Selected Critical Work


"Everything Has Become Masculine" —
Hypermasculinity and War in Victory over the Sun.

Presentation by Larissa Shmailo at AWP for the “From Pushkin to PussyRiot” Panel, with Alex Cigale, Phil Metres, and Matvei Yankelevich 4/11/15

To test the bounds of metaphor and language, nothing in this avant-garde play was supposed to make any sense. However, the creators of VOTS – composer Mikhail Matiushin, painter, avant pioneer Kazimir Malevich, and poet Kruchenych – were Futurists with a definite artistic agenda. It is unlikely that the authors of a slew of manifestos and position statements such as “The Slap in the Face of the Public Taste” and “The Word as Such” would not use the bully pulpit of a sold-out show to opine, at least a bit.



The Constancy of Dirt and Joy:
Daniil Kharms and the Miraculous Imagination

by Larissa Shmailo, published in Jacket2, #36

" see Kharms’ writing exclusively through the prism of reaction to the Stalinist age is like reading Gogol as an antiCzarist protesting government bureaucracies. To ignore the omnipresent influence of the drab and violent Stalinist byt, with its privations and thuggery, is impossible in reading Kharms, but the author, evoking variously Gogol, Ionesco, and Khlebnikov, is as difficult to pin down as his transmogrifying characters."



On Rambling

by Larissa Shmailo, published in Jacket2, #34

"Rambling, letting go with words, is a mode where language reigns but authenticity trumps all. In Letters from Aldenderry, there is one authentic voice that speaks through the myriad of form, even if it hides in Southern and 'proletarian' and original Russian accents and behind characters and masks. There is the letter writer, demurring and affirming his epistles ('I am no epistolary apprentice') but signing each poem. There is one voice heard, reflecting on life and its meaning in true hedgehog form."




Philip Nikolayev’s Embedded Sonnets:
The Combinatorics of Context

by Larissa Shmailo, published in The Battersea Review

"The sonnet as written by Petrarch or Shakespeare is a contained system, in direct dialogue with its reader. Students may study its context, history, or allusions, but they return to encounter each sonnet singly, on its fourteen metered lines. As reconfigured by Philip Nikolayev, the sonnet, in addition to an identity and intent, has a built-in response, companion, or autre. Nikolayev’s sonnets are embedded into other poems; the two closely share line space and page, set apart only by bolding and italicization. This sonnet form thus brings with it, as a lover does, its own baggage."


Experimental Poetics in the 21st Century — A Foray

by Larissa Shmailo, published in Drunken Boat 21

"Today, Poetry magazine has opened its doors to poets who may not have found a home there previously, publishing the likes of Charles Bernstein, Forrest Gander, and Rae Armantrout. But is experimental poetry a luxury enterprise, to be coopted by the mainstream? Or is it to be supplanted by the spoken word heritors to the folk and protest song? Or is it the very heart of an art which can provide a new thinking we can bring to our problems and perceptions?"


Elaine Equi
A Spider’s Mirror: Click and Clone

by Larissa Shmailo, published in The Brooklyn Rail, Nov. 5th, 2013

"Elaine Equi, an 'expansive minimalist,' is a poet who brings culture to pop culture, mixing Stendhal with sitcoms and Nietzsche with The Magnficent Seven. She is a writer of poetic koans, rarely letting one of her spare verses go by without the pop of an insight. Equi’s readers are invited to undergo a shift of consciousness, or, just as likely, given a practical tip for living; what is uniquely Equi is that these can occur within one and the same line. Down-to-earth and surreal simultaneously, Equi has an Andre-Breton-meets-Erma-Bombeck sensibility that can only be described as zen."