Vladislav Davidzon and Matvei Yankelevich on Bars, Collaboration, and Being Multilingual

matvei_yankelevichHow do the two of you collaborate?

The first step is to arrive at a dimly lit but comfortable bar and politely ask the bartender to pour us some inspiration. The writing process itself is reminiscent of the automatic writing of the surrealists, and the constraint based careening of the OULIPO. A scrap of paper torn from a notebook is passed back and forth between the poets. In a way all writing can be said to beĀ  automatic and all form is based on constraints. The poets take turns adding lines. Now and then one of the poets writes two lines or erases one written by the other poet.

Is there a Bar Poem #1?


“Bar Poem # 1”

I hate that ((moon))

the concupiscence at the edge


that intimates uneasily

a poorly made bed and stacked dishes

arrayed upon a proverb.


Come on; Moon, give it up!

And lavish

The thighs

Of noteworthy idolaters.


More poems are forthcoming.

What inspired this poem?

Comradely feeling and several glasses of inspiration.

How do you decide on line breaks and form in general?

The tone, cadence, length and syntax of the first sentence is usually decisive. The second follows cacophonously: a line of similar length with an inverted meaning or on different sonic register. Each collaborator messes with the tone or cadence set previously.

Does French often make its way into your poems? Does knowing French change the way you think about sounds and how they fit together? If yes, how so?

Yes. French words and phrases have often made it into these collaborative poems. One of us doesn’t know French, but for some catch phrases. In the case of this collaboration, both participants know Russian. In fact, we have very similar family backgrounds. We were both born in the Soviet Union, a place that no longer exist. In the metropolis of New York and in poems written in New York one can claim a cosmopolitan space. We attempt to approach English from a multilingual perspective, injecting it with other rhythms, the rhythms we may hear as a result of our bilingual upbringings.


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