Friday, June 27, 2008

Installing Lev Rubinstein's "Farther and Farther On": From Note Cards to Field Walks/Report from Orono V

This is a link to my conference paper given at the NPF/Orono Conference, the abstract of which is posted here:
In the early 1970s, on opposite sides of the Cold War divide, and in complete ignorance of each other, Russian poet Lev Rubinstein and American poet Robert Grenier initiated a series of poetry raids on the fortress of the book: both began composing poems on small cards, a practice that would culminate in Grenier's Sentences (1978), a box of 500 such card-poems, and Rubinstein's own boxes of serial cards (beginning around 1974).

Rubinstein, born in 1947 in Moscow, came to the cards for three reasons: instrumentalism, avant-gardism, and undergroundism. The legend is that Rubinstein, a librarian for twenty years in the Soviet Union, lacked paper. But index cards abounded. Like William Carlos Williams' prescription pad, Rubinstein's library cards were handy and at hand when poetry called. And because, in Rubinstein's words, "poetry is everywhere, man," he didn't have time to choose. Card led to card, then a whole series would stack up like a little Tower of Babel. Sheer inertia set in, so even today Rubinstein composes by the card.

For my talk, I will focus on a single poetic text of his, "Farther and Farther On"—in its various print, audio, video, and installation iterations—to demonstrate the ways in which this sort of poetry signifies in multiple ways once it moves from script to performance. Like all of Rubinstein's poetic texts, beginning with the 1970s, "Farther and Farther On" was typed on the back of library note cards, and read by the poet using the card as a temporal space; I will discuss how the 2006 staging of the poem, and a 2004 and 2007 installation of the poem, embody and proliferate this generative poem's possible significations, and point to the limits of each iteration.

Other excellent papers from the conference can be found here.

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