I met two tiny twins

and though they were identical

only one

looked at me




windows  windows

and wishing

to live in each of them





I watch silent movies

in the windows of the neighboring house




the weather was

            so pleasant

the sun shinning


I just had to

go out

and stand in line




through my teeth

I thank you




not at all

a particularly

important person

my intent is to remain

so for the foreseeable future


я встретил двух маленьких близнецов
и хотя они были совершенно одинаковы
посмотрел на меня
только один


* * *

окна окна
и в каждом
хочется пожить



* * *

смотрю немые фильмы
в окнах противоположного дома



* * *

вот погода была
солнышко светило

надо было
и постоять в очереди



* * *

сквозь зубы



* * *

погружаясь в воспоминания
я вижу
как много было необыкновенного
далеко превосходящего
скромные масштабы
моей личности

Translator's Note

Minimalism has never been a “movement” or “school” per se, neither in art nor literature, so that it is more accurate to speak of typologies, “minimalisms”. One seminal Russian poet in this mode, a central influence on the development of Russian Conceptualism, Vsevolod Nekrasov, argued that a more precise label would be Contextualism. Of Ivan Akhmetyev’s body of work, it may be said that the same two dimensions are foremost, the linguistic and the social: i.e., context. The phonic and visual textures, the semes of a particular tongue, create their own allusions, so that the “concrete,” formal aspects of a minimalist work are foregrounded: it is experienced, by the eye and ear, more instantaneously and thus simultaneously, so that its “shape,” both as image and as sound, is as though “chiseled” from the body of a language, and so the main objective of the translator is to find similar possibilities in the target language. Lastly: the subtext, of course, is key, as for any work of art but more so for a piece of Minimalism – apprehending the cultural and social reality of the specifically Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet context (over and above Modernity/post-Modernity generally,) the “background” (to extend the art metaphor). In this realm, along with the many negativist claims for Minimalism – a securely entrenched mistrust of language, narrative, authority, ego – Akhmetyev, like no other poet since Nekrasov I think, in his own, spare, congenial way, has given us much more attractive, positivist, embodied, spiritual claims.

In his own words: 

“how pleasant/to place a hand/on the table”

Or, to close with, the intimacy of the following double-entendre:

“I stand out/from most other writers/in that I'm personally acquainted/with all my readers”.

Alex Cigale


In the Classroom