No Longer a Resort Town: Four Poems by Yulia Fintiktikova
Translations and Intro by Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky
Yulia Fintiktikova lives in Mariupol, Ukraine. Due to the town’s strategic status as an industrial and maritime center and its proximity to the Russian border, over the past three years Mariupol has become a site of military activity and social unrest. In 2014, the Russian-backed separatists took control of parts of the city; they held their ground for two months, before yielding to the Ukrainian state forces. In 2015, the city suffered yet another offensive from the Russian-backed separatists. To this day, the situation is by no means calm: one can expect to hear distant explosions and experience sporadic power outages. Despite the turbulence, Mariupol has a lively art and music scene, and a small but vibrant literary community. In this community, Fintiktikova is a cult figure, also known as Baba Yulia (“Grandma Jules”).
Fintiktikova’s poetic manner gives an impression of unmediated sincerity and childlike artlessness. Yet it also forms a complicated web of literary allusions and intonational echoes, referring the reader to the key moments in 20th century Russian poetry; most prominently, futurism (as exemplified by Velimir Khlebnikov and Elena Guro), absurdism (Daniil Kharms), and conceptualism (Dmitri Prigov); to the experimental musical performance genre popularized by Petr Mamonov (Zvuki Mu), Psoy Korolenko, and Pahom; and to Soviet children’s poetry and nursery rhymes.
In Russian, Fintiktikova’s spelling is deliberately flawed and phonocentric, her usage ranging from agrammatical to hyper-official. Her lyrics are often slightly off, as if spoken by a foreigner, forced to rely on textbook phrases and stock expressions.
Fintiktikova is also a performance artist. She regularly takes part in experimental music projects. Most of her texts have been written as performance pieces.
from My Neighbors (bitter truth in two acts)
How We Will Live: A Manifesto
The Resort: with a view of the sea, flying machines, birds, priestesses, and the changing room. Everything in plain view.
Flying machines of different kinds – to whoosh through cosmic space.
Gilded vessel filled with brandy. To be brought in and taken out at the first call of Fate.
Vineyards that reach the sky. Pilot gardeners, knowledgeable wine-makers, conscientious sommeliers.
Pension delivered straight to bed, where I’m not alone (there’s also a cat).
Evenings: milonga. Mornings: classical music. Evenings: milonga.
Women: singing (from happiness).
Men: singing along (also from happiness).
Progeny: loving, made in compliance with the sanitary norms, easy to raise. Good vocal tone.
Food: melts in mouth, slippery. Main course of cow and relishes.
Sleep: 21.00 “Disco Dancer”
23.15 “Cleopatra” (with Elizabeth Taylor)
3.15 “Josefine Mutzenbacher: The Viennese Whore”
8.00 “The Komsomol Romantic”
9.45 music videos (foreign)
10.15 “Disco Dancer” (rerun)
The Planetary Crisis
Kitty rubbed against a log
(Half a pound of kitty flesh).
Evening came where it could
for example, Waterloo.
Doughy sides turn golden brown.
Grinding stones begin to turn.
Haze and mist had gathered up.
Belts had tightened one more notch.
Doggie rubbed against the log.
(Three whole pounds of doggie flesh).
Silly goose – against the log
rubbed his belly, then his wing.
Elephant arrived – the log
punctually got dissolved.
By the time the beavers came
but a donut hole remained!
That is how the cosmic storms
influence the forms of life.
The Moutherland Oration
Cleave fast unto my memory —
there’s a cell prepared for you.
Cleave fast, right now, and then again!
Cleave fast unto my memory!
Donate your humble body to science —
for no one needs the real you.
No why, no so, no therefore.
Donate your flesh and blood to science!
Say thank you to your Motherland —
her labors cannot be denied.
Fall, youthful hero, to your knees!
Kiss and caress the dear rag!
Say thank you to your Motherland.
During the day I give myself to sunshine!
To Moon – I giff myself at night.
A child of nature, I’m a gentle brute
Will I deny it all – the sex, the food –
when I receive the ABC?
Hear Fintiktikova read “The Moutherland Oration” in the original Russian:
Listen to a music project involving Fintiktikova:
View a video featuring Fintiktikova: