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  Philologica 4 (1997)  


An Attempt at an Authorized Commentary
to the Poem “The Forest School”


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The genre of self-commentary has an age-old history. It has also borne rich fruit in Russia in the past. Let us merely recall The Explanations of Derzhavin’s Works, compiled by himself. There have been cases when poets made their own works the object of research. Thus, among the poets whose rhythm was studied by the author of Symbolism, was Andrej Belyj himself. Another book of his, Gogol’’s “Craftsmanship”, includes the chapter, “Gogol’ and Belyj”.

Philologica intends, as far as possible, to revive this tradition. To encourage, in every way possible, philological reflection by poets and prose-writers, the editors introduce a new section, Commentarii, which is designed for such materials. The first attempt at collaboration between poet and philologist is an authorized commentary on Timur Kibirov’s poem, The Forest School (1986). This is one of the most significant achievements of poetic conceptualism, and, according to some experts, it is one of Kibirov’s best works. Like many other poems of the Moscow conceptualists, Kibirov’s verses almost verge on the cento: as is revealed in the commentary, one way or another quotations and paraphrases take up almost half the text. Recognition of quotations (which is necessary for an adequate understanding) is impeded by the fact that Kibirov is, to a large extent, orientated to mass culture, rather than elite culture. However, the language of the pop-culture of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s rapidly becomes out-dated, and so too does the language of The Forest School. The poem cannot thus become worse, but it becomes less comprehensible. With social changes, many signs have not only already lost their referent, but also their signification: to reconstruct it, special efforts are required, and one can only rejoice that the philologist and the poet have undertaken them together.


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