“State Record 14035405: Pisternak” – James Proctor

State Record 14035405: Pisternak

Pisternak (1976-2011) was an exceptionally gifted child. His intelligence was matched only by his melancholy. He, at the age of 14, became the youngest ever member of the “Sovetskaya Kosmicheskaya Programma” or Soviet Space Program. What follows is an extract from Dr. Vladimir Vladimirovna’s official psychological report (see Notes: 1) on Pisternak’s entry to the program.

Note 1: Sovetskaya Komicheskaya Programma, (1990). Initial Psychological Report: Pisternak (14). (Moscow. Kremlin. P4)

(I)

Pisternak started thinking about love when he was a boy. Back then, in the eighties, love was just beginning. It attracted a certain type of people, enthusiastic people. He spent the whole summer studying the science of it “beneath a container of explosive hydrogen”.

(Findings)

Love is thin and shiny
Love is dark and slippery
Love keeps the cost down
Love is not trying to be cagey
Love is clean and drinkable
Love is burning money
Love is a heart attack
Love could be quite a big thing
Love is the north-pole and the south-pole in one go
Love is a big accident
Love is clean-shaven with dimples
Love is normal, absolutely normal
Love is a self-delusional process
Love is maybe two years
Love is a remote region in Siberia
Love is the Malaysian tourism board
Love needs proof you can deliver
Love is a bird named Tim.
Love cannot do nothing else
Love is the 1984 Paralympic games
Love is Germany and its allies
Love hovers somewhere and waits
Love can deliver cargo faster than an ocean liner
Love may not be right for you
Love is about 50 feet longer than a Boeing 747
Love sends you kisses and champagne
Love is being built in Bedford, England
Love has about a thousand private shareholders
Love is Europe’s largest indoor waterpark.

In 2005, at the age of twenty-nine, Pisternak brought love to the United States. He knew no English, but he did know love. He rented an office in New York City, hired a translator, and proclaimed himself an American lover but he found no customers.

Pisternak’s translator was a young aeronautical student of New York University named Nikita Panamerenko (see Notes: 2).  Nikita and Pisternak were close friends. Despite this they regularly argued, usually about the subject of love. In Pisternak’s words, kindly translated by Nikita, “He is world leading expert in love”. The second topic on which they rarely agreed was Physics or as Pisternak referred to it “The science of youth”. This subject interested Nikita. He would talk at great length about what he called “Verticalism”, or man’s obsession with anything that “reaches for the stars”. Pisternak dismissed this roundly as “pseudo-academic jargon”.  What follows is a transcribed extract from a conversation held in Pisternak’s office on 36th Street Astoria, Queens, April 19th, 2008.

Note 2: (Figure 1) Nikita and Ice-cream, Pisternak, Coney Island, 2006.

(II)

Pisternak holds forth
That surely it must be
That the earth surrounds the sky
And not the other
As believed by his bookish
And wrong-headed colleague.

“He puts his faith in science, this is the problem.
Too much testing, too much rigor.
He forgets his craft.
The science of youth, that’s all it is.
One must feel a theory.
Hold a buttercup to its chin; bounce it on one’s knee
Before letting it loose in the forest of thought.
Proof never proved anything.
It simply greases the gears
Of those who lack imagination.”

Our next meeting would happen more than a year later due in part to Pisternak’s legal status in the United States (see Notes: 3). In this interval period Nikita had encouraged Pisternak to broaden his interests. As Nikita confided in me “The more time he is here the more time he is mad”. Pisternak had begun attending poetry workshop held at the local Russian community centre. He informed me, through our faithful translator, that he is now “world leading expert in subject”. The following passage, taken from his notebook, makes up part of a short lecture he had been asked to give in the summer of 2010 at Harvard University (see Notes: 4)

Note 3: See Pisternak vs The State of New York, 2009.
Note 4: This claim has never been independently verified by any faculty member at Harvard University.

(III)

Of course it is very difficult to pin point when poetry was first produced. A number of technological advances contributed to its conception but it is widely regarded to have begun on January 21st 1962 at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. At the height of the cold war the Kremlin felt it necessary to create a form of literature impervious to radiation.

Early critics suggested that poetry would become a menace to all western countries. The director of the F.B.I., J. Edgar Hoover, commented that, “The menace of poetry in this country will remain a menace until the American people make themselves aware of the techniques of poetry. No one who truly understands what it really is can be taken in by it”.

The second major date came on July 20th 1969 when the USA successfully landed the poet Neil Armstrong on the moon. The opening line of his “moon poem” is one of the most well known in the field.

“One small step for a poet, one giant leap for poetry”
unfortunately the transmission cut out and the rest was lost to history.

In 1972 the poetic technician Roy Tomlinson introduced the first standard poetry format using the line space to separate the title of the poem with the poem itself, this would become know as P-mail.

Much of the 70s and 80s was characterized by ideological differences in poetic practice the world over. The intervention of American poets only ever made things worse.

Fast-forward to 1994 and the channel tunnel opened between England and France. This was a turning point for cross channel poetry, making it possible for a poem to be written in London at breakfast and read in Paris by lunch.

In the year leading up to the millennium, fear of the Y2K bug gripped the world of poetry. A suspected glitch in the system of electronic typewriters led people to believe that all poetry written pre 2000 would be lost on the stroke of midnight. Many people spent the months leading up to the millennium stockpiling poetry, which in turn lead to a great poetry surplus during the first months of the year 2000.

As of 2002 most E.U. countries adopt the Poem as their currency in a bid to ease trade across national borders. Britain declined to join its European cousins in the new currency due to the arrogant view that its poetry was of a higher value than that of other countries.

In 2009 the USA elected its first poet president, Barack Obama.

Starting in 2010 the biggest poetry crises the world has ever known takes full affect, due in large part to the irresponsible actions of poets working in the financial sector.

For Pisternak poetry was a private hobby. He never read his work in public. After he was eaten, myself and Nikita searched his notebooks, which mainly consisted of technical drawings (see Notes: 5) but could find little in the way of poetry, although neither of us profess to have any aptitude for the subject. We did find a short passage, which does appear to have at least some poetic qualities.

Note 5: (Figure 2) Technical drawing of airship, taken from Pisternak’s notebook, June 2011.

(IV)

Take my hand it is made as yours is out
of bones and hand take my voice, toss it in
sleep as your own, variously you have
known me and in degrees I have known you
also walking here and now as far from the
world As we are and thinking this makes us
close In the fold of love that you say is
naught But tricks and light and still we go on
like this talking or not talking which is fine. Now what about this poem then? It’s 10 lines already and you haven’t said anything you think that’s clever but it isn’t its just words and we can all say that your words ain’t clever. 11 lines now probably, is anyone counting? Probably not, we can ask at the end. The poem can’t write itself and if it can then why are you holding the pen? 13 lines now, goodness! How can you go on pretending? We already agreed that the words you use are all wrong and what about this poem then? Somewhere in the region of 16 lines I guess.

Our final meeting occurred on the 24th of October 2011 in the Apshawa nature reserve, New Jersey State. We had planned a days hiking with the intention of ruminating on the article “Pan-romanticism in the Atomic Age” (see Notes: 6). Nikita and Pisternak were deep in conversation on man’s need for, as Pisternak phrased it ,”transitional space” when suddenly a 300lb black bear (see Notes: 7) snatched him from behind. The following is a transcribed recording from my Dictaphone, and to my utmost regret, Pisternak’s last words.

Note 6: Jolas, Eugene “Pan-Romanticism in the Atomic Age,” ed. Eugene Jolas, New York: Vangard Press, 1949.

 


Note 7: (Figure 3) The bear that ate Pisternak, Nikita Panamerenko, 2011.

(V)

Bear! Unhand me from your mouth
And you will see
That we are not dissimilar
In wit and irony.
You are mainly of fur
,Which I intend to release you from,
As you intend to release me from my skin.
Think of us here and now, naked
In our lovers’ embrace.
Then think of your poor mother,
how upset she would be,
And your father,
He worked himself furless
For you
Now go home,
Let this not be the end for me,
But the beginning for us.
I love you bear.

§

James Proctor was born in North Shields, England, in 1987. He studied first in Liverpool before moving to London, where he lived in Cable Street Studios, one of the main creative hubs of East London. It was here that he co-founded and hosted the now legendary Cable Street Electric open mic. This is where the performative aspect of his work began to take shape. After three years of living in London he moved to Barcelona where he continued writing and performing, often in collaboration with American poet Ed Smallfield. Back in England, he went to Newcastle University where he studied for a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. He has been published by Verse Kraken Magazine, Kozmosis and Noise Medium. He self publishes the majority of his work on his website jamesproctorpoetry.co.uk. James Proctor lives and works in Berlin.