"Ereminiscencii": Aleksandr Eremenko and the Zen of Intertextuality

Patrick Henry, University of California, Berkeley

In writing about the late-Soviet "new wave" poet Aleksandr Eremenko, one has little choice but to address the question of intertextuality. The glut of quotations and allusions in Eremenko's work led critic Vladimir Novikov to dub him the "founder of Russian cento poetry". Among the participants in the "poetic tendency [that] arose in his wake" Novikov named Igor Irtenev and Timur Kibirov. For Novikov, as for many critics, Eremenko's "ereminiscencii" function primarily as tools of his "parodic irony." As Mark Lipoveckij has pointed out, however, this focus on irony and the use of quotation, paraphrase and "shtampy" obscures other, more important aspects of Eremenko's work, and sheds no light on the source of the poet's originality or the scope of this achievement.

This paper will argue that only by reading Eremenko's poetry in the context of Zen Buddhism, which the poet discovered in samizdat in the mid-1970s and "practices" to this day, can one appreciate the world-view elaborated, or enacted, in the "philosophical manifesto" (Lipoveckij) "I look at you from such deep graves..." and other major poems. After outlining this philosophical position, the paper will argue for a fundamental link between Eremenko's work and that of his fellow "metarealists" (term coined by Mikhail Epstein), or "metametaphorists" (Konstantin Kedrov) Ivan zhdanov, Aleksej Parshchikov, Vladimir Aristov, Mark Shtunovskij, Jurij Arabov, and others. The paper will also consider the functional overlap between Zen thought and intertextuality theory in an attempt to explain the role of found words in Eremenko's work.