The Constantinople poem from Tango with Cows. Text printed letterpress, wallpaper screenprinted.

Tango with Cows, published in Moscow in 1914, is a key document of Russian futurism, modernist typography, visual poetry, and artist’s books. Printed on the back of brightly colored wallpaper, the book combines poetry by Vasily Kamensky with three drawings by Vladimir and David Burliuk. All of the poems are early examples of experimental typography and visual poetry and are set in wide and riotous variety of typefaces. The book is particularly known for Kamensky’s six ‘ferro-concrete poems,’ which entirely dispense with the linear order of text and instead allow the reader to encounter the page spatially and associatively.

The first ever translation, by Eugene Ostashevsky and Daniel Mellis, is in progress. Not only will the playfulness of Kamensky’s language be preserved, but also the visual and material qualities of the original. The wallpaper will be remade with silkscreen printing and the typography will be nearly identical to the original. Exact Roman equivalents of the cyrillic typefaces have been identified and digital versions created. The translation will be letterpress printed to more closely match the texture of the letterforms and bound just like the original: side-stapled with glued-on covers. The result will be a volume that gives its readers a linguistic, visual, and haptic experience as close as possible to the 1914 publication. A facsimile and commentary volume will also accompany the translation.

For more information or to receive project updates, send an email to:

mail [at] tangowithcows.com

This project has been generously supported by grants from the PEN/Heim Translation Fund, the College Book Art Association, the Community Arts Assistance Program of the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the Interdisciplinary Arts Department of Columbia College Chicago.