Praise for Catalogue of Comedic Novelties

“Lev Rubinstein’s note-card poems, here transcribed for the page and imaginatively translated by Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky, are an eye-opener!  Their particular brand of conceptualism has affinities with our own Language poetry as well as with the French Oulipo, but its inflections are purely those of contemporary Russia—a country struggling to make sense of itself after decades of repression.  Rubinstein’s assemblages are inherently narrative and autobiographical… We can literally read between the lines and construct a world of great pathos, humor—and a resigned disillusionment that will strike a resonant chord among American readers.” (Marjorie Perloff)

“Lev Rubinstein is the true heir of the OBERIU artists of the late 1920s.  Like his most illustrious predecessor, Daniil Kharms, Rubinstein creates deadly serious, devastatingly funny comedy that incorporates a broad range of literary forms.  In the precise translations of Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky, this witty and elegant work is available to an English-language public in its full glory for the first time.” (Andrew Wachtel)

“Lev Rubinstein’s Catalogue of Comedic Novelties is a poetry of changing parts that ensnares the evanescent uncanniness of the everyday.  By means of rhythmically foregrounding a central device—the basic unit of work is the index card—Rubinstein continuously makes actual a flickering now time that is both intimate and strange.  Metres and Tulchinsky have created an engaging translation of a major work of contemporary Russian poetry.  In the process, they have created a poem “in the American” and in the tradition of seriality associated with Charles Reznikoff and Robert Grenier.”  (Charles Bernstein)

At the end of the prose tract Democratic Vistas, Walt Whitman calls for a kind of book that is written “on the assumption that the process of reading is not a half sleep, but, in the highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast’s struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem.”  Lev Rubinstein’s Catalogue of Comedic Novelties is exactly this kind of book.  It is interactive, engaging, and sometimes exhausting as a good workout should be.  The reader is constantly implicated in the meaning making process of the poem, invited to fill in the blanks, to recreate the context from a series of intriguing and mysterious clues.  Reading Rubinstein indeed strengthens one’s imaginative muscles, but it is importantly a ludic as well as callisthenic activity.  His poems are funny, utterly playful, “comedic” to use his own description, yet not without pathos.  (Michael Leong)