Translational Poetics: Zaum as a Second Language* — Workshop with Matvei Yankelevich

Zaum — Beyonsense, Trans-Sense Poetry, Trans-Rational Language: The Russian Futurists posed a utopian project for poetry to overcome linguistic barriers through a new language of personal and indeterminate meaning. What can we hear, learn, and write from reading foreign voices trans-rationally? Can the zaum part of a text (the untranslatable) be translated, and if so, how? Translation also attempts to overcome the boundaries of time, nation, linguistic difference. By revealing our biases, prejudices, received literary notions, Translation — as process, procedure, and metaphor — calls on us to make crucial aesthetic and political choices, thus recuperating our volition and agency in the encounter with the authority(ies) present in any given text. Through a wide range of zaum practices we’ll explore the generative aspects of translation and “mis-translation”: how translating might open up new reserves of language for us to mine; how it might loosen our grip on our own “voice” and let in others; how our own language might affect our encounter with a foreign or faraway voice. We’ll examine several zones of freedom and choice available to the translator as agent, far from a silent medium for a text, and we’ll experiment with homophonic translation, revelatory redactions, variations on a theme, and devious deviations, translating against contemporary taboos with wild interpretations and trans-creations.

Knowledge of a foreign language is not required.
Some reading of exemplary and theoretical texts will be assigned.

*Note: The title of the workshop borrows the term “Zaum as a Second Language” from Filip Marinovich, who coined the phrase.

This workshop is now full. To be added to the waitlist, email Laura at