from Zaum:
The Transrational Poetry of Russian Futurism
by Gerald Janecek

from Chapter Nine
Zaum in Tiflis,

Part 3

Kruchonykh's other publications of 1919 fall into three categories: 1) further autographic works with printed covers similar to Malocholy , 2) complete typeset works, and 3) short articles in Tiflis periodicals and an introduction to collection of poems by A. Chachikov.

In the first group, Zamaul' l (1919c) consists mainly of one-page poems by Kruchonykh in which the sdvig is catachretic in nature; that is, there is a lack of fit, say, between an adjective and the noun it modifies or between a verb and its subject or object. The first poem is a good example:

	Zhivu na bombe!      	I live on a bomb!
	   ne trevozhit   	    it doesn't disturb me
	gaechnaya voznya     	the [bolt] nut fuss
	S oskalennym         	With a grinned
	   Klyuchom...    	    Key ...

Here the 'fuss" is due to the nuts, and it has a key that is somehow "grinned," thus animating inanimate objects in ways that are difficult to imagine or place in a context. Catachresis can, in fact, be considered a specific type of suprasyntactic zaum, particularly when it is as radical as this.

Another structural pattern that comes to the fore at this time has been noted by Ziegler: 'Many of Kruchonykh's poems of the '41°' period have as their situation of departure a 'discrete,' ordered reality which in the course of the development of the theme is disrupted and ends in disorder, chaos, 'apocalypse"' (1985:81). She gives a good example from the S. G. Melnikova collection, but another, milder example from Zamaul' is:

	Zhizn'konchaetsya spe-    	Special life is
	                tsial'naya                  ending
	nachinaetsya fotograficheskiy   a photographic kahal is
	                kagal!                            beginning!
	 v frenche sbitya    		   in a field jacket beaten
	kon'                  		   a horse
	   SABBADA!..               	          SABBADA!..

The meaning becomes progressively obscure, the syntax breaks down in the middle, and the poem ends on a foreign or meaningless exclamation, here sounding like a word from the Witches' Sabbath. Typically, the last word in such poems is written larger than the others and askew. This poem, by the way, exemplifies another trend of this period: Kruchonykh often marks the stresses on coinages (e.g., SABBADA) and even occasionally on Russian words, a move away from earlier ambiguity in this area.

However, Kruchonykh continues to write poems in more radical forms of phonetic and morphological zaum like those in the autographic series. A poem from Zamaul' III (1919e), 'The Deaf-Mute," has already received some scholarly attention (Panov 1966:156-57; Balcerzan 1968:68- 69; Faryno 1978:65,73; Marzaduri 1980:56-57):

            amul yagul vaigul
              za la e...
            u - gul

In this case, the text is basically phonetic zaum with some morphological suggestiveness, but Panov, working from a slightly expanded later version (Kruchonykh 1922a), has calculated that 90% of the sounds (including 1) are "low" and only 10% "high," as opposed to a normal ratio of 50:50. Thus, "the image of a deaf-mute is given by a huge preponderance of low sounds, by a concentration of articulationally viscous, tense sound combinations" (:157). From this we might conclude that Kruchonykh is moving to a more overtly onomatopoetic orientation than was generally the case before. This trend will continue. In a perhaps comparable way, when the poem 'kho bo ro" is accompanied by a drawing of a primitive human figure, one is tempted to interpret the text as the language of a caveman or, as Kruchonykh intimated to Shemshurin, of a denizen of the tundra.

Tsvetistye tortsy [Flowery Paving Logs], the last item Kruchonykh lists in 1919 (1919f), but whose cover bears the date 1920, consists of 44 one-page poems, the largest such collection to date. Significantly, of the 44 poems in the collection, only five are in phonetic or morphological zaum and a few others have a coined word or two. The remainder are in pure standard Russian without even any syntactic zaum which is not to say that they are necessarily traditional in content. Quite the contrary. The imagery and thought patterns are sometimes very dislocated, as in the following:

              eysplez   		eisplez
                nashponakh      	  leaded
              mne podal       		served me
              strelochnuyu budku  	a switchman's booth
              v tualete,          	in a restroom,
              volocha po-polu     	dragging across the floor
              RASPOYASAN=         	AS AN UNBELT -
              NOY BORODOY!..      	ED BEARD!..

The first word could be taken as a proper name which seems to be half German (Eis) and half French (plaise), though it may be a distortion of 'Eispalast,' i.e., an iceskating rink. "Leaded" here refers to the leads used in typesetting to space lines and words, or, possibly, filling between logs in building construction. What strikes one in these poems is the richness of Kruchonykh's imagination and verbal invention, which compares quite favorably with Khlebnikov and early Mayakovsky. His sdvigi continue to be fresh, exuberant, and pervaded with a sense of humor.

The second group of works are three that are typeset throughout: Lacquered Tights, Milliork, and "Muzka," Kruchonykh's contribution to the Melnikova anthology edited by Ilya Zdanevich (1919:95-120). The title of the third, "Muzka," places a derogatory suffix on the word Muse, thus debunking the beloved handmaiden of poets, while retaining a begrudging respect for her. The influence of Zdanevich is immediately apparent in the profuse typography characteristic of the rest of the anthology as well (see Janecek 1984a:183-88 for further discussion of this aspect). One also notices that Kruchonykh's poems are longer and more elaborate than those in Flowery Paving Logs and the other hectographed collections, as if the texts have grown to fill the great space available on a page in the print medium. What is most striking here is the nearly complete absence of zaum. True, there is outrageous imagery a la Mayakovsky in abundance, for example:

         I roasted my brain on an iron rod
         Adding some red pepper and acid
         So that it would please you, musey,
         More than a smeared cake by Igor Severyanin
         So that tickling with a fingernail you would eat into
         A moist morsel smelling of terpentine.
         My heart will be topsy-turvy
         Like nervous Kubelik's
         VIOLIN BOW (:104; 1973:470)

But this is no longer the indeterminacy required of zaum. All the more radical sdvigi are accessible to interpretation. Even the two instances of what at first might be taken as phonetic zaum can be interpreted, one as an echo:

	i ya pazslablenny . .     	and I relaxed
	     neftetochivy                    petrolstropped
    	             nefte. . . . .               petrol. . . .
                            efte!                        trol!
    	             rchiv.                       brop

                                (103; 1973:469)

the other as a pre-echo [Figure 17 (:113; 1973:479; compare 1973:245) in which the initial series of fragments take on the flesh of full words, e.g., Bezma bzama = bezumny [= insane], yaan anu NI = ya annuli - ruyu [=I annul], etc.

Lakirovannoe triko [Lacquered Tights] (1973:225-55), though it contains nine poems from "Muzka," is more varied and interesting in its use of sdvigi. Although most of the poems would not qualify as zaum, there is still a full range of genuine zaum to be found here, sometimes in brief moments in otherwise non-zaum poems, more often in whole poems. An excellent example of synthetic zaum, in which a range of sdvig types is contained in a brief text, is:

	Aychik    		Ayebit
	Kun'ki li tyuk 		is the sack of marten
	nityun    		threddle
	Sud'bicha smyli     	Fatescourge washed off
	sunesli vnu    		incarry ins
	proglochennye busy  	swallowed beads
	bezkolesny,         	wheelless,
	ezhu - uzhasny -    	I lie-horrible -
	ez moloka (:9) 		without milk

Here we have words that are fragments (vnu-tr [to the inside], z-aychik [hare]), compounds (sun[-ulilne-]sli [they inserted/carried], sud'b[-a/b-licha [fate/scourge], morphological coinages (nityun [thread]); the fourth line (is sud'bicha subject or object of smyli [washed off?) and possibly the second line are syntactically dislocated; and the last four lines verge on zaum in their absurdity. Individually each of these items might not be very extreme, but the whole is certainly zaum.

Milliork (1919i), with a title that seems to be a compound of "million" and "New York," is even more heterogeneous. The first five pages consist of the title work, which is an interesting polyphonic collage of verse and prose with marginal notes, that ends with the designation "Poems by A. Kruchonykh, notes by Terentev." Then there are two of Kruchonykh's essays, "Apollo in the Crossfire" [Apollon vperepalke (:ll18; also in Terentev 1988:427-31)], and "Azef-judas-Khlebnikov" (:1932). The first, subtitled "Painting in poetry," is a discussion of the theme of perpendicularity in Terentev's, Ilya Zdanevich's, and Kruchonykh's own poetry. It includes a list of nine "word shapes" [risunki slov] with fanciful designations, such as "Turned/ removed heads' (e.g., mochedan instead of chemodan [suitcase]), "Two-headed words" (e.g., ya ne yageniy [I'm not an I-genius]), "Triple in belly" (e.g., brenden'= bred, drebeden', razdroblenny den' [delirium, nonsense, fractured day]), and "With squeezed-out middle" (sno instead of son [sleep, dream] (:17), as in Kblebnikov's prologue to Victory Over the Sun. Hence, what might appear to be zaum coinages involve distortions that can be deciphered by referring to a list of sdvig types. Earlier zaum may have been composed this way, but when the key is provided, the original purpose is defeated. The essay ends with the declaration:

      In zaum words freed from the burden of meaning there is the 
  greatest force and independence of sound, extreme lightness (fyat, 
  fyat; mechtyanny pyun') and extreme heaviness (dyr-bul-shchyl,
  khryach sarcha Kracho, kho-bo-ro,  khruzhb.).
      Alternation of ordinary and zaum language is the most unexpected
  composition and texture (the layering and fracturing of sounds) --
  orchestral poetry, everything combining
                                               Zamaul! ... (:18)

The synthetic approach is seen as a way to produce the "unexpected," and this is already in evidence in the works we have been discussing.

The second essay is Kruchonykh's mild critique of Khlebnikov for being too sweet-tongued, that is, for showing a preference for liquid and labial consonants, the vowel yu, and hence derivations from "love" [lyublyu], which do indeed figure prominently in Khlebnikov's poetry, along with a generally affectionate attitude toward the world.

The third group of Kruchonykh's writings from this period, short articles in various, mostly periodical publications, are sin-dlar to the two essays in Milliork and mark a growing inclination in him toward critical theory or what we might characterize as retrospective reflection on what has been accomplished. Of these, the most interesting and relevant to the study of zaum is his introduction to a small collection of eleven poems by the young poet Aleksandr Chachikov (1919; see also Nikolskaya 1988b). The poems themselves with their Severyanin-like decadent titles ("Approach to an Intimate Villainette," "Chanson franqaise," "Cafe'Empire'") and their traditional forms (sonnet, triolet) would not have attracted Kruchonykh were it not for their orientalisms and soundplay. The former provided unusual sound combinations as well as a non-European frame of reference which Kruchonykh as well as Khlebnikov preferred. But what are most significant are Kruchonykh's analyses or, perhaps more accurately, refractions of Chachikov's lines. For example, he takes the lines "S prospekta Yurt-Shakhe i Konsul'skoy Allei/ Bezhit kriklivo-sonnykh ulits ryad" [From Yurt-Shakhe Avenue and Consul's Alley / Runs a series of shoutingly sleepy streets] and 'distills" from them the following:

		kta pros / sul'kson ekhash
		tryu le-le-le / aysh sonyr os'ko
		sonor / shnyt (:l; 1973:489)

Some pieces of this "distillation" are obviously based on the Chachikov poem (pros, kta, sul'kson, and, from a later line not quoted by Kruchonykh, shnyt [shnyryayut= they poke]), but one searches in vain for most of the others. He transposes some segments (kta proslprospekta) and juxtaposes others over considerable distance (sul'-k -- son), leading one to speculate about the actual methods he used for composing his own zaum (snip-snip, shuffle-shuffle, paste). He gives a second example in which he does the same thing, though in this case it is easier to locate all the pieces in the text. He decodes several exoticisms for the reader (khanuma = lady, flinta = rifle). Then he praises Chachikov for his "sharp words flavored [nastoeny] by alcohol and not by water and paper" (:2) and for his partial rhymes, which he calls "crawling, reptilian" (e.g., krasavylserale), and other forms of what we would identify as paronomasia. Finally, he uses Chachikov to launch yet another attack on other poets, this time particularly Tyutchev, for their deafness toward anal-erotic sound combinations (kak), and ends with two more distillations from Chachikov that are quite zaum in appearance, thus presumably demonstrating the growing hegemony of this orientation. That there may be more Kruchonykh than Chachikov in these distillations is indicated by the fact that the source for the final one is not given by Kruchonykh, and I did not succeed in identifying the lines of Chachikov from which they were drawn, though a possibility appears to be the second stanza of "Urmiya" (:15), the first stanza of which was used as the first example above. But they could just as easily be Kruchonykh's own invention.

Given the close, collaborative association between Kruchonykh and Terentev at this time, it is appropriate to consider Terentev's little booklet on Kruchonykh Kruchonykh grandiozar' [Kruchonykh the Grandeel, 1919a; Kruchonykh 1973:503-20; Terentev 1988:215-32; excerpts in Lawton/Eagle:178-81). It can be taken as a jointly authored work like the ones by Kruchonykh, in which Terentev was the main subject and / or commentator, but in which in complementary fashion Terentev is the main author and Kruchonykh the subject (Sigov 1987b:79). In it Terentev, in addition to discussing Kruchonykh, quotes liberally from works which, in more than a few cases, are otherwise unknown and are not even listed by Kruchonykh in his bibliography (Tushany, Bugbuddy, Lyubverig, Budaly, Vodaly vodolaz). True, there are no surprises for us in these poems, nor for that matter in what Terentev has to say about them or about Krudionykh, but for the first time Kruchonykh is given the respect due his achievements. Terentev underlines Kruchonykh's ability to "beat at the nerves of habit, "to take even already avant-garde poetry, such as Mayakovsky's, Klhlebnikov's, or Burliuk's, and to go beyond it into something even more extreme (:4). Quoting "Tyanutkoni" from Explodity, he remarks:

     In place of a weakened poetry of semantic associations, here he
   offers phono-logic, as indestructible as an aspen stake. [... ]
     Such words as "noni" and "choly" are strange, but they are tightly
   perceived, they don't tickle the heel of memory, they gratify the aspen
   stake on the stubborn heads of people with a good memory.
     And as a result these poems will be understood!
     Content will adhere to them!  And notjust one content, but  more
   than you can hold.  Because ridiculousness is the sole lever of beauty,
   the poker of creativity. (:5-6)

Naturally, he has much to say in praise of zaum, such as that "All of Futurism would have been an unnecessary jaunt if it had not come to this language, which is the only one for poets of the 'worldbackwards'" (:ll). Yet he warns: "Zaum is dangerous: it will kill anyone who, not being a poet, writes poetry. He will not like the zaum lines, and the mousetrap door will slam automatically" (:13). He predicts that some future Dal or Baudouin de Courtenay (who produced a new edition of Dal's dictionary) will compose a single dictionary of zaum for all peoples, and Kruchonykh will then come into his own.

The economic situation in Georgia deteriorated in 1919 and Kruchonykh, along with many other Russian literary figures who had been living in Tiflis, moved to Baku, where he remained until August 1921. In 1920-21, once the Bolsheviks had taken control of Baku, he worked for ROSTA and the newspapers Kommunist and Azerbaydzhanskaya Bednota. Among his productions in this period are several individual poems printed in official publications and a series of his own productions. In all these works what is most notable is not the level of new experimentation but the efflorescent expressive use of already established techniques. Various kinds of zaum may be present, but earlier purism has given way to a compendiousness, richness, and synthesis in which zaum is only one of a wide range of forms of expression. Radical exploration returns changed and enriched, as do the larger forms characteristic of Kruchonykh's early works. Kalendar is perhaps the most accomplished of the works that grew out of this trend.

In Baku in 1921, Kruchonykh published a leaflet with a new manifesto, "Declaration of Transrational Language" (1921b; Lawton/ Eagle:182-83). He repeats previous ideas, but adds several elaborations, such as: "Transreason [zaum] is the (historically and individually) primordial form of poetry. At first it is a rhythmic-musical excitement, a protosound (the poet should write it down, because in further reworking he may forget it." And he lists instances when it is an appropriate form of expression:

    (a) when the artist wants to convey images not fully defined
    (within himself or without himself,
    (b) when he does not want to name the object, but only hint at it [...]
    (c) When one loses one's reason (hate, jealousy, rage... ).
    (d) When one does not need it -religious ecstasy, love. (The
    glossa of exclamation, intellection, murmurs, refrains, children's 
    babble, pet names, nicknames -such transreason is plentiful among 
    writers of all schools.)

Zaum is seen as only one of three types of word creation, the other two being "Rational" and "Random." In it Kruchonykh distinguishes three subtypes: "a. The magic of songs, incantations and curses. b. 'Revelation (naming and depiction of things unseen' - mysticism. c. Musicalphonetic word-creation -- orchestration, texture." He further maintains that zaum is the "most compact art, both in terms of the time span between perception and expression, and in terms of its form," and is "the most universal art," because it "can provide a universal poetic language, born organically, and not artificially like Esperanto." Ultimately, zaum is valuable because it awakens creative imagination and sets it free, without insulting it with anything concrete." Be that as it may, one cannot help feeling that Kruchonykh is essentially trying to rationalize the irrational, to spell out the place of zaum in poetry in much the same way as Shklovsky already had in his article "On Poetry and Zaum Language." While Kruchonykh is insisting here that zaum is "wild, flaming, explosive (wild paradise, fiery languages, blazing coal)," in the context of such a systematic presentation one begins to doubt that this is any longer the case.

This excerpt from Zaum: The Transrational Poetry of Russian Futurism by Gerald Janecek is a cooperative production of San Diego State University Press and Light and Dust.

The book's ISBN is 1-879691-41-8. The retail price in the U.S. is $25.00 and in Canada, $32.00.

For more information, see SDSU's web site.

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