Voice-ing the Word in the Zaum' Poetry of Xlebnikov and Kruchenyx

Renee M. Silverman, University of Michigan

The transsense language of Zaum' poets V. Xlebnikov and A. Kruchenyx employs phonic disharmony in order to explode the conventional construction of the lyric I and interrogate the centrality of its role with respect to the representation of the authorial voice. The phonic dissonance of the early Zaum' texts of Xlebnikov and Kruchenyx questions the process through which the authorial "voice" constructs the lyric subject of a given text. The play of signifiers that Jacques Derrida calls "the disruption of presence" attests to the ideological role of linguistic formations with respect to the textual "re-presentation" of the subject (Derrida, Writing and Difference). Fragmenting the authorial subjectivity into unconscious drives, the lyric subject fails to cohere and the play of phonemes exceeds the boundaries of meaning.

It is my contention that the notion of a lyric "voice" is pertinent to the polemic between the Zaum' poets and the Russian Symbolists, whose formal system of representation produced harmony (blagozvuchie). The euphony of Symbolist poetry depends on a symbolically mediated relationship between language and the unknown elements of the universe. Conceived in opposition to Symbolist aesthetics, the deliberate disharmony of transsense language gestures toward the impossibilty of representation. Zaum' practice creates a negative lyric subject by disturbing the Symbolist parallel between a unified authorial subject--posited as presence through the concept of "voice"--and phonic euphony.

I will argue that the construction of Zaum' texts reflects the relationship between the authorial and lyric subjects, and the social formations that they signify. Following the post-structuralist analyses of Julia Kristeva and Roland Barthes, this paper locates the rupture of both subjectivities in the linguistic heterogeneity of the text. I shall further explore how the notion of "voice" becomes a central metaphor for the ways in which the relationships between author and reader are negotiated in and around the materiality and sound of poetic language.

It will be my contention that readers experience the phonic multiplicity of Zaum' poems as an imperative to organize and re-evaluate their linguistic perceptions. Considered as textual strategies, Kruchenyx's rezkost' and grubost' and Xlebnikov's samovitoe slovo create an "open work" in which alogical language converts the play of signifiers into an imperative towards participation in the construction of the text. To situate Zaum' within European avant-garde practice after the late nineteenth century is to conceptualize form as productive of subjective and structural multiplicity. Freed from the logocentric ideology that replaces the lyric subject with phonic dissonance, the material form of this alogical language corresponds to a newly perceivable reality that is transsense.