Eugene Ostashevsky's The life and opinions of DJ Spinoza

Eugene OstashevskyVier maanden geleden verscheen van de in Rusland, in St. Petersburg, geboren maar in Amerika getogen en in New York wonende Eugene Ostashevsky, The life and opinions of DJ Spinoza. Volgens de uitgever (SDP, imprint: Ugly Duckling Presse) betreft het “a cycle of fast, tragic, unsettling, hilarious poems about the shortcomings of reason. Eugene Ostashevsky's book responds to The Ethics of the seventeenth-century philosopher B. Spinoza, a work that seeks to construct an axiomatic system that is a theory of everything in a natural form of language with all its inconsistencies and ambivalence. Ostashevsky is the author of ITERATURE, also carried by SPD.”  

Ostashevsky doceert vergelijkende literatuurwetenschappen aan de New York University (zie meer aan 't eind *) en is de redacteur en hoofdvertaler van OBERIU: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism, (Northwestern University Press) met werk uit de 30-iger jaren van Alexander Vvedensky, Daniil Kharms en anderen.

Absurdisme troef, kortom.

Al eerder kon men hier en daar op internet de enigszins absurdistische en hilarische gedichten van Ostashevsky tegenkomen, zoals in januari 2008 Are You There, God? It’s Me, DJ Spinoza dat ik hierna als voorbeeld overneem. En eerder verscheen een bundel, DJ Spinoza’s Dozen (2006), waarover Anne Heide deze typering gaf:

The DJ is a compiler, a compressor, an anthologist who lines together tracks of music, samples, and full songs so that they may speak to each other.  This is Eugene Ostashevsky’s task in DJ Spinoza’s Dozen. He lines the contemporary with the past, the absurd with the profound, and the ironic with the sincere in order to see where the lines between them meet. Ostashevsky’s poems speak in contradictory beats, from different times, in order to present contradiction as a viable form of dialogue. [hier zie ook Susan Settlemyre Williams hier]

Hij moet een graag geziene gast zijn in theaters en op scholen, waar hij zijn gedichten leest, of beter zijn ritmische performance geeft, zoals Cathy Park Hong in een blog omschrijft, die verder de bundel als volgt kenschetst:

Life and Opinions of DJ Spinoza (Eastern European Poets Series)The Life and Opinions of DJ Spinoza is made up of absurdly hilarious narrative poems starring the battle-happy philosopher hero DJ Spinoza who engages in lethal food fights with Andrew Marvell (“Then DJ Spinoza throws frutti di mare all over the metaphysical poet”), vanquishes Che Bourashka (notorious for “killing the emperor of China/by a fusillade of thumbtacks”) and feuds with his ultimate nemesis, the contradictory Heideggerian monster, the Begriffon. You’re not going to find too many poetry collections that are this action-packed. But while DJ Spinoza might have more testosterone fueled bravado than a pack of sauced British soccer fans, he is also prone to both meditation and action, pausing mid-battle to spew math equations or ponder the ontological nature of reality, morality, love or the limitations of language. And of course, there’s also a love story involving the Bride of DJ Spinoza, a mathematician in her own right: “I’m not an engineer, I’m a mathematician. I’m not even an applied mathematician, I’m pure.” [hier]

Are you there, God?

Are you there, God?
It’s me, DJ Spinoza.
How are you doing today—
What? You don’t exist?
Oh, don’t start that again!
Who am I talking to, then?
Who?! What number is this?
The number of what? Sorry,
can you speak louder,
you got some kind of screaming going on in the background—

Hangs up the phone.

What was that?! “The Number of the Yeast”?
It sounds like an all-girl metal band from Scandinavia.


Hi, is this God?
It’s me, DJ Spinoza.
Nice to hear you, too.
Hey, I wrote a new poem
And I want to share it with you!
What do you mean you already heard one today
and that’s plenty? What kind of thing is that
to say? Who called you, anyway?
Morris Imposternak? That fake Russian poet?
Like, he read you from his book,
My Third Cousin Twice Removed—Life? Man, that guy!
I saw him in a coffeehouse this morning,
trying to attract girls by looking pensive.
Hey, do you mind calling me back, this is kind of expensive?

He sits down. Nothing happens. The poem ends.

Eugene Ostashevsky [jan 2008, hier]

Eugene Ostashevsky's optreden op 3 maart 2005 bij 'Lunch Poems at Berkeley' op YouTube. Hij leest er o.a. DJ Spinoza-gedichten, zoals The proof of the axiom.

Ook op Berkeley.webcasts 

Aan het eind van z'n performance in Berkeley op YouTube komt dit:

Remember the Cogito

Now the Lord said to DJ Spinoza:
Baruch, are you there?

And DJ Spinoza said to the Lord:
Here I am!

And the Lord said to DJ Spinoza:
Baruch, how about you be my mirror?

And DJ Spinoza said to the Lord:
Mirror? But God spelled backwards reads dog!

Don’t be so literal.
Tell me something nice
about myself, tell me I exist.

DJ Spinoza:
You exist.

No, say it like you mean it.

DJ Spinoza:
You’re being needy today. Is everything alright?

I was just thinking: If I really am Absolutely Transcendent, then I don’t exist at all, do I?

DJ Spinoza:
But, Lord, remember the cogito: If you think you don’t exist, you exist!

Yeah, I guess so.


Now the Lord said to DJ Spinoza:

And DJ Spinoza said to the Lord:
Here I am!

Are you sure? I mean, your argument, it’s not just verbal, is it? Does it really apply?

DJ Spinoza:
Inasmuch as anything applies.

But nothing really applies. Does the word dog apply to dogs? Ask yourself that.

DJ Spinoza (pensively):
Does the word dog apply to dogs?


DJ Spinoza:
I can’t tell. Shall we test it?

(He walks over to Yasha.)

Yasha! Yasha!

(Yasha wakes up.)

Yasha, dog! Dog, Yasha! Dog, Yasha, dog!

(Yasha stares incomprehendingly.)

You see?

[van hier]

En hier op From the Fishouse van Matt O'Donnell & Camille Dungy (promotes the oral tradition of poetry) zijn vele performances van Eugene Ostashevsky te beluisteren.

Ook hier: Two poems from Eugene Ostashevsky -
Now the Lord said to DJ Spinoza
DJ Spinoza Does Not Fight the Begriffon


Eugene Ostashevsky, Master Teacher of Humanities
Dr. Ostashevsky received a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Stanford University, his dissertation deals with the concept of zero in Renaissance mathematics, philosophy and literature, including Shakespeare. Prior to coming to NYU, he taught cultures, civilizations and ideas at Bilkent University in Turkey; Russian at Universita degli Studi di Bergamo in Italy; and expository writing at Stanford University as a graduate student. He has since switched gears and is now pursuing three different projects. a) Editing an anthology of Russian absurdist poetry of the 1930s (Aleksander Vvedensky, Daniil Kharms, Nikolai Zabolotsky) in English translation.
His translations won a prize from the Wytter Bynner Foundation. b) Researching the mathematical background of Russian modernism. This project will be aided by an ACLS / NEH Fellowship, to be taken in the Spring of 2004. c) Publishing a manuscript of his own poems, entitled 'Iterature'; starring a certain DJ Spinoza, and consisting of puns about axiomatic systems. [document van de NYU uit 2003]


[Hier zijn mp3's van Eugene Ostashevsky te downloaden]