To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Thursday, July 3, 2008

That Dada Strain Continued: Three from Tristan Tzara


red gown red glowworms
jelly frostfrost thickened
doctor to the trade
gone sour
boy oh boy
-- the empress cried –
the young girl
fell down dead
-- said –
that’s my boy!


. . . . . . .
o the colors of the sea divided in three slices
the king of islands will be hunted down by force
darkness of iron change to wine & salt
Awakened, secret study of the night
my sex in hand implanted in midst of branches
onto their cloaks somebody poured out whirlpools
spirals white & red prop up the voices
& the ships like god advancing in the flesh
a long time
candle wings divide the pipes of solicitude the brass drums & the belfries
the inconstant wind
the sun’s veins bandaged up with parchments & the slaves are howling
to die, to see its dead fruit
when the snakes come they will make an arch for the pavilion
of your heart
shall we listen to the pain the sounds of queens in books
-- a patriotic lesson –
shall we leave behind the sounds
the sounds you should be taught a lesson

to surround
the fulgent brightness
the electric shock
will turn up bright adornment
when they see the great cock in its coffin
the cardinal of france will turn up
the chosen chased his people grown infirm
fire seen in sky the nation wasted scary outcry
Powerless of fire burnt basilica
O lovely liquor both past dying
two eclipses set for such a chase
to climb the wave
hunger fire blood
flora sprung from death will be the cause
because of three salt lilies
by whose double fruit like naked flesh / like salt /
the font to break in thirds resistance
flight high cloth grey life

A Clairvoyant Poem

orang & gibbon
lion & cat
puma & cat
rat & mouse
barebreasted monster angelical glacier scrubbed clean
by brandenburg moustache by scissory legs
invades your apartment
gooseberry syrup strawfed down gullet
what do you think we’ll be finding this morning?
young boy just 16 years old
lights his blood’s final match fading out stripped of cover

for the man
for the anthropoid ape
for the felines
for the rat & the mouse
for the parrots
for the magpie the crow
for the ravenous daytrippers
for the wild duck
for the peacock the pheasant
it all comes out the same

NOTE ON TZARA & DADA. Like other such "movements" before and after, Dada was largely the work of poets or of those who saw in poetry a liberating gesture setting it apart from that of Art. Of the poets in the Zürich group … Tristan Tzara (b. Sammi Rosenstock in Rumania) was -- at nineteen -- the movement's principal publicist & its link to the Dada poets of Paris (Breton, Soupault, Péret, Picabia, et al.), some of whom would be, in turn, the founding fathers of Surrealism. …

Asserting a postmodernism at the heart of a still vibrant modernism, he wrote: “You are mistaken if you take Dada for a modern school, or as a reaction against the schools of today. ... Dada is not at all modern. It is more in the nature of an almost Buddhist religion of indifference. ... The true Dadas are against Dada.”

Which was Tzara's way of proclaiming Dada's postmodernity -- not as chronology but as an irritation (a disgust) with solutions altogether ("no more solutions! no more words!") & with prescriptions (old or new) for making art. It is important to remember: that at the heart of Dada was a pullback from the absolute: from closed solutions based on single means: not a question of technique, then, but of a way of being, a state-of-mind (of "spirit"), "a stance" (: Charles Olson, decades later) "toward reality." For which the only technique was the suppression of technique, the only sense of form was to deny form as a value. And for all of that, Dada drew from means that were common to its time & to its predecesors in Futurism & Expressionism: a series of projects it would work on until its own (predicted) self-destruction as a movement. Collage. Performance. New Typographies. Chance operations. And a high devouring humor.

[From Poems for the Millennium, volume one, edited with commentaries by myself & Pierre Joris, & reprinted in forthcoming Poetics & Polemics, University of Alabama Press Modern and Contemporary Poetics series. The “dada strain” reference is not only to my book of that title (New Directions, 1983) but to a Dada anthology that I announced for publication in the early 1960s but that was not to be. The translations presented here in slightly revised versions were similarly unpublished.]


brian (baj) salchert said...

Mr. Rothenberg,

This is my first time here.
Scrolled through your site, slowing
to read all or parts of several posts
such as this one, the Goethe and Shelley,
the Andean crossing, and the Keith Wilson posts.

Not sure how or why I came by it,
but I have a copy of his homestead
in which he penned a note to me
and placed a circle with 2 crossed
diameter lines and a tiny circle
in each quadrant beneath his

This site is a welcome treasure.

God allowing, I will return.

Leo Zelada said...

Dada no era un buen poeta, ni tampoco los surrealistas franceses. Del surrealismo solo habian dos grandes poetas, uno era peruano Cesar Moro y el otro de Martinica Aime Cesaire.

Saludos desde Madrid.

Anonymous said...

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~Julian West said...

Jerome --

"Poems for the Millennium, Volume 1" was a treasured resource for me in my late teens (almost 20 years ago now). That anthology forged a bright pathway thro all the literature my small-town library didn't have!

One poem in particular was yr translation of a portion of Tzara's "Approximate Man," lines of which have haunted me ever since. Did you ever translate the entirety of that piece? If so, has that yet been published?

Much thanks for many years of reading, writing, and learning,
~Julian West