Valery Oisteanu - king/queen/jack of all dada/east village “Absurdistan” – gallops on the hobbyhorse of our blasted times; and the poems here echo the blasts. Poems point to and mock the “Unending killing cycles,” while surreal images abound and become visual realities

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Valery Oisteanu, Anarchy for a Rainy DaySpuyten Duyvil Publishing, 2015.                            


To read Valery Oisteanu is to enter into yourself and emerge with a vocabulary you never knew existed. To read him is to regret the wasted life you lead before you read him. - Judith Malina

Valery Oisteanu, king/queen/jack of all dada/east village “Absurdistan” – gallops on the hobbyhorse of our blasted times; and the poems here echo the blasts.  Poems point to and mock the “Unending killing cycles,” while surreal images abound and become visual realities.  Dada is reincarnated in Oisteanu’s troubling vision where “Darkness evaporates into more darkness.” Despite the hi-jinks, the ebullient sexuality, dadaistic lust, there’s a deep abiding sadness here – over deaths (see especially “Mostly Unavailable”) and universal madness: poetry “from the forbidden dreams of the Asylum.” Mid-way into the book he cries – “Freedom is still a foreign word,” well, not here, not in the voice of Valery Oisteanu.  - Barry Wallenstein

Geologists have labeled our age the Anthropocene because man has become the most powerful force on earth even as he heads towards extinction, surrounded by clichés and useless artifacts. Valery Oisteanu knows this, and like a surreal Atlas astride the rubble, he rails against the Absurd, but it is a warning sheathed in love. Anarchy for a Rainy Day is a book of poems by a romantic. Read this book, and then keep it close; it is a life preserver. -  Ron Kolm

When I first heard the title to Valery Oisteanu’s new book, I began to sing. On a rainy day with a bit of anarchy in the wings almost anything can happen and, in these poems, often does. The readiness to embrace them is all. Valery Oisteanu is ready.
From his East Village perch in Manhattan, wandering close to home or traveling far and wide – Amsterdam, Bucharest, Paris, the Belgian Shore, Sardinia, Santorini, Venice, Rome, and more, each a place where he writes -- he reveals as only he can what makes living so poignant. Balanced by an incisive sense of mortality, his pleasures, despairs, rages, and humor enliven. Here, deft portraits, incandescent trysts, and solitary somersaults captivate. Here, in his solitude or with his friends, we learn not only “How to be a poem” but how such being in the full light of day can inspire beneficence and revolt. Love, of course, superb and erotic, predominates. And it is from and to love that Oisteanu writes some of his best poems.
In “Dancing with Nudes,” dedicated to the Belgian artist, Paul Delvaux, Oisteanu tells us: “A lonely skeleton strolls into rooms of seduction.” It is a place without “bad dreams, just abandonment in ecstasy” with “Lips touching, red nipples, breasts colliding”; a place of “dream paintings, breathing sexuality into the lifeless.” In another poem, “Khatmandu Prostitute,” Oisteanu chronicles a chance meeting with the same woman in a bus station after her work has finished. No longer dressed to entice, he recalls her as she was, whispering to him: “I love anal,” as she bites his lips in “my horizontal lingam temple”; a metaphorical lever that air lifts the poem but not before we discover that “Erotic carvings on the gates are laughing silently.” “The Jazz of Sex in Flight” paints a portrait of fleshy encounters where “Flashes of toxic psychedelic light/Radiate the bed with a blue glow all night” and “Bullet dreams of incomparable pleasure/…blaze behind the magician’s eyes.” A beautiful homage to his wife, Ruth, “A Miracle in Manhattan,” celebrates their “four-decade-long stream” where “All our desires flow like a dream/A dream within a dream within a dream.”  A second, equally beautiful poem to Ruth, “”The Wilderness of Her Lips,” tell us, almost as a leitmotif to the entire collection: “The astral goddess does her nightly dance.” 
These are heady way stations through the pages of this book, fonts of desire fulfilled that pull back the curtains to other scenes where different issues raise their tensions and laughter. What happens as age increases and “It,” meaning everything related to the body, “only gets worse” – a deep, sweetly serious bass line that configures the poem “Ripened Life Goes On”? Or how, in “A Zen-Dada Cyborg is Born,” Oisteanu emblazons an “absurdly sunny October day” with an unfortunate, nearly mythic fall and broken arm right “In front of St. Marks Church” – that theater devoted to avant-garde culture. In the poem, “Italian Faces and Places,” he studies the “impatient,” “grave,” “long,” “blasé,” “distorted,” “annoyed,” “confused,” “radiant Fellini-like” faces of those he meets or those that pass before him: “faces reminiscent of Dante’s Divine Comedy,” a charged reference within a moment of perception and appreciation. In a real or remembered St. Petersburg, Oisteanu encounters Lenin’s ghost, as he charts in brief the history of the city that carried the revolutionist’s name “for almost 70 years” before returning to its original with Putin, the new proto-czar, in charge, and “Pussy Riot,” our subversive female punk group, imprisoned with “forced labor” as a result. What has changed, in terms of politics and morality, between this new century and its brutal predecessor? Turning to Oisteanu’s immediate locale, the apartment where he lives, who can forget the wry humor of “The Golden Roaches,” unwanted inhabitants of his kitchen stove, their base transformed into “an existential tombstone”. Or his poem to the 9/11 terrorist attack, Manhattan itself become an exemplar of the surrealist game, cadavre exquis, but here envisioned as an “Exquisite Corpse Remembered and Dismembered,” with Billie Holiday’s rich rendition of “Autumn in New York” in concluding, somber counterpoint.
Filtered through the book, especially in the last section, which he dedicates to poets he knew well or fleetingly, but who touched him profoundly, he writes about Gellu Naum, founder of surrealism in their native Romania, and the illimitable Ira Cohen, Judith Malina, Tuli Kupfeberg, Ted Joans, Philip Lamantia, Eugenio Granell, Sarane Alexandrian, Peter Orlovsky, Barney Rossett, Taylor Mead, Harold Norse, and others and more. Oisteanu is one of them but happily with us in the here and now creating poems and his “violin collages”, as he calls them, ten of which appear in the book, in parallel with his many public readings, and his art and literary criticism.
Rooted in Dada and surrealism, which he revivifies, ever present, ever new, sensitive to the least alteration in the cosmic weather, Anarchy for a Rainy Day sings.
Go ahead: turn the dial on your inner ear to these poems and listen. Oisteanu is conducting an ensemble of visible invisibles from "manic panic street", "The sky roaring above Souda Bay" while "cats are flying freely over. secret gardens."
His gardens, but also mine. and yours. - Allan Graubard

Reading the new book of poetry by Valery Oisteanu, Anarchy for a Rainy Day, which is written in Surrealist style, the author himself an avowed member of this school, makes me think of an earlier, critically powerful critique of this literary and artistic movement.
In T.A.Z., Hakim Bey levels a ferocious attack, saying that for one thing — and I will get to his second complaint below — no matter how liberating Surrealism was in principle, the fact that its style lent itself so easily to appropriation by Madison Avenue and other capitalist-friendly users counts heavily against it. He writes, “Advertising, using Surrealism’s colonization of the unconscious to create desire, leads to the final implosion of Surrealism.” Bey argues that any purported avant garde must be judged not only by its productions but its ability to resist coopting.
It seems a bit harsh to blame inventive artists for what use is made of their innovations once they become known to a wider public. However, there is a further implication to Bey’s invective, one which has been heard and responded to in Anarchy. That idea is: while the first generation of Surrealists can be forgiven for not knowing the future, the current crop of Surrealists must acknowledge and confront how traduced and compromised their trademark style has been. To rephrase that, the only neo-Surrealists who deserve continuing respect are those who, like Oistenau, face up to and compose in full awareness of the dangers of dilution and compromise.
Oisteanu faces this problem by providing lyrical elegies for recently deceased male and female Surrealist masters in which he emphasizes that they stayed true to principles and, directly attributable to this, they were shunned or hunted out of existence by the mainstream, dying without recognition in the shadows. The concept is that no matter how much Surrealist styles have been denigrated by marketers, true uncompromising partisans of the movement have upheld its rebel heritage and suffered the consequences.
So, Oistenau hymns Harold Norse, saying he has been left out of
A virtual museum of the Beats
They who have forgotten you so soon
Omission accomplished.
He writes of Peter Orlovsky, left to die in a mental hospital,
Insanity follows him to Creedmore’s mental ward
But on that fragile morning, the last day of May
A sunflower blossomed and began bleeding petals
lone in death, alone and still, alone and naked
Folded arms, closed lips, heart full of unwritten poems.
And he tells a poet, barely known in the U.S.,
Sarane Alexandrian, never forgotten
Forever remembered, even in total silence.
Thus, part of the book is a Surrealist obituary column, memorializing these unknown greats and refusing to participate in the culture of “
Celebs-made USA, everywhere
each product different, flavors of the day … Fame and Name-Game casualties.
By doing so, the author calls on all second generation Surrealists to remain faithful to their remarkable but all-too frequently forgotton Surrealist forbears.
However, let’s return to Bey and his even more savage complaint against this artistic movement. “Surrealism was made for advertising, for commodification. Surrealism is in fact a betrayal of desire.” Why? Because “all projects for the ‘liberation of desire’ (Surrealism) which remain enmeshed in the matrix of work can only lead to the commodification of desire.” To rephrase that, Surrealism, for all its radicalism, did not defend alienated labor. This, Bey argues, can be seen not only in the focus of the movement’s creative attacks but in its affinity for ‘the Communist Party and its Work-ist ideology.”
Certainly, Bey’s assertions are open to challenge, but let’s set aside the question of the validity of his attacks on the earlier figures and take this as a second challenge to the new generation. The demand is that the newer Surrealists once and for all break their ties to contemporary work culture. Has Oisteanu been able to do this? Speaking frankly, I would have to say that in some ways Oisteanu falls short here. As was the case with Breton, Aragon and others, his unrelenting, fiery attacks on the state’s war-mongering, imperialism and environmental degradation are not matched by equally passionate attacks on the slavery of work.
Yet, if one reads with a less literal-minded search for denunciations of the world of labor, one can see in Oisteanu an important transmutation of Surrealist forms that has a bearing on this issue. One characteristic of early French Surrealist poetry (though not of all their novels) was a tendency to abstraction. It was a curious abstraction, of course, that of common nouns doing odd, discontinuous things like the characters in Magnetic Fields, who appear only to be joined to other abstractions: “A man standing in front of a perfume shop was listening to the rolling of a distant drum. The night that was gliding over his head came to rest on his shoulders.”
This type of writing is one reason for Bey’s criticism, his feeling that Surrealism is delinked from the life of ordinary people.
It can be argued that Oisteanu moves against this tendency, not by casting off abstraction, which is central to Surrealism’s self presentation, but by linking these abstractions to daily life. Perhaps, he owes some of this shift to being influenced by the O’Hara wing of the New York School. This means, for instance, he can discuss a mundane affair like stumbling on the street and ending in the hospital. Calling himself, modestly enough, Mr. Zen-dada, he narrates:
Mr. Zen-dada, Bacchus of the East Village
Ready to take off, to fly vertically
Tripped by Peter Stuyvesant’s ghost
Nearly surreally unconscious
Suddenly something snaps, shrinks rapidly
Left humerus on a sidewalk …
Falling like an old tree into a cloud.
Mr. Zen ends up in a hospital to say he has “a metal plate in my arms” and contemplates whether he can still “compose jazzoetry – jazz-inflected poetry.” He asks, plaintively, “Will I ever play the violin-collage as I did before?”
There are still abstractions, “Bacchus,” “a tree falling into a cloud,” and so on, but they are tied into prosaic events, giving them grittiness and reality. The same could be said of poems in which Oisteanu writes of his love for his wife,
Woman and man strung on life’s path
The sound of pleasure and pain
Your breath on my lips
tongue on my nipples
and of the horrors of visiting over-touristed Sicily,
The highway is winding to the east
the scooters, the cars, the trucks
Nearly invisible in the long tunnels
Love Sicily, hate the mass tourism.
In all these poems, Oisteanu braids together the strands of documentary observation with Surrealist ebullience, making Surrealist verse more quotidian.
It’s as if Bey threw down a gauntlet to second generation Surrealists, asking them, “Can you show me a Surrealist who has not sold out?” Oisteanu points a finger at Harold Norse, Sarane Alexandrian and others. Then Bey asks, “Can you show me a Surrealist poem that will speak to every woman and man, dropping the over-reliance on abstractions?” Oisteanu sets about writing them.
Anarchy for a Rainy Day shows that, while literature does not progress, in the sense of each generation producing better writing, it is moved forward by those who, while remaining in one literary current, can dialectically redirect the stream so that it no longer carries all the old silt.

- Jim Feast

Avant-gardist, art critic, hedonist, World traveler, Valery Oisteanu’s Anarchy for a Rainy Day is a poetic celebration of bohemian life. The reader joins the poet as he journeys through Europe, Nepal, South America, consorts with sex workers, activists, memorializes artists, and enjoys a long, loving and lustful marriage to his muse.
Some of these poems seduce with their sly wit and wordplay.
“So please advise before it’s too late/How can I gauge my mental state? Also imperative that I can self medicate/” from “Letter to My Shrink”. Addressed to Sigmund Freud, who Oisteanu beautifully played in an off Broadway play, the poem resounds with a charming and urbane urgency.
A long time proponent of surrealism, the poet is also an accomplished art critic, and his language is infused with rich and unexpected resonance. “Take it from this poet in Absurdistan, New York/who wants to exchange a poem for a vagina/” from “Smoke of Radical Aggression”.
Whether he is ranting about travels in Sicily, or reminiscing about a Katmandu sexworker, Oisteanu‘s quest for liberation unifies the dozens of knock out poems that comprise the handsome volume. His own collages add a poignant visual punch to accompanying text. This is the sagacious voice of a seasoned poet, one who mourns his lost friends while keeping an eye on the chaotic and ever changing New York City that is his home.
A true romantic sentimentalist, Oisteanu memorializes cultural icons like Louise Bourgeois, Allen Ginsberg, Judith Malina, Robert Creeley, Ted Joans, my own beloved friend Janine Pomy Vega, Barney Rossett, and other creative luminaries. His haunting lines, “A sunflower blossomed and began bleeding petals” from the “Forest of Blue Glass Peter Orlovsky” are perfect homages.
I especially loved the gorgeous love poems addressed to his wife. “I have shamelessly robbed the Garden of Eden/ Stolen a goddess for special sacrifice…” from “The Wilderness of Her Lips” to “A Miracle in Manhattan” ending with “A dream within a dream within a dream.”
This is a book to savor, to read randomly, to remind yourself of how magnified moments enrich and embroider our world. Valery Oisteanu’s voice is that of a true cosmopolitan, his unique sensuality seeping into essential words and images. - Ilka Scobie

Valery Oisteanu, Lighter Than Air: Vispo Collages, Spuyten Duyvil, 2017.

A fascination with hands and the female body, a kind of natural history of sultry affairs with high heels and Rococo sugars, an insolent funny erotic weightless "expose" of just what it is that we're missing: Akhenaton riding a carousel horse, facing skeleton face, gardens with bushes of blue tuna, a bird man sings, the pleasure of wearing red gloves is contagious, a poignant tribute to "The Lunatic," a popular Yiddish play from another era that premiered up the street. ..."Forbidden Windmills," "Asymmetrical Shoe Master," "Mystical SEances in the Circus..". Valery Oisteanu's world of collage is porous, generative, iterative, erotic... He said it best: Lighter than Air... - Allan Graubard

At the hand of the poet Valery Oisteanu we find a world of event and happenstance worthy of our attention.
A catalog of all that happens. Art (the hardest calling) is not for the faint of heart. Or for the heartless. But for the person alive lusting to be heard. Collage is the hymn of the modern era from Braque and company to Schwitters and Hannah Hoch to Dizzy Gillespie to Stockhausen to Fluxus to DJ Kool Herc. Valery Oisteanu in his book Moons of Venus says:
My heart
Shines like a haunted star
These works are that star
Haunted with the wreck of history
Not a mirror on the world but the poet's hammer with which to shape it
- Fletcher Coop

Valery Oisteanu's collages are alchemical mirrors in which oneiric elements are steeped in the most delirious eroticism imaginable. Breathless as lightning, these collages are raw, uncompromising, and subversive. They summon you into a trance state in which the unexpected always triumphs over the mundane. - Bill Wolak

Valery Oisteanu is a poet, writer, and artist of the avant-garde. Born in USSR (1943) and educated in Romania. He debuted as a poet with the collection Prosthesis in 1970 (Litera Press, Bucharest). A the age of 20, he adopted Dada and Surrealism as a philosophy of art and life and a few years later English as his primary language. Immigrating to New York City in 1972, he has been writing in English for the past 43 years. He is the author of 12 books of poetry, a book of short fiction, The King of Penguins (Linear Art Press, 2000), and a book of essays, The AVANT-GODS.
Over the last 10 years he wrote art criticism for Brooklyn Rail,, White Hot Magazine, and NY Arts. He is also a contributing writer for French, Spanish & Romanian art and literary magazines (La Page Blanche,, Viata Romaneasca, Observatorul Cultural,,, etc.)
As an artist he exhibits collages and assemblages on a regular basis at galleries in New York and also creates collages as covers and illustrations for books and magazines.  
He has performed in theater and in poetry-musical collaborations with jazz artists from all over the world in sessions known as Jazzoetry.
His work has appeared in international Surrealist publications of the last four decades, including Dream Helmet (1978), What Will Be (Brumes Blondes, 2014), A Phala (Sao Paola, Brazil), The Annual (Phasm Press, 2015). Member of Poets and Writers, Inc., New York (1977-2015) Founding member of PASS (Poets and Artists Surrealist Society) (1973-2015) “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” Award (2000) (Vault Literary Society award for exceptional cutting edge artists who consistently take risks with their art). Awarded CHIVOT Order of the Chevalier of the Tower, for the dissemination of Romanian Avant-Garde in Diaspora, 2010 Recipient of the Kathy Acker Award NYC 2013 for contribution to the avant-garde in Poetry Performance.