Dear DADA

kurt-schwitters.jpg

Excerpt from Logically Consistent Poetry by Kurt Schwitters, 1924:

Classical poetry depended on the similarity of human beings. It regarded the association of ideas as unequivocal. It was wrong. In any case, it was based on associations of ideas: ‘Uber allen Gipfeln ist Ruh’ (On the hill-tops all is tranquil.’). Here Goethe is not simply trying to tell us that it is quiet on the hill-tops. The reader is expected to experience this ‘tranquillity’ in the same way as the poet, tired by his official duties, escaping from the urban social round. How little such associations of ideas are universal becomes clear if one imagines a native of the Hedjaz (average population-density, two people per square kilometer) reading such a line. He would certainly be noticeably more impressed by ‘Lightning darts zag the Underground runs over the skyscraper’. In any case, the statement ‘all is tranquil’ produces no poetic feeling in him, because to him tranquillity is normal. Poetic feeling is what the poet counts on. And what is a poetic feeling? All the poetry of ‘tranquillity’ stands and falls by the capacity of the reader to feel. Words in themselves have no value here. Apart from a quite insignificant rhythm in the cadence, there is only the rhyme linking ‘Ruh’ with ‘du’ in the next line. The only unifying link between the constituent parts of a classical poem is the association of ideas — in other words, poetic feeling. Classical poetry as a whole appears to us today in the guise of Dadaist philosophy, and the less Dadaist the original intention, the crazier the result. Classical poetic form is nowadays only used by variety singers.

____________________

ANNA BLUME

O beloved of my twenty-seven senses, I
love your! – you ye you your, I your, you my.
–We?
This belongs (by the way) elsewhere.
Who are you, uncounted female? You are
–are you? People say you are, –let
them say on, they don’t know a hawk from a handsaw.
You wear your hat uon your feet and walk round
on your hands, upon your hands you walk.
Halloo, your red dress, sawn up in white pleats.
Red I love Anna Blume, red I love your! — You
ye you your, I your, you my. –We?
This belongs (by the way) in icy fire.
Red bloom, red Anna Blume, what do people say?
Prize question: 1.) Anna Blume has a bird.
2.) Anna Blume is red.
3.) What colour is the bird?
Blue is the color of your yellow hair.
Red is the cooing of your green bird.
You simple girl in a simple dress, you dear
green beast, I love your! You ye you your,
I your, you my. — We?
This belongs (by the way) in the chest of fires.
Anna Blume! Anna, a-n-n-a, I trickle your
name. Your name drips like softest tallow.
Do you know, Anna, do you know already?
You can also be read from behind, and you, you
the loveliest of all, are from behind, as you are from
before: “a-n-n-a”.
Tallow trickles caressingly down my back.
Anna Blume, you trickle beast, I love your!

–Kurt Schwitters

8 Responses to “Dear DADA”

  1. Jim Knowles Says:
    January 10th, 2007 at 1:19 pm eNice excerpt, and poem! “Poetic feeling” seems to actually
    correspond to ‘new evoked thoughts’ (in my personal purpose-of-art lexicon).
    The experimentation with context to apply different meaning, a beginning
    to new art. Or at least, making overt what was ineffable but dabbled.
    And nowadays, the flashes from facets that do not quite fit…that force
    the mind to make a connection or story, because the reflex is to find pattern.
    This then becomes a means to probe the mind of the viewer, to generate
    new synthesis or epiphany. As opposed to simply telling a predetermined story.
    Art as reagent, not product. Or maybe catalyst. (a People Instrument?, wink).
  2. Jim Knowles Says:
    January 10th, 2007 at 4:07 pm eI tend to grant classical poetry a wider berth, though.
    I cannot cast sonnets as the “variety singer” realm, just
    as I cannot cast Michaelangelo’s sculpture with a Barbie doll.
    Evrything has its anthropological purpose, the tides roll.
    Hopefully, there is even more variation within modern poetry
    even than between basic modern poetry and classical poetry.
    Oddly enough, the Dada poem only confirms that.
    At the gallery, landscapes, photos, abstracts, symbolics,
    and installation art live together. I find the art world,
    at least in the outlands, more open to anything, in any form at all.
    I benefit, in all my forms, so I can’t poke at folk who do the real.
    Maybe it’s just my director, but eclecticism is a joy.
    I can’t depreciate any form of art just because a new one
    does something more or differently. This is, after all,
    people expressing their souls. And I hold that all to be legitimate.
    It’s all too fascinating, the whole sweep of literature.
    Fear not the rearview mirror; drive on, and add exits to the highway.
    Peace out.
  3. Jim Knowles Says:
    January 12th, 2007 at 1:31 pm eGot into more detail on Schwitters’ life. Fascinating…I forgot the range.
    Particularly interesting is his early start in collage and the similarities
    to modern poetry (facets/disjunctions), and looking at “Anna Blume” and
    seeing a lot of residual older style still, with these jabs of something new.
    Like a large engine banging to life. Well, a new engine, I suppose.
    Although, the “poetic feeling” I see launched by (my favorite) later modern
    poetry is at times a flashbulb that lights a new scene in me, not even
    an intention passed in from outside. Spawning perceiver-based thoughts
    by the discontinuities is my measure, since I take the fun seriously:
    recreation as actual re-creation.
  4. Mr. Horton Says:
    January 13th, 2007 at 12:48 am eI like how the Rothenberg & Joris translations are making more assesible & are pulling more people in to re-examine Schwitters worth as a poet as well as an artist. We should all aspire to Merz.
  5. Jim Knowles Says:
    January 13th, 2007 at 2:38 am eTo tell the truth, this was actually my first introduction
    to Schwitters, and it is fascinating. I would represent someone
    who saw the translation as part of that intro. With the excerpt
    and the poem, the clarity of his vision, and the consistency of
    the poetry and the art, back in 1924, is striking.
  6. LetterShaper Says:
    January 13th, 2007 at 3:03 am eI am glad I found this site, and I have linked you…with your permission, of course.
  7. Gary Says:
    January 13th, 2007 at 9:03 pm eInteresting, although I must confess I don’t get Schwitters’ argument. Certainly Goethe is assuming that the image of quiet hilltops will either induce a sense of tranquility in the reader or, minimally, get the reader to recognize that this correlation is somehow intended. Perhaps, tranquility being the norm for them, the Hedjaz show this assumption to be false — the intention is not recognized by them. But if so, then they simply don’t understand the poem. Why is the fault with Goethe? It seems inevitable that the further we get from the context of a poem, the more opaque the intended associations (or relevant unintended associations) will be to us. What Schwitters fails to show here is how other forms of poetry can escape this fate (maybe he addresses this later on). Moreover, even if they can, why should context-transcendence (so to speak) be a virtue?.
  8. Jim K. Says:
    January 14th, 2007 at 5:30 pm eIt’s true enough, Schwitters picks a soft spot,
    and it’s not hard to find regular poetry with a more
    universal effect, and context-transcendence seems
    to be achieved with simple shock, so the vituosity isn’t clear.
    Context-transcendence does seem to be a a bit to narrow
    a description of what’s achieved, even though Schwitters said
    it in that particular passage. But from that issue and answer,
    other things seem to come, especially after decades of experiment.
    I don’t think of context-transcendence as really being a major virtue,
    but of the effects that such poetry has. Unexpected discontinuities
    can force the fabrication of tales in the perceiver’s mind to patch
    the rift. The odd imagery can also cause spontaneous mistakes in
    interpretation. Both of those can serve as a probe into the
    reader’s mind: the poem reads you. At least, that’s my usage of it.
    But Schwitters was standing on the threshold of all this, and his
    passage seems to only show his attraction to the power of it.
    Not all was clear. Also, the era made the sameness he hinted at
    more cloying. Interestingly, things like cable media multiply
    mediocrity and formula today, so perhaps we are revivisiting
    his reasons.
    But I think the different forms of poetry have different purposes,
    just like the formal and abstract types of other art.
    And there is certainly context-transcendance to be found in it all.
    Context-transcendence of the shock value…..well, that describes
    what he was getting at, maybe. Lost in translation?

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