That Dada Strain Continued: Three from Tristan Tzara

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 11:20 PM


HIGH CLASS CRIME

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


SKETCH, AFTER NOSTRADAMUS

. . . . . . .
o the colors of the sea divided in three slices
Thirst
the king of islands will be hunted down by force
darkness of iron change to wine & salt
Awakened, secret study of the night
Flame
brass
solitude
my sex in hand implanted in midst of branches
voice
divine
foot
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
combat
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
empty
to die, to see its dead fruit
when the snakes come they will make an arch for the pavilion
of your heart
militia
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


CRIME IN BROAD DAYLIGHT
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.]

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