I met up with Marfa in a cafe in near Plaza Italia. She ordered a coffee and when the waitress asked “te gusta la leche?” we laughed for a solid thirty seconds. Leche, in case you didn’t know, is an Argentine slang term for semen (a substance referenced very frequently in Marfa’s work).
Marfa Nekrasova is the author of the book, Culozón roto: Poemas eróticos escritos por una rusa (erotic poems written by a Russian woman). She’s one of my favorite contemporary poets; she has an unrelenting willingness to bare in a very public way the most intimate details of her life in the name of creating authentic and honest art. She is also someone whose ceaseless activity within the local arts community I find to be incredibly admirable.
You might have seen Marfa at El Quetzál or Alma Zen Vintage, spaces that she regularly fills with poets, writers, musicians, actors, dancers, performance artists, drag and burlesque artists, fashion designers, comedians, photographers, painters, film-makers, art installations, workshops…the list goes on and on. Maybe you’ve caught her collaborating with the city government, or foreign embassies. Or perhaps you’ve heard of her erotica ciclo Eroticx, or the one that highlights foreign artists, Micrófono Extraterrestre. Maybe you went to the Twin Pijs festival, or maybe you’ve seen her on Instagram, naked but for a pair of emojis covering her nipples; maybe bound and gagged, posing with a bottle of vodka.
Marfa is the voice behind La poesía sobre el monotributo, half of the literary duo Los Vampiros del Mar Negro, a Russian language teacher, and the founder of the alternative wedding planning agency Blue Tiger Weddings. She’s the tireless organizer behind countless underground cultural events featuring artists from all over the world, in venues ranging from living rooms to convention centers.
On the day of our interview she was fully clothed, wearing a pair of sequined American-flag sneakers with an enormous purple bruise on her leg that she had no idea how she had obtained (“I suppose it could be from yoga, no?”).
So… te gusta la leche?
Have you had sex recently?
Yes, this morning.
How was it?
Good, as always. Ah, but this time, we were playing a game where I pretended to be mute, because, I was with my partner, and he told me not to talk. Because I have a sore throat, but also because he had always wanted to be with a mute girl…so, I didn’t speak at all. But then later he got bored – not in bed, but I mean, since last night I haven’t spoken a word, and he got tired of me – of me not talking, I mean. But, you are actually the first person to hear my voice since last night.
You recently published Culozón Roto. Is it the first book you’ve published?
Of poetry, yes.
You’ve published another book?
Yes, in Russia I published a book. I never showed it to you, did I? I can gift you a copy. It’s a sort of alternative guide book to Moscow, like, hidden places. Hide and seek with Moscow, it’s called. And after that, I published a book here, it’s like a tutorial for studying Russian. It has little comics that feature an Argentine character, Federico, who goes to Russia to study Russian, and he’s kind of a boludo, and well, it’s funny.
Tell me a bit about Culozón Roto.
The book has all the poems that I’ve written in Spanish so far, and one in Russian in the middle, number 69. I wanted to put…well, the editor told me to put the “trashiest” one, the most intense one, in Russian. The most pornographic one.
It was too intense to publish in Spanish?
I don’t know, I mean…well, nobody’s going to understand it, right? At one point, my mom told me that I should send her a copy of the book, because she wanted to show it to my grandparents. I imagined that scene, [laugh] and instead I sent them a poem without any bad words, almost not even erotica… but yes, all of them are in Spanish except for that one, and I believe there are 117 in all. I took a few out that I didn’t like so much, like ten or fifteen of them, and of course, my most recent poems aren’t in there. We published it in…October, I think?
What was the publication process like? Who did you work with?
The editor is named Pablo, he has a publishing company called Artexto. It’s pretty new, about three years old I think. He publishes authors like me, you know, from the under. Well, yeah, a very under type guy; he only sells the books at events. Anyway, he would mention to me every now and then, when we would see each other at events, that we ought to publish something of mine. But I always kind of thought it was just, you know, an Argentine chamuyo, like always. Because people always tell me “oh yeah, we should do this, it would be great” but then nothing ever happens. But then he started talking about it more seriously, and asked me to send him things and stuff like that, and yeah, we did it all really quickly, like in about two months I think. I mean it’s not like during those two months we were working on it the whole time, obviously, but I would send the poems to his partner and they would put them in the right format, and we would correct any errors, then we made the cover – well, my friend made the cover.
Who made the cover?
Javi. Javier Jacob, from El Quetzál. And the photo on the cover was taken by Gustavo Salamié. Ah, look at this, this is important [she shows me the cover], I don’t know if people get it – well, you’re a smart girl – what is this?
It’s a culozón!
Yes, it’s a culozón!
Roto! Yes, exactly. Like, a culo (butt) and a corazón (heart). And here [she indicates a part of the cover], here’s the arrow, pointing towards where? [she flips the book over to the back cover]
Towards the heart, right? See, everything is very conceptual on our cover [laugh].
Talk to me a bit about…main ideas, themes, metaphors, motifs, etcetera, in the book.
There’s a lot…I mean, a little of everything I think…pijas (penises)…[laugh] that’s what they always tell me about, the pijas. You know how when somebody collects something – I don’t know, elephants, for example? And people always give them elephant-related gifts, or send them videos of elephants on Facebook and things like that? Well, that happens to me but with pijas…but I don’t collect them! I mean, there was a time when I did have a folder on my phone, but it was my old phone, and I would put pijas in it. But not because I liked them; it was something to laugh about.
There’s a poem in the book that mentions that pija folder.
Yes, yes, there is that too. But, hmm…I think that people think…if I write about pijas, that I like all of them. And no, I don’t like pijas in general.
You don’t like pijas??
No, no, I hate pijas. And most of all unfamiliar pijas. Like, if I like the person, I like all of that person, including the pija.
Why do you write about pijas so much if you don’t like them?
Well, I write about beloved pijas, pijas that I love, which is totally different. I can also write, I don’t know, about the vagina, or the breast, or the tongue, but…pija, it’s like, that’s what everyone remembers. Or also, on that note, sometimes it’s like…I’ve never thought about this before but now I’m thinking that, sometimes, we do something…unconsciously, you know? Also, a lot of times due to fear, I don’t know. I try to convince myself. It could be that, too.
Convince yourself of what?
That pijas are nice. I don’t know, I mean…porn, for example, I don’t like porn with pijas, I don’t watch it. But, when I like a guy, I like his pija, obviously.
Okay, so…there’s pijas. Anything else you want to mention?
Hmm. I really like fairy tales, and I think that some of the poems, for me at least, are recalling characters from fairy tales – princes, princesses, frogs -and then, I also think that, I have this fear of…having a family. Like what Russian society would want from me. And I also talk a lot about babies…typically unborn ones [laugh]. The family thing, I think that must be related to fear. Or I don’t know, a hidden desire to actually have one. But I don’t think so. I think it’s similar to the fear I have, and that a lot of people of my generation have, of like, working 9-5 in an office. You know, all that shit that they always told you you were going to want, but you don’t. Sometimes I think maybe the fact that I don’t want those things means there’s something wrong with me. And well, the culozón roto thing, that’s because of the loss of…the character who doesn’t love me – or, I mean, who stopped loving me. Or maybe never loved me.
What do you hope, or what do you imagine that the reader feels when they’re reading your book?
Ah, yes, those are two different things; what I hope they feel and what they actually feel, because some people have told me, after reading, how it made them feel. Well, I don’t know, I want…I want them, after reading my book…to go and change the world [laugh], or make some art of their own. Like, I think the best thing that can happen is that you inspire someone else to do something – anything, or write, or make music, paint…yeah, that’s the ideal. And then after that, that painting or whatever is going to inspire another artist, and so on and so forth…and at some point, I suppose, that inspiration would come back around to me.
I like to imagine that people read the book quickly. Not that they would read, for example, one or two poems and then next month read another one or two poems.
Yeah. I agree, that it’s a book that should be read all the way through. I thought that was really special because poetry books don’t tend to have that quality. But this one really does; when I started reading it I couldn’t put it down and had to read it to the end.
Ah, yes? Yeah, well, because some people told me – I mean, I guess it depends on the person – but, some people told me they wanted to read one and then set the book aside and reflect on it.
Also, a few people. Well, including you, you told me that you were reading it with that boy, right? [laugh] Yeah, I really liked that. And another friend sent me a photo of him with his girlfriend, and they told me that they read some of it before having sex and then read some more after – “te leemos y cogemos, cogemos y te leemos.”
When/how did you come up with the name Culozón Roto? What other titles did you consider?
Yeah, I had two options: Si yo tuviera una pija (If I had a penis), like how one of the poems starts. Normally, when I read that one, someone always laughs. And the other one is about a love that was never realized. It’s very important. And in that one it talks about the culo and the corazón, rotos, and I put them together into one word. And also, I remember that I was writing at the UNA, where I’m studying writing, and I had to write a poem, I don’t remember exactly what the prompt was, but I wrote one where I used that word, culozón, and my professor didn’t like it. Normally she always liked my poems, and my word play, but this time she told me that, in this poem, because there’s not any other play on words like that, that it was weird. Honestly, she was right about that, but I put it in the poem anyway. It was in that same class that I met Diego, my partner, and after I read that poem about the culozón roto, he would always bring it up to me. And, I don’t know…it came out of the poem, and it had to go somewhere, so, it ended up being the title of the book.
Is there one that’s especially popular? You do a lot of readings at events, is there any one that you tend to get requests for?
The ones about pijas [laugh]. The one that starts with “si yo tuviera una pija,” or also the one with “quiero que una categoría en el porno se llama amor” (I want a category of porn called love).
Why did you choose to put all the titles of the poems in Russian?
That was a…commercial decision. Yeah, they are all numbers, but I wrote out the numbers with letters, Russian letters. Each title is a number. The only title that’s not in Russian letters is number 69, written with numbers, because that poem is in Russian.
So, I’ve always heard it said that foreign writers have a special vantage point for perceiving the culture of a place. In the sense that they observe things that people native to that place don’t notice because they’re so accustomed to them, and they see parts of the culture more objectively. And, for example, historians or anthropologists, when they are studying a place and time in history, tend to place more value on primary documents that were written by foreigners in that place. I think about this a lot when I read your poetry. Do you ever think about this? How do you see your role as a foreign writer in Argentina?
Hm, that’s an interesting question. I don’t know. Now I’m imagining like…a foreign scientist writing about Russian culture [laugh]. But yes, I think that we do have advantages. I don’t know if I would say that we can understand more, but, we can understand something…something different. Their mind [Argentinians], it works very differently. I don’t know, for example, to me it seems really weird, and really interesting the way they count, like in truco, where instead of just putting tally marks, or just…I mean, they could just write numbers, right? But instead they put, like, two lines here, one line here, three lines here… That just kills me. And that, like, that way of thinking…it just kills me. I can’t think that way.
There’s a lot of Argentine culture in this book.
Yes, yes. I try to put it in there. Or, it’s not so much that I try, but it just, it always comes out. And people always think it’s funny when I use Argentine slang. Yeah, for example, whenever I learn a new word or interesting expression, I like to, you know, stick it in there [laugh].
They also say, on the subject of being a foreign writer, that writers writing in a language that’s not their native language, tend to have more faculties, they have more tools…a way of using the language that’s unique and makes their writing stand out. What do you think?
Yes, that could be true. But also, often it’s the limitations that help you. For me, for example, in my country, we were always…no Russian person was ever free. Well, in general people aren’t free in modern society.
In what sense?
In Russia…like, in the Soviet Union, and today too, people depend so much on the society, and there are many things that they can’t do. So, in a certain way, I really like having limitations. It gives me, like you said, the ability to – in the university, for example, they give us a prompt, a theme, and this prompt, for me, makes it easier to write. When they tell me what to write about. When somebody inspires me to write a poem, that’s something different, but when someone tells me “write about this specific thing,” for me it’s a challenge, or if they tell me what NOT to talk about…or a specific word to use. And also, if you don’t know very many words, that also limits you, and can help you, up to a certain point.
Actually, there’s a type of literature that’s like that, written with language that’s more…naive, that kind of style. Hemingway, for example. It’s not that he was naive, right? But, it’s generally noted that he wrote in a quite simple way, and with shorter sentences, you know?
And now, because I write more like that in Spanish, I notice that I’m writing more in that kind of style in Russian, too.
How would you describe your relationship with Argentine Spanish?
[laugh] My relationship, hmm…[pause] I’m sucking its dick [laugh]. And its balls, too, sometimes I’m fondling them as well…sometimes.
You organize a lot of events that put a spotlight on foreigners. Why do you organize events that feature foreigners?
Because foreigners arrive on time [laugh]. It’s true. But no, in general, I just enjoy working with foreigners. With Argentinians too. But there aren’t so many events that feature foreigners – and I’m talking about, events that feature foreigners as artists – art events, not like, language exchange events, there’s tons of those, but… there just aren’t many, so it seems like a better option for me; to do something different, you know? Something that other people aren’t doing.
That’s why foreigners. That’s also why erotica, for that matter. Ah, now that I think of it, I should really do a foreign Eroticx. But also, with erotica, it seems that now everybody’s starting to do it. It’s sort of experiencing a boom, you know?
What is erotica? I mean, what does it mean to you?
Oh…erotica…hmm [long pause]. It’s something that…awakens a desire.
What kind of desire?
Sexual. Something that…hardens…the masculine organ [laugh], or…moistens…the feminine organ [laugh]. But, it can be anything. Sometimes, for one person the desire is awakened, but for another, no. Yes, I would say that if for the majority of people it’s arousing, it must be erotic, right? But, people also consider that, if you’re describing something…something naked, or something prohibited, that too is erotic. Well, not necessarily, because it could be porn. Because porn, well, it’s also erotic, I suppose, but…but porn has to be cruder, and uglier. At least the way I think of it. But I mean, in reality, everything can be erotic, no? It depends on how you look at it…in what state, in what context…
Being known as an “erotic poet,” and having that be something very associated with your identity as a writer do you ever write things that don’t have any erotica in them and then think “hm, well, I better stick something erotic in there…”?
[laugh] No, actually, it happens to me the other way around. Like, I try to write a normal poem, like “Okay, now I’m going to write something that I can show to my mom without her saying ‘another one about dicks, really?!’” I’m writing, I’m writing, and everything’s really nice and then suddenly, at the end, or somewhere in the middle – bam! A dick! Or, not necessarily a dick, but something erotic just appears, of its own accord. And well, once it’s in there, I don’t want to pull it out [laugh].
Ah, and you asked me why erotica. Well, I suppose on that note I ought to tell you how I started writing erotica. In the beginning, I would always write about my romantic experiences. Once, I wrote a story, in Russian, and it was published on this Russian blog. What I was writing then was more or less similar to what I’m writing now, but they were stories, without rhyme, without the form of a poem.
Like what you sometimes publish in your Facebook statuses.
Yeah, like that. And afterwards, my Russian friends – I had like, three Russian friends who were reading my work, who live here, and they started to tell me their stories, so that I would write them, and…and it was weird for me, because I would tell them that really they would be much better if they wrote them, because it’s weird for me to be writing about their experiences, right? And they would tell me that they had tried and just, nothing came out, you know? Like, they couldn’t do it, or they didn’t know how. And one of them showed me one that she had written – she was missing something, she just didn’t have what it takes to write about those things in particular. But, I personally always found it really easy to write about those things. And that was when I sort of realized, “ah, maybe I have a knack for this,” I don’t know.
And I understood then that, well, if all authors have to choose, let’s say, a theme, or a style or whatever, well…that must be mine. And anyway, it’s what I most like writing about.
And some time passed, and I went traveling around Latin America for like three months, and I met a boy…well [laugh] I met a few boys, actually…and some girls…[laugh] I don’t know, but, the last boy, he wrote me a poem. After I got back, he wrote me a poem, and I wanted to reply with a poem too, so, I wrote a poem…and it was terrible, but it was my first poem in Spanish. And I didn’t have any paper to write on, so I wrote on the monotributo thingy. And I took a photo of it.
And that’s how La poesia sobre el monotributo was born.
Yeah, and then I started writing other poems in Spanish. But that first one, later I got rid of it because I thought it was really bad.
I got rid of it because I thought it was really bad. If you’re an artist, I’m sure you can relate to that statement – you’ve probably said some version of it a million times before. It’s not an easy or comfortable task, sharing your art with the world.
Publicly baring one’s soul has long been the core challenge of many art forms, and especially poetry. But when your art, in addition to being intensely intimate on an emotional, personal, and cognitive level, also overtly treats themes of sex, sexuality, and nudity, there is an added layer of fear, taboo, and prejudice (not to mention sexism), that the artist must overcome. And when, in addition to being that-type-of-artist, you also fulfill other roles which lend themselves to completely different expectations of “professionalism” and an implied incompatibility with the public sharing of personal matters, it adds a whole other dimension to your endeavor.
But Marfa somehow manages to balance all this while carrying herself with a seemingly unwavering air of professionalism, sophistication, and confidence, fearlessly navigating a hand-crafted and dialectic collage of a career with a “bring your whole self to work” attitude, intersecting a taboo art form with more traditional forms of conducting business within the arts and entertainment world.
You can follow Marfa, read her poetry, and stay updated about her events on the Facebook page La Poesía Sobre el Monotributo or on her personal Instagram account @marfi.nekrasoni. You can follow Los vampiros del mar negro and Twin Pijs on Instagram @losvampirosdelmarnegro and @twin_pijs. To contact her about Russian classes visit the Facebook page Clases de Ruso en Buenos Aires. To consult about planning an alternative wedding, message her on the Instagram account @blue_tiger_weddings. You can purchase Culozón Roto directly from Marfa at one of her events, through the publishing company Artexto, or at Alma Zen Vintage in Abasto.