Ostashevsky’s work is best when he follows his natural instinct for rhyme and rhythm, and especially when he turns to zany, historically-rich references: I should have known they were Basques/ Roland says to DJ Spinoza/ By the looks of their casques/ By the widths of their masks/ I should have known they were Basques. There’s a moment, for example, when Andrew Marvell wakes up: AM: Boy, that’s what I call a snooze! That felt, like, thirty thousand years. Hm, and my pants are stained. (Hee! And, ew.) There’s some punk-rock bravado that reminds me, in a good way, of The Modern Lovers’ “Pablo Picasso was Never Called an Asshole”: Yes, I’m a radical rapscallion/ cruising around in my Spanish galleon… There’s a satisfying rap about Brodsky and Trotsky -- It’s me that stalks by the zoccolo… cause I got more rhymes than Joseph Brodsky/ I got more rhymes than Leon Trotsky -- that ends with the DJ getting drop-kicked in the head. And there are some truly powerful conversations between the DJ and the Lord God, who needs Spinoza to convince him that he exists. Kierkegaard shows up, lest you were worried he wouldn’t.
The Life and Opinions of DJ Spinoza is a loveable little book, with fitting illustrations by Eugene Timerman. I’ll ignore the fact that it’s part of the Ugly Duckling Presse’s Eastern European Poets series and, I’ll ignore the fact that this is unmistakably Russian poetry, and, when someone asks me which young(ish) American poets I like, I’ll recommend Eugene Ostashevsky. I’m sure DJ Spinoza could find a zany way to rationalize this. After all, There are so many axioms/ there is not a single proof. And, Is there a beginning that is not also an end? Twenty-three years of school and I don’t know whether ‘this is my foot’ is a true statement.
And if you visit Ugly Duckling's site, why not pick up a Transrationalist t-shirt for a friend?