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Metranil dreams of becoming a neon.

I solved an Esoteric Mystery today, so please allow me to tell you about that.

There's a Julian Cope song called "Metranil Vavin." It is a great song. In his book Head-On, Mr. Cope says that the song (which was first recorded by The Teardrop Explodes and appears on their posthumous record Everybody Wants To Shag The Teardrop Explodes) was inspired by his love for Russian dwarf poet Metranil Vavin. The only problem with this is that no one has ever been able to find any poems by Metranil Vavin. And it wouldn't be the first time Julian Cope sort of, um, said something a bit odd.

Anyway, before I go any further, here's the song...

†  Julian Cope — World Shut Your MouthMetranil Vavin  †

And while we're talking about Julian Cope, here's my favorite...

†  Julian Cope — FriedSunspots  †

So back to Metranil, I knew that bird was really on a mission to find out the truth regarding him, so I did a bit of research yesterday evening. Googling was no help whatsoever, of course, so I turned to the subscription biographical and author databases. Nothing on Metranil, but I did find a reference to a "Metro Vavin" (ungoogleable because the Paris subway station takes over). So this morning I followed up on that at the library and discovered the truth!

Metranil Vavin is not the invention of Julian Cope. He is the invention of American poet Clayton Eshleman, who in 1975 published a book called The Gull Wall, which contained "The 9 Poems of Metro Vavin." In a page-long intro to these nine poems, Eshleman claims that a hastily-written note from a friend led to his confusing the name of a Paris Metro stop — Metro Vavin — with a person he was supposed to look up. In so doing, he stumbled across a 64-year-old Russian dwarf named Metranil Vavin, who had only been called "Metro" as a small child, by his parents. Upon meeting, though, Eshleman tells the dwarf that he is a poet, and Vavin then reveals these nine poems — the only poems he has ever written! — which he has translated from their original Russian into crude French. Eshleman then claims that he has translated these naive works into English.

Looking at books about Clayton Eshleman was no help in ascertaining that this was a hoax, until I consulted an annotated bibliography, which noted:
Notes: "The 9 Poems of Metro Vavin" were written by Clayton Eshleman.
The persona of Metro Vavin was conceived by Eshleman, (see appendix A).

I was so excited to be able to figure this out! I really love solving mysteries, so this is right up there with learning the true botanical identity of the "grass olieribos" (childhood obsession) in the Necronomicon straight from the lips of "Simon" himself.

So to tie this all up, here's a pdf of the Metro Vavin poems, along with the Eshleman introduction and the annotated bibliographical description, plus appendix. The question now is whether or not Julian Cope knew about the hoax.

† † † † † † † † †

My own notes.

I may not be the first person to connect Mr. Cope's Metranil with Mr. Eshleman's, but there's certainly nothing online about it, so I'm going to leave this a public post; maybe it'll show up in Google. Who knows. If anyone reading this is really, truly obsessed, here's where I'd go next:

  • "Clayton Eshleman's Metro Vavin scam." Second Aeon, Issue 19-21 [a single volume, and the final one] (1975). (Second Aeon was a contemporary poetry journal published in Wales.)

  • Clayton Eshleman Papers (MSS 0021). Mandeville Special Collections Library, Geisel Library, University of California, San Diego. Box 39, Folder 6 — Writings : Original Poetry : Gull Wall : Individual Poems : "The 9 Poems of Metro Vavin."

  • UCSD also has a copy of Grotesca, the mimeographed, limited-edition work of Eshleman's from 1977 that features another Metro Vavin poem, "The Red Snow."

These books were consulted:

  • Christensen, Paul. Minding the Underworld: Clayton Eshleman & Late Postmodernism. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1991.

  • Sattler, Martha J. Clayton Eshleman: A Descriptive Bibliography. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., c1988.

Thank you and good night.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 27th, 2006 05:28 pm (UTC)
This comment alone made it all worthwhile.
Jan. 27th, 2006 06:05 am (UTC)
seriously, i have to agree with Miss T above, this does my head in! you are brilliant. people that know their shit are the coolest.

i have to thank you again for this, you are magickal. like Stevie Nicks.

p.s. also: thank you for the JC version of the song, as i tend to shy away from his solo stuff. besides what i mentioned the other day, and Fried, but only for the cover.
Jan. 27th, 2006 05:29 pm (UTC)
Like I said, I love a good mystery.

If we can just uncover Stevie's spells/potions/pact for eternal youth, we'll be set.
Jan. 27th, 2006 05:49 pm (UTC)
and her awesome lacy dresses!
Jan. 27th, 2006 05:58 pm (UTC)
undoing the laces.
I haven't really wanted to uncover her lacy dresses since 1982 or so. I mean, she still looks good, don't get me wrong, but I've moved on.
Jan. 27th, 2006 06:14 pm (UTC)
Re: undoing the laces.
well, i want her lacy dresses.
Jan. 27th, 2006 06:21 pm (UTC)
Re: undoing the laces.
You should make some Stevie dresses!

Oh shit. Look, I know you get un peu irritated by this video, but I think it's the funniest thing ever made.

I hope you did not miss the blatant sexual innuendo in my last comment. I would hate to think I was becoming subtle in my old age.
Jan. 27th, 2006 06:54 pm (UTC)
Re: undoing the laces.
... i thought that i was just being dirty! wow... i dont have a dirty mind!

this is a bit disappointing! (also, i am really thick, in the hip-hop sense, and in the sense that i am stupid. so i miss everything.)

and i cant believe you found that, i have been wanting to see it forever! everyone has told me about it, but i never have been able to catch it. you really are the master.

now i have to wait until i get home for speakers. stupid work.
Jan. 27th, 2006 07:27 am (UTC)
wow! go you!
Jan. 27th, 2006 05:30 pm (UTC)
I do get caught up in things.
Jan. 27th, 2006 02:21 pm (UTC)
Standing ovation!!
Jan. 27th, 2006 05:30 pm (UTC)
Haha! Thank you!
Jan. 28th, 2006 02:06 am (UTC)
Wow, excellent detective work! I've got over 50 Julian Cope CDs and I didn't know that. Like you, I just assumed he made it up a la J. Wentworth Crazy, Kevin Stapleton, or Whopper.
Jan. 28th, 2006 02:21 am (UTC)
I was pretty darned pleased to find a "real" Metranil, let me tell you!
Jan. 28th, 2006 04:30 am (UTC)
that was me, by the way.
Jan. 28th, 2006 06:01 am (UTC)
Oh good! I was hoping you'd catch this post.

So what do you think? Was Julian "playing along," or credulous?
Feb. 2nd, 2006 09:54 am (UTC)
knead the CON text to get a rise outta me?
yo in that sense what is the dif between credulous and incredulous for this sitch?
Mar. 17th, 2006 11:41 am (UTC)
that's the end of THAT chapter
nice work! I had wondered about this for years and often looked along shelves of libraries or old bookshops for Vavin
Sep. 27th, 2008 01:00 am (UTC)
Wow I've been looking for the answer to that one for a while - not as effectively as you. I live very close to Métro Vavin, and wondered if that was a link... thanks for the research!!
Having read Brighton Rock and pierced the Kolly Kibber mystery, I can now die a happy woman.
Sep. 27th, 2008 03:11 am (UTC)
Thanks for saying so!
It makes me smile when people stumble across this.

(Also, I just read a good book about Paris and am longing for a return visit.)
(no subject) - zischkeuhe - Jul. 21st, 2011 11:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


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