The Surreal Thing: Surrealist & Dada Poetry  

(Sur)reality TV:   

Andre Breton, 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 less visionary kids missed him much when he was gone. As he grew older, he collected a cadre of followers, many just as goofily iconoclastic as himself, but because age did not diminish his doctrinaire ways one iota, he spent a good deal of his time banishing them from the group for real or imagined failures of orthodoxy.   

Dadaism: They Threw Better Parties Too

Dada actually preceded Surrealism, but where Surrealism was programmatic, Dada was anarchic--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 Elliptical Poets--Susan Wheeler, C. D. Wright, et al--with their constitutional aversion to, and frustration of, linear/narrative expectations, are distant heirs. Even the early oughts’ reviled Flarf Movement got its aggressively nonsensical bent and love of provocation straight from Dada.   

Here are some books about Surrealism and Dada as well as poetry by both movements’ precursors, adherents and descendants 

The Surreal Thing: Surrealist Poetry

List created by DavidC_HCPL

Poetry from the Surrealist and Dada movements of the early 20th century whose influence is still felt everywhere from high fashion to Rick & Morty. You will also find some contemporary poets, like Ocean Vuong, C.D. Wright & John Ashbery who continue to push forward in Surrealism's non-traditional tradition.

View Full List