Matvei Yankelevich is the author of the a long poem, Some Worlds for Dr. Vogt (Black Square), a poetry collection, Alpha Donut (United Artists), and a novella in fragments, Boris by the Sea (Octopus), now in its second edition. He is the translator of Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms, and co-translator (with Eugene Ostashevsky) of the National Translation Award-winning An Invitation for Me to Think by Alexander Vvedensky. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (for translation) and the New York Foundation for the Arts (for poetry). He edits the Eastern European Poets Series for Ugly Duckling Presse, and teaches at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College.
Boris is a precarious creature thrown into a world he is ill-suited for — a bit like Monsieur Plume and other relatives. The world was “somewhere inside his skull. And it hurt.” These poems and dramatic sketches, however, delight even when they hurt.
Boris lay in bed sweating. The world was reflected inside him, somewhere inside his skull. And it hurt. It hurt something awful. Boris lay in bed and thought: is it my skull that is hurting, or is it the world around me that has fallen ill. The chair, the soup, the table, and the ceiling, and the lid from something or other, all of it hurts. Even the wallpaper groans and creaks from the pain. If you don’t look at the world then your headache will go away, thought Boris. And everything vanished in the room. All the things died and the dead do not complain. They are no longer in pain.