That Dada Strain, continued: Two Poems after Theo van Doesburg

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 4:12 AM
Translation from the Dutch by Jerome Rothenberg

STILL LIFE: THE TABLE

Chaos
All muddled up
A glass of tea
Some cups
Some pots
And get a fresh look
at what’s lying there –
This is the shadow
of the shadow of
a candlestick!
A piece of paper
& a can in blue
green
brown
black
white &
copper
An ash tray with
a pipe stem
& a very heavy book
in blue & yellow
with something that looks brown
inside a black can

And the candle there!
The light! The light!

And a mist around them
& their glow
Some spoons
Something that’s gleaming
on the gold rim of the
cups
And there’s another piece of paper
“Courant”

on which lies: a red match
a couple of blue pamphlets
a little piece of string atop
a small red box
And then the cloth!
Half a chair
there in the mist
a little further back
And how the yellow cloth becomes
greengray
& that much softer
And then here
........................and here
here on the paper’s
garish white
are two black nails
one that looks real & one a silhouette
my hand
my hand
a hill with murky caves
in which a rafter lies
between two clumps of clay
wedged tight


REMEMBRANCE OF THE FOUNTS OF NIGHT

moon falls in shape of little metal plates against my face
a slender lurid black whore dances foxtrots backs of heads
.................................................................... bob up & down
bloodnaked half the barroom’s bodies torn apart
I..........................You...................Greenbrown
..............We..................................................... White
.........................................Nothing
white napkins cut me cut you cut all there is in two
electric lights burn shamelessly into your body parts
gawk gawk gawk
........ here & there an arm sticks up
........here & there a hand grabs hold
........here & there a finger pulses
........glimmers glitters & makes light

........ A JOKE
a paradise of toads at night
these figures crowded into separateness
phenomena of push & pull
Gigantic Toad
“And now?”
Greedily as we slurp these things down
we eat each other up
we eat knives saucers plates
we eat lamps tables chairs
we eat men women things

........o hunger stirred by feastings in the founts of night
I greet your small blind everlastingness
& through my rigid jaws drink God’s green blood

NOTE. Van Doesburg’s 1920s movement De Stijl can, like Kurt Schwitters’ Merz, be viewed as an offshoot of earlier European Dada, linked to it also by van Doesburg himself. Close to the mark or not, Pierre Joris and I presented it as such in the first volume of Poems for the Millennium, in which these two translations first appeared. Reprinting them here is to set van Doesburg (poet, artist, architect) alongside other Dada artists & poets (or artist-poets) who have previously appeared in Poems and Poetics. Like Schwitters too, to whom he was very close, van Doesburg was an anti-artist on the side of art, who wrote in What Is Dada?: “Dada is yes-no, a bird on four legs, a ladder without steps, a square without angels. Dada possesses as many positives as negatives. To think that Dada simply means destruction is to misunderstand life, of which Dada is the expression.” (J.R.)

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