Friday, December 01, 2006


In tonight's classs we'll read Alexei Kruchenykh's "Universal War," written in 1916, during World War I (which began in Sarajevo) and look at Max Andersson and Lars Sjunnesson's Bosnian Flat Dog, a nightmarish comics satire taking place in Sarajevo at the beginning of the Kosovo war.

You can order a copy of Bosnian Flat Dog from the publisher, Fantagraphics, here. (Scroll down.)

You can read Universal War, originally published in Kruchenykh's Suicide Circus: Selected Poems (Green Integer), below:

(Jack Hirschman, Alexander Kohav & Venyamin Tseytlin, trans.)

Universal War (1916) was a hand-made book produced in an edition of 100 copies, each copy varying slightly from the others. A slim volume, it consists primarily of twelve abstract collages combining brightly colored fabrics and translucent papers against a dark blue background. The “text” is limited to a table of contents of sorts: under a general title (“universal war will occur in 1985”), there is a list of titles or captions for each of the collages, many of them followed by a poem of single words printed in a column. Universal War also includes a brief preface in which Kruchenykh suggests that the collages are not mere illustrations, but are of equal importance with the poems, claiming that “they were born of the same impulse as transrational language,” and thus drawing a parallel between zaum poetry [see other side of this sheet] and non-objective painting. –Jack Hirshman

[Note: “typos” below are intentional.]


the universal war will occur in 1985

Page 1—battle between futurian and ocean
kisk clank
took titday
mulligrubs clench

Page 2—battle between mars and scorpio
appetite pegasus

Page 3—explosion of trunk
with the queue full of whips
cuts the stone with vengeance
hil ble faes
och fi ge

Page 4—battle with equator
the shaught of life

Page 5—betrayal
rubbish-hall marseillaise
in a billiard pocket
of the hall
po’ noseless hump of asia

Page 6—destruction of gardens

Page 7—battle between india and europe
the kid
unshoeing the armchair

Page 8—heavy cannon
corkscrew for destiny
onions of alcoven album
a cover of swanny snout
tender smell of victuals
drunkenness via rotten vodka
a hole of joy rose up

Page 9—germany in heat

Page 10—germany in ashes
a truck

Page 11—a request of victory
from a beardo
breaking kiosks
to disembowel chocolates
little bladder

Like Jew for You

by Lydia Cortes

They speak funny. Jew. Like jew for you. (And tea for two? If they can read, they’d probably say te-ah for twoe...) Sank, they’d say sank jew meaning thank you (it is not the keeping an individual of a certain religious affiliation underwater). They say Jell-o for yellow. San Gweebean for Thanksgiving. Did you ever have the pleasure of hearing one of them say to you, “Mery Crihmah to jew?” ‘Tis after all, their seesong to be yoly. And it’s too much the way they manage to get most of our sayings wrong...why can’t they get it right? Like, neber say eber. The other day on the subway, one of the more in your face types says to me, “Gwhy jew loo’ a me all phony, man?” Trying, I’m sure, to say ‘funny’. That happen las’ can guess, no, that he meant the fifth day of the week?

And they talk so damn loud – on the subways, busses, in the street – as if they weren’t out in public, with the rest of if we wanted to hear them. Even if we could understand their corrupted Spanish, I’m sure the topics they pick are who’s screwing who in the telenovelas most of their women are glued to their 46 inch screens (gotten on credit) each night...or else the subject could be who fucked who up (they do love their knives, their pistols) outside the project they live. Oh yeah, quite a bit of violence in those races...but you probably knew that already from just living in this city. You’re lucky if you don’t have to live too near their neighborhoods...they do have a knack for picking the worst ones...though we are slowly but surely taking a lot of them over. Even Bushwick’s turning now. You should’ve seen Williamsburg fifteen years ago.

How about the way they dress – especially when they’re “dressing up”? Especially the older ones. Gaudy shiny shoes, gaudy shiny dresses, gaudy shiny suits – lots of thin polyester, lots of rhinestones and fake patent leather, mucho chiny, man! (chi like in hi, ny like in knee). And did you ever see their little kids going to school for the Christmas party, or the last day before summer break? The little girls in little plastic high heels and over the top lace in strange, lime greens, lemon they’re doing a poor man’s quincenera.

They go on and on about how they love their kids. A little too much, the way I look at it. All that hugging, all that kissing. All that over protection. You’d think that there was something wrong with our public schools, the way a lot of these parents worry about their kids. I can’t blame teachers. They just do what they do to keep these over emotional kids in control. The parents should happy, anyway. If you want a quality school, send your kids to private school. Most of these people, I’ll bet, didn’t even have schools in their own countries.

Most of these people, I’ll bet don’t even belong here. They’re not legal. The Mexicans, Hondurans, Ecuadorians, the ones from El Salvador...I can’t even remember all those countries where they say they speak Spanish. Some of them actually speak Indian tongues...can you imagine that...they don’t even speak the language of the countries they’ve sneaked out of! Immigration laws...we’ve got to get better ones...get a lot of these people back where they belong.

Heard a bit of a bad news the other day, though...did you know that Puerto Ricans are actually American citizens? I mean US citizens? Yeah...something about a Jones Act passed in the ‘50's? Wow, what a shock...guess we’re stuck with them. Unless someone can come up with a better solution?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Race and Ethnicity

For our November 17 session I passed out copies of Harryette Mullen's poem "Denigration" (read it here and comics by South African comics artist, Joe Dog. (Read about Joe Dog and Bitterkomix, which he co-edits, here and here.

I'm happy to report that Studio Museum Harlem is currently showing an exhibition of original comics artwork from Africa--much of which is highly politicized--including work by Joe Dog. See this for more info and plan to make a visit if you can.

Extra credit: See Borat.

Your assignment is to write a poem or other piece having ethnicity/race and language as a central concern.