Leningrad: American Writers in the Soviet Union

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Nonfiction. In August 1989, a new, independent organization of young Soviet writers hosted the first international conference for avant-garde writers to be held in the USSR since the Russian Revolution. "Summer School—Language, Poetry, Consciousness" was a grassroots attempt to harvest the fruits of glasnost, bringing together poets and scholars from Siberia to San Diego. Attending were four American writers, Michael Davidson, Lyn Hejinian, Ron Silliman, and Barrett Watten. Leningrad is their collaborative ...

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Overview

Nonfiction. In August 1989, a new, independent organization of young Soviet writers hosted the first international conference for avant-garde writers to be held in the USSR since the Russian Revolution. "Summer School—Language, Poetry, Consciousness" was a grassroots attempt to harvest the fruits of glasnost, bringing together poets and scholars from Siberia to San Diego. Attending were four American writers, Michael Davidson, Lyn Hejinian, Ron Silliman, and Barrett Watten. Leningrad is their collaborative account of this extraordinary trip. A collection of poetic essays, it is a commentary on the intellectual revelations that result when post-glasnot Soviet and American intellectuals meet face to face. Some misunderstandings that arise are funny: one Russian asks the Americans if the Manson family is a TV show; some are surprising: when asked if she would like feminist literature from the states, a Russian woman requests the complete poems of Jim Morrison. While each group found inspiration in the other's avant-garde tradition, they had different definitions of what avant-garde was. American writers were testing their ideals of Western Marxism; the Marxists they had admired idealized American bourgeois democracy. Intellectually challenging, this collection is an unusual twist on the meeting of minds from across oceans.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The impetus for this collective work comes from the attendance of ``language'' poets Davidson ( The San Francisco Renaissance ), Hejinian ( My Life ), Silliman ( Ketjak ) and Watten ( Conduit ) at a 1989 Leningrad conference on ``Language-Consciousness-Society.'' Silliman's introduction claims that they're in the vanguard of those recording the ``opening'' of the Soviet Union to the West, but in fact these contributors seem to be at least as interested in themselves as in their surroundings. The quartet's contributions are intermingled and nonchronological; the authors explain, ``It should be somewhat unclear . . . just who is speaking.'' Severalpk passages record reactions to events: dismay at the racism displayed by some Russians, smug superiority to an American tour group in a museum. Others explore questions of personal interest, for example, ``Does poetry have any knowledge, and if so, what?'' When Russians do appear, they charm with their unpretentious directness, like the woman who, when offered some feminist literature from the U.S., replies, ``I'd really like . . . the collected poems of Jim Morrison.'' Photos not seen by PW. (June)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781562790059
  • Publisher: Mercury House
  • Publication date: 1/1/1991
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 8.18 (w) x 7.04 (h) x 0.49 (d)

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