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Prior to the October Revolution, Futurism–as a unified, exactly formulated trend–did not exist in Russia.
Critics christened everything that was revolutionary and new with this name.
Our group, the so-called (unfortunately) Cubo-Futurists (V. Khlebnikov, V. Mayakovsky, D. Burliuk, A. Kruchenykh, V. Kamensky, N. Aseev, O.M. Brik, S. Tretyakov, B. Kushner) was a group of Futurists welded together by ideology.
We had no time to deal with the theory of poetry; we were busy putting it into practice.
The only manifesto of this group was the introduction to the anthology “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste”, published in 1913. It was a poetic manifesto, expressing the goals of Futurism in emotional slogans.
The October Revolution marked a departure of our group from the numerous Futuro-imagists who had moved away from revolutionary Russia. It turned us into a group of “Communist-Futurists”, with these literary tasks:
1) To establish the literary art as a tradecraft in words–not as an aesthetic stylization, but as the ability to solve in words any problem.
2) To respond to any task set by the present day;
a) to undertake work on vocabulary (new word formations, sound instrumentation, etc.)
b) to replace the conventional metrics of iambs and trochees with the polyrhythms of language itself.
c) to revolutionize syntax (simplification of the forms of word combinations, the shock of unusual word usage, etc.)
d) to renew the semantics of words and word combinations.
e) to create models of intriguing subject formations.
f) to reveal the ability of the word acting as poster.
The solution of the enumerated literary problems will create the possibility of satisfying needs in the most diverse spheres of literary creation (the form, article, telegram, poem, feuilleton, billboard, call to action, advertisement, and others).
Concerning the question of prose:
1) There is no genuinely Futuristic prose; there are individual attempts by Khlebnikov, by Kamensky, Kushner’s Meeting of Palaces–but these attempts are less significant than the poetry of these same authors. This is explained by the fact that:
a) Futurists make no distinction between the different genres of poetry and view all of literature as a unified literary art.
b) before the Futurists it was assumed that lyric poetry had its own circle of themes, its own look, different from the themes and language of so-called artistic prose; for Futurists, this distinction does not exist.
c) before the Futurists it was assumed that poetry had one set of tasks (poetic), and practical speech another set (unpoetic); for Futurists, composing the call for a struggle against typhoid and love poetry are merely different sides of the same literary process.
d) so far, Futurists have produced predominately poetry. This is because, in the revolutionary epoch, when life has still not hardened, there is a demand for a lyric poetry of slogans, whipping up the practice of revolution, and not a Nestorlike summing up of the results of this practice.
e) and only in the most recent time has the task of producing models of the contemporary epic appeared before the Futurists. Not a bureaucratic-descriptive epic, but one that is genuinely tendentious or fantastically utopian, presenting life not as it is, but as it undoubtedly will be and should be.
Russian text from: Literaturnoye nasledstvo: Novoye o Mayakovskom. Glavnii redaktor: V.V. Vinogradov. Izdatel’stvo Akademii Nauk SSSR. Moskva. 1958. st. 175-178.
English translation by: Eric Konkol
The English version of Mayakovsky on Futurism appeared originally in the SovLit.com Thin Journal, Issue #3 (September 2006)
For more information on the Thin Journal and to subscribe, visit:
see also: “The LEF Program” by Vladimir Mayakovsky et al
for mayakovsky audio files:
THE WHITMAN RECORDING
One event at the recent Whitman Centennial Conference held at The Univer- sity of Iowa from March 26-29, 1992, was the playing of a tape-recording of what may be an 1889 or 1890 wax-cylinder recording of Walt Whitman reading four lines of his late poem “America” (“Centre of equal daughters, equal sons”). It turns out that this recording has been available for some time, but. very few people knew about it. I had long heard rumors that such a recording existed-a number of people had told me they vaguely recalled hearing it in the early 1950s-but the first substantiation came when Professor Larry Griffin of Midland College in Texas submitted an essay to the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review last year. Griffin’s essay, “Walt Whitman’s Voice,” appeared in the Winter 1992 issue of WWQR; in a note to his essay, Griffin mentioned the existence of a cassette recording of a program that contained Whitman’s voice; the cassette had been available for years in the Midland College Library.
This cassette, it turns out, contained a recording of a radio broadcast of a program narrated by Leon Pearson, a well-known NBC newsman (and brother of Drew Pearson). The program was broadcast on NBC Radio in 1951, part of a series called “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” In the program, Pearson introduces the Whitman recording by saying that the cylinder, from the “re- markable Roscoe Haley Collection in New York,” was badly damaged when NBC engineers received it, but that they were eventually able to retrieve the four lines of “America.” Roscoe Haley, born in Tennessee in 1889, was an elevator operator who lived in New York City until his death in 1982; an eccentric collector, his Manhattan apartment was jammed full of recordings, books, and papers. Apparently, after the initial broadcast, Haley’s Whitman recording faded into near-oblivion.
The rediscovery of the Whitman recording this year generated a good deal of media attention. William Grimes wrote a substantial piece about the recording in the New York Times (March 16, 1992), and it was featured on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” (March 20, 1992) as well as CBS television’s “Sunday Morning” (April 19, 1992). Associated Press stories about the record- ing were reprinted across the country, and many radio and television stations in the United States and Canada carried reports of the find. A letter dated February 14, 1889, and signed by Thomas Edison, expressing his interest in trying to “obtain a phonogram from the poet Whitman,” turned up in the files of the Edison Institute. Edison’s letter is addressed to his associate Jesse H. Lippincott; it is in response to a letter Edison had received from Whitman’s Boston admirer, the journalist Sylvester Baxter, who had written to Edison urging him to record Whitman’s voice. So far, no corroborating evidence has been found among Whitman’s papers or those of the poet’s friends and associates.
The NPR “Morning Edition” program contained an interview with Sam Brylawski at the Recorded Sound Reference Center at the Library of Congress, who questioned the authenticity of the recording because it sounds “too good to be rea1.” “This has either been exceptionally well equalized or it’s a fake,” he said, suggesting that “recording in the 1890s was crude at best. . . . All recordings were enormously noisy. What you have here on this recording is a voice that comes through really loud and clear. The surface noise on the cylinder is pretty much in the background.” But other experts disagree with Brylawski’s analysis, and the consensus of those who have experience with wax cylinder recordings is that the recording is in fact an authentic 1890-era wax cylinder. Dave Beauvais, for example, who operates Magic Media Services in Amherst, Massachusetts, writes: What the audio technicians at the Library of Congress seem to have missed, in puzzling over the “superbly equalized” quality of this recording, is the fact that virtually all vertically cut Edison cylinders, as well as the vertically cut Edison “Diamond Disk” recordings of pre-World War I vintage, exhibit this superlative richness, balance, and freedom from distortion in the lower and middle portions of the audible spectrum. They sound like they’ve been perfectly equalized-but that’s just the way they were cut, acoustically. . . . The near-perfect equalization was inherent in the Edison process. . . . So the recording technicians at the Library of Congress, incredulous about the quality of sound of this purported 1890 recording, have simply and ironically blundered their way into the historical tomb of the Edison mystery. I’m only amazed they haven’t done their homework on period recordings, though they’re certainly not the first ones to disbelieve their ears when stumbling upon vertical-cut artifacts. Still and all, Tom Edison must be spinning in his own grave, when Library of Congress technicians claim that no one could have laid down sound this good, or this well-equalized, or this impervious to surface scratch, in 1890. . . . Every collector knows that Edison’s vertical cut process allowed him to make recordings which were literally 30 years ahead of their time. We hear them today, and we’re simply dumbfounded to realize that sound so clean could have been laid down at the turn of the century, using a completely non-electrical process.
Beauvais also offers a linguistic analysis of the voice on the recording: “It exhibits a quaint and subtle regional inflection- a soft mix of Tidewater Atlan- tic and an Adirondack dilution of the contemporary New York accent-which has quite literally disappeared in our age. No one speaks this way any more. The notion that someone might have set out to imitate such a subtle and nuanced archaic inflection strains credibility just a bit.” Beauvais concludes that he believes the recording is “the genuine artifact.”
The positive impact of a discovery like this one is that it gets people talking and searching and arguing; new and illuminating discoveries are bound to emerge, whether or not they lead to confirmation or denial of the authentic- ity of the recording. In the meantime, you can decide for yourself whether or not you think it is Whitman’s voice; the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review is offering a cassette tape of the original recording, along with several re- engineered versions which remove a good deal of the noise of the cylinder (send a check for $10 to WWQR, 308 EPB, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242). The re-engineered versions are the result of the latest sound-reduction technol- ogy; sound-reduction engineering was done by BMG and Masterdisk and coordinated by Lowell Cross, Director of the Recording Studios at The University of Iowa School of Music. The University of Iowa ED FOLSOM
year in year out
trees’ lives hovering over
the parked vehicles
birds and squirrels in
trees year after year above
streets with passing cars
dirt dust pigeon shit
like driving undersea in
time’s rearview mirror
This Saturday I was lucky enough to check out the first half of the Inaugural day-long Page Turner Asian American Literary Fest, presented by the nonprofit literary arts organization Asian American Writers’ Workshop.
Held in the expansive Brooklyn PowerHouse Arena, the festival was packed with compelling sessions featuring writers, performers, academics, and journalists, making it hard for this gal to choose which ones to drop in on. The sessions had an impressive turnout, and with speakers parked on couches as opposed to stuck behind a podium or table, had a less stiff, formalized vibe than your typical panel.
“One-Way or Round Trip? Immigrant Arrival and Return” focused on the intersection between personal migration stories, diasporic identity, and immigration policy. Kavitha Rajagopalan read from Muslims of Metropolis, which takes an intimate look at three families’ immigration experiences, while Mae Ngai (Impossible Subjects) tied unauthorized entry to macro factors such as the US’ broken immigration system and the policy reforms needed to address immigration in a humane and practical way.
Mitra Kalita read from her book Suburban Sahibs, about her decision to move her family from New York to India, only to return after discovering she felt even more of an outsider in India than she did in America. Professor Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet (Frontier Fictions) discussed the growth of the Iranian American community, and how the decision to stay is not only due to political factors, but perhaps a sense of not quite belonging in contemporary Iran. I found that the dialogue among speakers approaching immigration from varied disciplines was an effective and interesting way to link the personal to political (and back again) in framing this pressing policy issue.<
"The New Eclectics" panel featured Ed Lin (This is a Bust), comedian Jen Kwok (of "Date An Asian" fame), Porochista Khakpour, and poet and American Book Award winner Sesshu Foster, selected for their quirky and comedic writing style. Sesshu Foster read a poem from his new book World Ball Notebook — about being pulled over and harassed by smalltown Utah cops — and Porochista Khakpour read a "wet dream" excerpt from Sons and Other Flammable Objects, the focal point being "I Dream of Jeannie's" Barbara Eden, who Khakpour half-jokingly described as every Middle Eastern man's boyhood fantasy.
Jen Kwok serenaded us with a ukelele’d rendition of “Date an Asian”, as well as the first song she ever wrote, about the difficulties of being a sassy fat girl stuck in a skinny Asian girl’s body. Ed Lin read several short pieces recounting his childhood hatred of playing clarinet and getting cursed out by his exacting, uptight music teacher. Lin then channeled his mom to tell a ghost story, which turned out to just be her describing the anxiety she experienced while watching The Ring.
The speakers then discussed issues of being looked to as an “authentic” Asian American voice — whether from white readers or their own communities — and how their “eclectic style” was sometimes met with resistance or confusion. Ironically, a white lady in the audience made the comment that she was surprised by the panelists’ humor and even (gasp!) vulgarity, and found that Asian American writing was not usually like that…was this a trend in Asian American literature? After some palpable squirming and cringing in the audience (I was hoping for a bellowing AW HELL NAW from the back), Porochista Khakpour replied: “People of color are funny and vulgar and raw just like other people,” to which Sesshu Foster added: “There’s a trend in mainstream culture of boring and staid literature, and I don’t want to be that.” Boom! And that’s real talk!
The last panel I attended, “Beyond Harold and Kumar: Representation in a Not-Yet-Post-Racial-Era”, was packed with folks to see playwright David Henry Hwang, CUNY Director of Asian American Studies Jennifer Hayashida, and Columbia School of Journalism Dean of Student Affairs Sree Sreenivasan, discussing the invisibility/visibility of Asian America in everyday American culture. Hwang read an excerpt from Yellowface, and Sreenivasan described his obsession with “Desi-spotting”, and how it embarasses his kids, who consider themselves American as opposed to Indian.
While the well-worn issue of the generational gap came up, the discussion interestingly turned to the role of new blogs and social media in reclaiming Asian American identity. Hayashida felt that sites like My Mom Is A Fob, Stuff Indians Like, and Disgrasian are able to re-write racial constructs and re-claim pride in Asian American idiosyncracies in a way that may have been frowned upon by our activist predecessors. Everyone seemed in agreement that “post-racial” is a unhelpful and meaningless attempt at solidarity (with similar pitfalls as the “colorblind” argument), and moving beyond “Otherness” requires proactively talking more — not less — about race, class, and all the things that make up our differing and multiple identities.
Overall, the Page Turner Festival made clear that Asian American writers are no longer relegated to being racial ambassadors or bridges between the mainstream and ethnic. While sometimes overshadowed by the Amy Tans and Maxine Hong Kingstons (at least in mainstream lit), there is no dearth of powerful, raw, hilarious, touching and everything-in-between Asian American literature, which must be supported so we can continue to have a strong community of writers that voice the complexity of Asian America.
article originally posted at:
more pictures from Page Turner including Jumpha Lahiri and the mass crowd that turned out for her:
pictures courtesy of the Asian American Writers Workshop NYC