The Surreal Thing

Photo Credit: The Treachery of Images by Rene Magriite / Photo by Jason ford (Sur)reality TV: Andre Breton, self-appointed (or self-anointed) Grand Poobah of the Surrealist Movement and author of its manifesto, was the kind of kid who would take his ball and go home whenever the other children balked at his dictatorial ways,

but because his ball was made of red courant jelly and was shaped like a lobster, none of the more literal-minded kids missed him, or his ball, very much when he was gone. As he grew older, he collected a cadre of followers, many just as goofily visionary as himself, but because age did not diminish his doctrinaire ways, he spent a good deal of his time banishing them from the group for failures of orthodoxy.

And They Threw Better Parties Too: Dada actually preceded Surrealism, but where Surrealism was programmatic, Dada was anarchic--Cover Art:  Dada : Zurich, Berlin, Hannover, Cologne, New York, Paris / Leah Dickerman blossoming as it did from that hotbed of all things silly and tumultuous, Zurich, Switzerland. Where the Surrealists spun intricate intellectual justifications for their odd doings, the Dadaists spun like Dervishes, spontaneously, joyously, out of control.

Who's Your Dada? Both Dada and Surrealism are remembered today more for their visual art than for their contributions to literature, but their influence on poetry is wide and deep. Any use of collage in poetry, including William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin's cut-ups, owes a debt to the two movements, The so-called Eliptical Poets--Susan Wheeler, C. D. Wright, et al--with their constitutional aversion to, and frustration of, linear/narrative expectations, are distant heirs. Even the current, celebrated and reviled, Flarf Movement gets its aggressively nonsensical bent and love of provocation straight from Dada.

Some Surrealists, Dadaists, a few of their precursors and descendants (of varying degrees of consanguinity):
Guillaume Apollinaire / Louis AragonHugo BallChristian BokAndre BretonJorge Luis Borges / Robert Bly / Robert Duncan / Paul Eluard / Allen Ginsberg / Ted Hughes / Alfred JarryStephane Mallarme / Jerome Rothenberg / Dylan Thomas / Tristan TzaraCesar Vallejo /
  
Odds and Ends from Harris County Public Library's collection
I Am A Beautiful Monster: Poetry, Prose, and Provocation / Francis Picabia
The Surrealists: Revolutionaries in Art & Writing / Jemima Montagu
If you have not been to the Menil Collection, stop reading and go--NOW. You'll find some of the most iconic works of Surrealism in the flesh (among many other worthwhile and groovy objects).
The Menil Collection : a Selection from the Paleolithic to the Modern Era %2/

External links:
Avant-Garde All the Time
[podcasts]
UbuWeb [website with hundreds of audio files]

If you have any comments, suggestions for future posts, and/or Flarf you can spare, please send them along.

Photo Credit: La trahison des images [The Treachery of Images] by Rene Magritte / Photo by Jason Ford

 

Comments

Absolutely LOVE your post! 

this is not a pipe bookjacketAbsolutely LOVE your post!  And I agree that everyone who is anyone needs to get over to the Menil Collection and check it out - it's here, it's free, it's fabulous.

For more philosophical ramblings on Surrealism (and Rene Magritte in particular...several of his pieces are @ the Menil), check out Michel Foucault's This is Not a Pipe :o)

"You think your pains and heartbreaks are unprecendented in the history of the world, but then you read." - James Baldwin

Mer, I'm glad you liked the

Mer, I'm glad you liked the post and am really grateful for the link. I didn't know about Foucault's book and will read it as soon as I can get my hands on it. -dc

ps: The Menil is the first

ps: The Menil is the first place I take out of towners. The Body in Fragments show (there through February 8) is worth the trip by itself. It was sort of a happy accident for me. I wandered in and it jangled my nerves in good way. It helped me see a project I'm working on from a different angle.

Flarf! I used to get the best

Flarf! I used to get the best spam back in the early ‘00s, and I used it to create found Spaphorisms (Spam Aphorisms) “Neither of my heroes was afraid of laundry bills”; Spoetry (Spam Poetry) “The lights are beginning / to makeyellow slits across the square. / This offends you; I feel / your distress / acutely. The case is handsome; / but it blocks up thehall. That I see and Neville / does not see; that I feel and Neville / does not feel. // When there are buildings like these, / said Neville, I cannotendure / that there should be shop-girls.”; and Spiary Entries (Spam Diary Entries) “Dear Spiary, -- Damn the agonizing succession of days we call Life! I've been sitting and waiting, as it were, for three years now. It might explain the subtle implications in the name of the cafe. (All that means is, four dozen boxes of sandalwood soap.) -- Anyhow, I couldn't tell anything from it, and I was awfully mad all over again. I believe this is still my case, so to speak. The mind's only value is attained when it teaches us that it is useless. -- Pellinzi died last Saturday afternoon, shortly after he would have had time to reach New York.” -- I don’t think the spam I used was quite as provocative as the Flarfs (Flarfi?) would like, but, meh. Oh, can I also toss Pierre Reverdy into your list? Surrealist *and* Cubist poet -- fun combo-poet! And thank you for the fantastic external links and another great post!

Thanks for the spaphorisms,

Thanks for the spaphorisms, and spiary entries. Very interesting stuff. On a similar note, I just heard a podcast about erasure poems--taking an existing text and blacking or whiting out words. One poet used Conrad's Heart of Darkness. She took out all references to humans and came up with a strange sort of pastoral. It's an interesting concept, having the original text unseen, but haunting the poem.

Unfortunately, I could find nothing on Pierre Reverdy in the HCPL catalog.

Thanks again for the comments.