In her article Judith Balso addresses the poetry of Ossip Mandelstam by investigating that which in his work seems to remain most obscure: his poems against and for Stalin. The article links Mandelstam’s “organized literature” with Wallace Stevens’ “poetry of the contemporaneous,” and, through a detailed reading of Mandelstam’s “Epigram against Stalin” and his “Ode to Stalin,” argues that these works present a poetic strategy to confront contemporary political disorientation. Balso maintains that they can do this by affirming the contemporaneity of an ever-possible chance encounter between words and things.
Although art always takes place in time, its manifestations – actual works of art – can be characterized by the specific and close connection they maintain between contemporaneity and timelessness. Their relation to time must be differentiated in a twofold manner: on the one hand, there is the relation to the time in which they are embedded, and, on the other, the relation to the time that they themselves create. In particular historical conditions a specific temporality of the artwork emerges. Both temporalities are superimposed on by one another, namely as a timelessness of artworks as such. The book assembles a variety of thinkers that confront one of the most crucial questions when dealing with the very definition, concept and operativity of art: How to link art to the concept of the contemporary?