October 4, 2022

Eugene Ostashevsky (b. USSR / USA) 1968

Eugene Ostashevsky (b. USSR / USA)



Eugene Ostashevsky was born in Leningrad, USSR, in the explosive year of 1968. When he was ten, his family immigrated to the United States on a political refugee visa, and settled in Brooklyn, New York. Although most of the poetry he read as a teenager was in Russian, when he himself started writing in high school, he did so in English. His long and. inconclusive studies terminated with a Ph.D dissertation in Comparative Literature at Stanford on the concept of zero in the Renaissance; he is now a professor at New York University.

     In the late 1990s, Ostashevsky was constantly doing poetry readings in San Francisco as member of both 9X9 Industries and Vainglorious. His work from the period came out in a series of chapbooks in collaboration with the Russian-Israeli-American artist Eugene Timerman. His subsequent publications include the full-length collection Iterature and the chapbook Infinite Recursor or The Bride of DJ Spinoza, the last again with Timerman. He has also appeared in Best American Poetry and was the recipient of a Poetry Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

     Like other Russian-American poets associated with Ugly Duckling Presse, Ostashevsky is a devoted translator of twentieth-century Russian literature. OBERIU: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism (Northwestern UP, 2006), which he edited and which includes his translations of Alexander Vvedensky, Daniil Kharms, Nikolai Zabolotsky, Nikolai Oleinikov, Leonid Lipavsky, and Yakov Druskin.

     “The Premises of Grass” is part of a book-length project entitled The Life and Opinions of DJ Spinoza, published in 2008, which is about the shortcomings of axiomatic systems, and of rationalism in general. The poem was inspired by the smell of his sister when she was breastfeeding and by the circular thought that Descartes could not have had a dog or a cat, because if he had had one, Western philosophy would have turned out very differently.




The Off-Centaur (New York: Germ, 2002); Iterature (New York: Ugly Duckling, 2005); Infinite Recursor or The Bride of DJ Spinoza (New York: StudioRADIA / Ugly Duckling, 2006); Enter Morris Imposternak, Pursued by Ironies (Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling, 2008); The Life and Opinions of DJ Spinoza (Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling, 2008);  The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi (New York: New York Review Books, 2017)


╬Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English




The Premises of Grass


The Laughing Philosopher has entered

the Witless Relocation Program

Outside his window there’s a rooster

that looks like a toaster

In the field there’s a cow

on whose rump sits a crow

The crow snaps its wings, caws erratically

but the cow only smiles enigmatically

The Laughing Philosopher thinks,

Ah Nature

nonexistent daughter

of the rhetoric of cognition

We cannot reach you

But there are your representatives

speechless, the animals

conscious machines

of self-replicating nucleic acids

What is life Nature

How does it appear

by accident

How does it stand

on its own four feet

What does it see

out of the moist convexity of its eye




Reprinted from Boston Review, no. 30 (April/May 2005). Copyright ©2005 by Eugene Ostaschevsky.


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