About the lecture:
Let us begin with crude generalizations. Russian avant-garde poetry is intently edgy: experimental in its poetics, oppositional in its politics, and addressed to initiated elites and members of the creative “underground.” The poet him or herself lurks at the social margins—a rebel, Holy Fool, or criminal. Now consider Riga’s Orbita Group. Here we find: experimental poetry (and performance and installation art) that unites the Latvian and Russian-speaking enclaves of an otherwise ethnically and politically disunited society; avant-garde poetry that occupies the center of Latvian aesthetic and literary institutional life, where it is paradoxically both edgy and mainstream (while remaining interlinked with “metropolitan” Russian experimental poetic networks, in all of their oppositional dither and marginality). Further: Orbita is far from the social margins: it not only runs a press, but has a professional office, a logo, and a manager. Orbita’s position in social topography is unique—across the world and across Russian literary history. This presentation will describe and analyze this unprecedented centering of Russian avant-garde poetry in Riga, as the result of an unprecedented synergy of performative poetics, cultural politics, and literary geography.
About Prof. Dr. Kevin M.F. Platt:
Kevin M. F. Platt is Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. He writes on Russian poetry, global Russian cultures, representations of Russian history, and Russian history and memory. He translates Russian poetry into English and is the founder of the translation symposium Your Language My Ear. He recently edited Global Russian Cultures (University of Wisconsin Press, 2019) and is finishing a book about Russian culture in contemporary Latvia entitled Near Abroad.