The Regular Program”;

Paragraph Twenty-two,
Testifies to the decision of the Author to date the Regular Program: December, 1975;

Paragraph Twenty-three,
Testifies to the decision of the Author to include the Regular Program in the Program of Activities;

Paragraph Twenty-four,
Testifies to the decision of the Author to dedicate the Regular Program to the German Romantic poet Novalis (1772-1801).—Notably, this decision is accompanied by the Author’s decisive refusal to give any comment;

Paragraph Twenty-five,
States the necessity of a new way of action. —Notably, the Author refuses to give any kind of preliminary explanation about the nature of the new way of action, announcing his lack of preparation to do so;

Paragraph Twenty-six,
Testifies to the decision of the Author to consider everything referred to in Paragraph Twenty-five as “The First Preface to a New Way of Action.” —Notably, here he declines again any explanation in this regard;

Paragraph Twenty-seven,
Where the Author answers with silence to the entirely possible accusation of the vagueness of the Author’s position, as well as to various rebukes of both a professional and personal nature.—Notably, it  remains unclear whether he accepts them or not;

Paragraph Twenty-eight,
Where the Author confesses to certain things, but not to the rest;

Paragraph Twenty-nine,
Where the Author complains for the first time about the lack of time, about his poor physical state, and his periodic declines of energy.

Paragraph Thirty,
Where the Author immediately lets it be known that everything referred to in Paragraph Twenty-nine is a purely compositional tactic/trick;

Paragraph Thirty-one,
Where in a state of extreme nervous agitation, the thesis of “the impossibility of future existence” is discussed and recommendations of an obviously non-functional nature are offered;

Paragraph Thirty-two,
Where the same thing is said about Paragraph Thirty-One as was said in Paragraph Thirty about Paragraph Twenty-nine;

Paragraph Thirty-three,
Where nothing happens;

Paragraph Thirty-four,
Where nothing happens;

Paragraph Thirty-five,
Where nothing happens;

Paragraph Thirty-six,
Also marked with the absence of any kinds of events;

Paragraph Thirty-seven,
Where even the most insignificant event aptly acquires importance and significance;

Paragraph Thirty-eight,
Where the Author finds it possible to listen to a whole series of associated observations related to the preceding Paragraphs of the Regular Program;

Paragraph Thirty-nine,
Where the Author expresses his agreement or disagreement with a number of observations and lets it be known that the text of the Regular Program is uncompleted and subject to finishing touches and revisions;

Paragraph Forty,
Where the Author explains in passing that the order of the Paragraphs in the Regular Program is determined not by a sequence of corresponding events, but rather by a sequence of authorial decisions about the inclusion in the Regular Program of possible events and their verbal descriptions;

Paragraph Forty-one,
Where it becomes clear that the utmost orientation toward the object is the foundational principle of the authorial position, so that certain corresponding misunderstandings should be considered inevitable;

Paragraph Forty-two,
Where the Author experiences a series of doubts about the veracity of some postulated positions, but doesn’t intend to express these doubts;

Paragraph Forty-three,
Where the Author experiences a series of doubts directly related to the Regular Program, but once again doesn’t intend to express these doubts;

Paragraph Forty-four,
Where the Author complains  one more time about the lack of time and the compulsory necessity to be content with only the necessary.—Notably, he hardly believes that what he considers the most necessary is in reality the most necessary;

Paragraph Forty-five,
Where the Author states his intention to participate in various activities.—Notably, it remains unclear in what kinds of activity and by what means of participation;

Paragraph Forty-six,
Where the Author tries to grasp the character and degree of his participation in the ongoing events;

Paragraph Forty-seven,
Where the Author decides to participate in a certain pursuit;

Paragraph Forty-eight,
Where the Author experiences the necessity to understand what’s happening here;

Paragraph Forty-nine,
Where the Author asks us to wait for him a couple minutes. - In so many words, “Wait for me…”

Paragraph Fifty,
Where the Author asks us to begin without him.  – In so many words, “Begin without me…”

Paragraph Fifty-one,
Where the Author joins with everyone else.  – In so many words, “I’m with you...”

Paragraph Fifty-two,
Where the author asks us to talk with him.  - In so many words, “Talk with me…”

Paragraph Fifty-three,
Where the Author asks us to call him on the phone;

Paragraph Fifty-four,
Where the Author asks us to write him a letter;

Paragraph Fifty-five,
Where the Author asks us not to ask him any questions;

Paragraph Fifty-six,
Where the Author asks for forgiveness.—In so many words, “Forgive me…”

Paragraph Fifty-seven,
Where the author confesses that he doesn’t know anything at the moment. – In so many words, “I don’t know…”

Paragraph Fifty-eight,
Where the Authors asks if he is right;

Paragraph Fifty-nine,
Where it seems to the Author that he’s right.—In so many words,“It seems I’m right…”

Paragraph Sixty,
Where the Author rhetorically doubts in his rightness. – In so many words, “Perhaps I’m not right—I don’t know…”

Paragraph Sixty-one,
Where the Author confesses that he doesn’t feel well. – In so many words, “I don’t feel very well…”

Paragraph Sixty-two,
Where it’s asked: “Why?”

Paragraph Sixty-three,
Where the Author asks us again not to ask any questions;

Paragraph Sixty-four,
Where the Author asks us again to forgive him;

Paragraph Sixty-five,
Where the Author begins to understand what’s happening here;

Paragraph Sixty-six,
Where the Author again confesses to certain things but not to the rest;

Paragraph Sixty-seven,
Where the Author asks us to go on without him;

Paragraph Sixty-eight,
Where the Author proposes that we spend time without him;

Paragraph Sixty-nine,
In which the Author doesn’t participate in anything;

Paragraph Seventy,
Where just about anything happens.

Paragraph Seventy-one,
Where just about anything happens.

Paragraph Seventy-three,
Where just about anything happens.

Paragraph Seventy-four,
Where just about anything happens.

Paragraph Seventy-five,
Where just about anything happens.

Paragraph Seventy-six
Where just about anything happens.

Paragraph Seventy-seven
Where just about anything happens.

Paragraph Seventy-eight,
Presumably the penultimate;

Paragraph Seventy-nine,
Presumably the last;

Do Not Read This Poem.

The following translation of contemporary Russian poet Lev Rubinstein, “The Regular Program,”—what he terms “poetic texts” — should rather be engaged, installed, staged, and performed. His poems are scripts, tatters of speech, the ruins of discourses, set into conversation with other ruins.

Rubinstein, a former librarian at the Lenin Library in Moscow, began composing these poetic series on library index cards in the 1970s, influenced by avant-garde traditions, Zen, and postmodernism.  What I love about his version of conceptualism is that his poems can be read either as a parody of discourses or as the renovation of the fragments of truth which they attempt to illuminate; in other words, I find the poems to touch on utter banalities which nonetheless contain elements of truth, even as they expose official truths as banal.  He’s a lot of fun, dancing between “high” and “low,” but in the way that Frost believed poetry should “play for mortal stakes.”  He’s been translated into nearly a dozen languages and is known as one of the crucial experimental poets in world poetry.

We are now expanding our selected poetry edition of Rubinstein’s work, Catalogue of Comedic Novelties (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2004), to include all his texts—a “Compleat” edition, due out in 2014.  Since the late 1990s, Rubinstein has been writing weekly essays for various Russian publications, and recently has been involved in the democratic movements against Vladimir Putin.

Philip Metres is the author of a number of books and chapbooks, most recently A Concordance of Leaves (Diode 2013), abu ghraib arias (Flying Guillotine 2011), winner of the 2012 Arab American Book Award in poetry, To See the Earth (Cleveland State 2008).  His work has appeared in Best American Poetry and has garnered two NEA fellowships, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, four Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Beatrice Hawley Award (for the forthcoming Sand Opera), the Anne Halley Prize, the Arab American Book Award, and the Cleveland Arts Prize.  He teaches literature and creative writing at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.  He blogs at Behind the lines Poetry.  

Tatiana Tulchinsky has translated many works of fiction, poetry, drama and non-fiction, among them Leo Tolstoy's Plays in three volumes, Anna Politkovskaya's A Small Corner of Hell, Anthology of Russian Verse, Selected Works of Venedict Erofeev. She received a Best Translation of the Year Award of the American Association of Slavists, a Winner-Brenner Foundation for the Poetry Grant, and a Creative Writing Translation Fellowship from the NEA. Currently, she works on a project translating and promoting English-language drama for the Russian theater stage.

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