Greetings, dVerse Poets.
This is Victoria, happy today to invite you to join me in thinking outside of the box, but even more—let’s jump outside the box. Today, I’d like to explore the Dadaist movement—a movement that, perhaps, is most associated with visual or performance art, but that also had a profound impact on poetry.
When I think of Dadaism, my mind conjures up images of urinals, irony, anti-art, found objects, collage, word play, collaborative art and just about anything that doesn’t seem to fit into our preconceived idea of what should be.
Dadaism was born of the horrors and brutality of World War I. Disillusioned artists of all disciplines, affected by the degradation of social structures, repressive cultural values and unquestioning acceptance of a War that led to so much loss of human life, rebelled against the status quo. A loosely affiliated network of artists and poets, originally clustered around Zurich, adopted a subversive and revolutionary approach to visual art, performance art and poetry. These artists did not so much adapt a common style or practice, but rather sought “to destroy the hoaxes of reason and to discover an unreasoned order.” Jean Hans Arp. The focus of their work was not so much on beauty or appearance as on the ideas the work conveyed.
The Dadaist movement laid the groundwork for abstract art and sound poetry. When I studied Dadaism in the course of my docent training, I recall having to read aloud (as a group) a poem that consisted only of nonsensical sounds. The exercise aimed to lead us as readers/listeners/speakers to an understanding of the value of sound itself. In a subtle way, it seemed to challenge the words we utter as the expression of babbling idiots, making about as much sense as those who silently acquiesce to the supposed logic of war.
I confess, though not a huge fan of Dadaism in art, and though I am probably as close to conservative as a poet can be, there is something freeing and tantalizing about the thought of abandoning long-held rules and expectations and taking the opportunity to play with words in a way that is countercultural.
So for today’s prompt, I invite you to invite that perhaps dormant revolutionary that lurks in your subconscious and write a poem that takes you and the reader outside of that well-defined comfort zone. Here’s a few suggestions, but feel free to go where you will:
• Mix up images and sensations (synesthesia)
• Distort reality
• Write an ekphrasis using the work of a Dadaist artist
• Focus on sound rather than meaning
• Create your own piece of Dadaist art and write about it
• Collaborate with another poet to create poem, disjointed as it may be
And here’s some direction from a significant Dadaist poet, Tristan Tzara:
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are–an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.
Should you wish to research Dadaism a bit more, here are some names associated with Dadaist art or poetry: Jack Spicer, Ezra Pound, Marcel DuChamp, T. S. Eliot and Man Ray.
For an example of Dadaist poem, here’s my one and only poem written in that vein, originally posted in 2011:
BASTARD CHILD OF DADA
ManRay had lunch today
“Create a juxtaposition
of two more or less distant
Je t’en prie.
THIS WORLD IS STILL
CONFUSING TO ME.
To join in:
- Write your poem and post it on your blog;
- Access Mr. Linky, below, and copy the direct URL of your poem into the space provided along with your name;
- Hang around and read some of the other poets who’ve participated, adding a comment;
- Spread the word using your social medial contacts. We are always happy to welcome new poets to the pub.