~ Kevin M.F. Platt ~

The Hair of Literature by George Uallick and Zhanna Shibalo

A videopoem by the Russian Latvian collective Orbita (“Orbit”), made in 2001—I assume on videotape—and uploaded to Vimeo six months ago. Artur/Artūrs Punte and Diana Palijchuk are credited with making the video, the text is by George Uallick and Zhanna Shibalo, and The Trilobitum Coitus supplied the music. I love the fast-paced, playful energy here, making me re-play it multiple times despite not feeling that I entirely understand it. The main thing is, it’s fun and imaginatively shot and edited, and I remain intrigued.

One of my favorite poetry publishers, Brooklyn-based Ugly Duckling Presse, came out with an excellent bilingual anthology, Hit Parade: The ORBITA Group, in 2015. You can read Kevin M.F. Platt’s introduction, along with several of his translations, online at Deep Baltic. Here’s an excerpt that may or may not shed light on what exactly Uallick and Shibalo mean by “pits overgrown with ancestors” and “the hair of literature”:

Paradoxically, while they eschew nostalgia for the Soviet past, the poets of Orbita are the actual heirs to the legacy of cutting edge and experimental culture characteristic of Latvia in the last Soviet decades. Orbita is an intentionally trans-ethnic and trans-linguistic phenomenon. And this is one of the keys to its success: theirs is an avant-garde of cosmopolitan hybridity. In distinction from the majority of Russian cultural production of the Baltic region, these poets transcend marginality and provincialism by forming a literary bridge between ethnic enclaves, languages, and cultures.

Read the rest.

Note: Long-time readers of Moving Poems may recall that I uploaded an earlier, lower-resolution YouTube version of this video back in 2011. Rather than simply edit that post, I decided to delete it and post afresh so others can enjoy re-watching it as much as I did.

The Orbita Poetry and Multi-Media Group to Tour in the United States

I just received the following press release, which I’m happy to pass on. The Orbita anthology Hit Parade is one of the best poetry anthologies I’ve read in years, and I’m a big fan of the group’s videopoetry, which they’ve been making since the era of videotape. Watch five examples of their work on Moving Poems. —Dave

The Orbita collective from Riga, Latvia will appear with poetry readings in four cities on the East Coast of the USA.

The tour will take place from November 14-19 in connection with the release in the United States of the anthology of translations of poetry by members of Orbita, Hit Parade. This bilingual edition, including poems in Russian and translations into English, was published at the end of 2015. Kevin M. F. Platt, professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pennsylvania, served as editor of the volume and also among the translators. The book appeared in the New York publishing house Ugly Duckling Presse.

In the USA the Orbita Group will present a compact version of its poetic performance the FM Slow Show, with which it has appeared in a number of European countries. In this version of the show, poems with sound accompaniment will issue not from an array of radio receivers, but instead from portable loudspeakers like those used by tour guides and live street advertisers. In addition to Kevin M. F. Platt, the poets will be joined in their readings by various other members of the translating team behind Hit Parade, that included Polina Barskova, Charles Bernstein, Julia Bloch, Michael Wachtel, Maya Vinokour, Sarah Dowling, Eugene Ostashevsky, Bob Perelman, Karina Sotnik, Sasha Spektor, Anton Tenser, Natalia Fedorova, Daniil Cherkassky, and Matvei Yankelevich.

In the words of Sergej Timofejev, member of Orbita: “The full complement of Orbita has never before traveled such a great distance together—across the ocean. We are bringing along our texts and also our performance experience, accumulated over fifteen years of activity. We are also taking a bit of clothing and several bottles of Riga Balsam with Black Currant. All of this will doubtless come in handy, and we are also counting on the support of those who will attend our performances, and also of those who will keep their fingers crossed for us at home in Latvia.”

The tour was supported by the Latvian State Cultural Capital Fund, Amherst College, New York University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Schedule of planned appearances of Orbita on tour in the USA:

Orbita is a collective of poets, photographers, musicians, and media-artists that has played an active role in Latvian cultural life since 1999. Orbita presents poetic performances, creates installations, and publishes multilingual editions of literature and photography. The group not only disseminates the Russian poetry of Latvia, but also translates contemporary Latvian poetry, convening an intensive collaboration between Russian- and Latvian-speaking poets and artists. The group has appeared in many European countries, including Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, Ukraine, Finland, Russia, Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia. and others.

The group has been recognized not only by the public, but also by poetry experts. It has been nominated for and won prizes in a range of Latvian and international competitions: the Prize of the Year for literature from the Latvian Union of Writers, the Zelta ābele award and also the award of the Latvian Club of Art-Directors for book design, as well as the Purvitis Prize for visial art, the Sergei Kurechin Prize, etc.

The main participants in Orbita include: Artur Punte, Vladimir Svetlov, Serej Timofejev, and Semyon Khanin.