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Reported Speech (NYC, 2018)

This is the first bi-lingual English-Russian edition of Pavel Arseniev’s poetry. Arseniev is a St. Petersburg writer, editor, political activist, theoretician, and recipient of the Andrei Bely prize, Russia’s most prestigious literary award. The book contains an introduction by Kevin M.F. Platt (University of Pennsylvania) and is edited by Anastasiya Osipova.

Arseniev’s poetry provides a living link between the legacy of the 1920s Soviet avant-garde art­ and theory, on the one hand, and the modern Western materialist thought on the other. It traces how these diverse influences become weaponized in the language of contemporary Russian protest culture. Arseniev readily politicizes all, even the most mundane facts of the poet’s life, while at the same time, approaching reified bits of found speech and propaganda with lithe, at times corrosive irony and lyricism.

“One hundred years after the October revolution, LEF (Left Front of the Arts), and Russian Formalism, Pavel Arseniev brings into Russian poetry the militant excitement of subversive materialist exploration and canny activist protest. The unique results of this poetic event will, without a doubt, be exceptionally interesting and useful to an American reader.”

         Kirill Medvedev, the author of It’s No Good

“Pavel Arseniev charts the ‘emergence of unexpected forms of collective life…’ These vivid translations show contemporary Russian poetry at one of its high points, where language laughs at its own seriousness but opens the way for astute cultural insights and a bracing evocation of life lived out loud.”

         Stephanie Sandler, Harvard University

The truths of Russian administered reality were long ago stripped bare, so that now the poet’s work is to invent a new line of camouflage. Warning: Pavel Arseniev is a defector with only his disguises to divulge. Perhaps this as close as we can come, in this moment, to alchemy. Or is it allegory? Warning: this is poetry that makes Russia great again. Arseniev is taking a bullet for poetry but, at the same time, he is asking – will poetry take a bullet for you? Warning: any complete picture – lies. Then one day dyr bul schyl. Reported Speech turns the stink of the real into a stinging aesthetic coup de grace. I’m defecting to that.

         Charles Bernstein, University of Pennsylvania


         Reviews:

In a bilingual Russian-English format, Arseniev’s work articulates intimate, defiant, and at times desperate responses to a world in which culture seems to be increasingly prefabricated, predetermined, and designed to numb the mind and soul.

Exposing the absurd vagaries of the present moment is where the volume shines as a tremendous piece of internationalist literature.

Through art like Arseniev’s poetry, we gain a toehold, however momentary, from which we are better able to grasp the present and prepare a future.

As a keyhole into contemporary Russian experimental poetry, the volume should find a broad readership in the English speaking world. In essence, the book represents poetic strategies for resistance and survival under fierce oppression, underscoring that literature matters, as well as how it does things.


Pavel Arseniev’s poems of solidarity and alienation illuminate the phantasmagoria of capitalist Russia.

«By concentrating as much on the act as on the content of speech, Arseniev seems also to have come closer to documenting aspects of the very tenor of life and reality in the present epoch. Through using the genre of police reports or of legalese in ‘An Incident’ and ‘Forensic Examination’, or the language of adverts in ‘Mayakovsky for Sale’ and ‘Mass Median’, a series of brief news items in ‘Reports from the Field’, or the long parodic poem-diatribe in nationalist hate-speech In response to a ‘Provocative Exhibition of Contemporary Critical Art’, we discover not the poet’s perspective, but a concrete, material trace taken from excessive speech which illuminates the strange capitalist phantasmagoric world that is contemporary Russia.»


From its very first pages, Pavel Arseniev’s Reported Speechshows itself to be true to its title; the opening poem’s epigraph comes to us, we are told, from an “Instruction in the platzkart train car” (15). This is only the beginning of a journey through a trail of words found, mixed and transmitted from various source texts. The poems represent “reported speech” in the sense that they are inspired by found texts, by language encountered on the streets, in police stations, rail cars, courtrooms, newspapers, books, personal correspondence, nationalist political screeds, and writing on social media and the internet. The poet appropriates, organizes, shuffles and shapes the material of the political world, which is everywhere, for everything is political.

Pavel Arseniev is part of a group of contemporary Leftist poets developing new modes of resistance and protest through literary production. Arseniev’s unabashedly political project rejects any view of art and art institutions as motivated by a search for the next singular voice of creative genius.  Rather, his creative practice seeks to dismantle the idea of poetry as narcissistic, individualistic self-expression and instead aims to capture and convey aspects of human social experience in the world through the multifaceted voices of the collective.
His larger creative project is to facilitate the dissemination of socially engaged and marginalized speech and, in some ways, to continue the legacy of the Russian avant garde and factographic movements of the 1920s. Arseniev also sees his mission in part as working to fill a void left in the wake of the collapse of samizdatculture of the 1970s.


Related events:

27 November Pennsylvania University | Readings & discussion @K.PLatt’s seminar
29 November City University of New York (Hunter College) | Poetry Reading and Book Talk

30 Novembre — 1 December Yale University | Symposium «Pointed Words: Poetry and Politics in the Global Present»
2 December New York City | Readings @Ugly Duckling Press Headquarters
4 December Chicago University | Readings & discussion @R.Bird’s seminar

5 December Harvard University | Readings & discussion @S.Sandler’s seminar
8 December Boston | Readings @ASEEES
12 December New York University (Jordan Center) | Poetry Reading and Book Talk @Jordan Center

25 мая Москва | Библиотека им. Н.А. Некрасова

29 июня Санкт-Петербург | Новая сцена Александринского театра


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