Concrete Poetry in Russia: Vsevolod Nekrasov, a Pioneer of the Trend

Irene Kolchinsky, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Although a new poetic trend, designated by its first proponents as “concrete,” had conquered the world by the late 1960s, it was widely believed that countries behind the Iron Curtain remained unaffected by this process. Indeed, international anthologies of concrete poetry never included contributors from Russia or other East European countries (Czech poets were the only exception), and this was a direct consequence of the political situation in these places. The communist regimes had been notorious for their intolerance and suppression of avant-garde art, especially in its radical manifestation. As it turned out, however, the experimental tradition was kept alive by a handful of enthusiasts, who destined themselves to functioning in the literary underground, in almost complete isolation from the rest of the world. Quite miraculously, some of them managed to work in unison with the latest Western avant-garde trends, of which they remained totally unaware. Such was the case with the Russian author Vsevolod Nekrasov, whose poetic experimentation was rather similar to that of Gomringer, Fahlstroem, Ruehm, and other concrete poets. At the same time, Nekrasov’s texts displayed distinctive individuality, which made him one of the most interesting (although the least known) practitioners of concrete poetry. In my paper I will closely examine Nekrasov’s poems in a broad historical and literary context.