Today, our recurring Questionnaire for Writer Types talks to Matvei Yankelevich, who lives in Brooklyn and is a member of the editorial collective at the Ugly Duckling Presse. Tomorrow night, he reads at The Blue Letter Reading Series is a new monthly poetry reading series at Watty & Meg, on Court Street, also featuring drink specials ($3 Yuengling, draft beers for $1 off and well cocktails for $2 off) and table run by their neighbors at Book Court.
For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, what’s the most accurate thing someone else has said about it?
“There have been excellent—and sadly neglected—American poets who have written similarly odd poems. That said, no one to my knowledge has written about immigrating into a new language as completely and at the same time as obliquely as Yankelevich. That is what makes him so fully hyphenated—so recognizably Russian at the same time that he is so consciously American.” David Kaufman in Tablet
What have you read/watched/listened to/looked at/ate recently that will permanently change our readers’ lives for the better?
I’m not sure lives can be changed by art. It’s also hard to say there’s something qualitatively better about my life after drinking a bottle of Bourgogne but I like to believe there is… Recently the Wooster Group did me good. But everything is fleeting—the show’s ended. My hearing improves every time I go to the Poetry Project. The Ab-Ex show improved my vision. That said, life’s still a toothache.
Whose ghostwritten celebrity tell-all (or novel) would you sprint to the store to buy (along with a copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius so that the checkout clerk doesn’t look at you screwy)?
I have to confess, I have no interest in Marcus Aurelius. But Petronius—now that’s the guy whose tell-all memoir I’d like to read. He’s holding out on us!
Have you ever been a Starving Artist, and did it make you brilliant, or just hungry?
They used to say in the 90s that there were no starving artists, cuz all the artists made money being graphic designers or working at start-ups… but I made no money, and neither did my friends, and we had a good time—life was simpler. Long live la vie de bohème!
What would you characterize as an ideal interaction with a reader?
Silence and a stiff drink. The reader lights my cigarette.
Have you ever written anything that you’d like to take back?
Some emails… And everything I’ve forgotten.