The Surreal Thing
(Sur)reality TV: Andre Breton, self-appointed (or self-anointed) Grand Poobah of the Surrealist Movement and author of its manifesto, was the kind of kid who would take his ball and go home whenever the other children balked at his dictatorial ways,
but because his ball was made of red courant jelly and was shaped like a lobster, none of the more literal-minded kids missed him, or his ball, very much when he was gone. As he grew older, he collected a cadre of followers, many just as goofily visionary as himself, but because age did not diminish his doctrinaire ways, he spent a good deal of his time banishing them from the group for failures of orthodoxy.
And They Threw Better Parties Too: Dada actually preceded Surrealism, but where Surrealism was programmatic, Dada was anarchic--blossoming as it did from that hotbed of all things silly and tumultuous, Zurich, Switzerland. Where the Surrealists spun intricate intellectual justifications for their odd doings, the Dadaists spun like Dervishes, spontaneously, joyously, out of control.
Who's Your Dada? Both Dada and Surrealism are remembered today more for their visual art than for their contributions to literature, but their influence on poetry is wide and deep. Any use of collage in poetry, including William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin's cut-ups, owes a debt to the two movements, The so-called Eliptical Poets--Susan Wheeler, C. D. Wright, et al--with their constitutional aversion to, and frustration of, linear/narrative expectations, are distant heirs. Even the current, celebrated and reviled, Flarf Movement gets its aggressively nonsensical bent and love of provocation straight from Dada.
Some Surrealists, Dadaists, a few of their precursors and descendants (of varying degrees of consanguinity):
Guillaume Apollinaire / Louis Aragon / Hugo Ball / Christian Bok / Andre Breton / Jorge Luis Borges / Robert Bly / Robert Duncan / Paul Eluard / Allen Ginsberg / Ted Hughes / Alfred Jarry / Stephane Mallarme / Jerome Rothenberg / Dylan Thomas / Tristan Tzara / Cesar Vallejo /
Odds and Ends from Harris County Public Library's collection
I Am A Beautiful Monster: Poetry, Prose, and Provocation / Francis Picabia
The Surrealists: Revolutionaries in Art & Writing / Jemima Montagu
If you have not been to the Menil Collection, stop reading and go--NOW. You'll find some of the most iconic works of Surrealism in the flesh (among many other worthwhile and groovy objects).
The Menil Collection : a Selection from the Paleolithic to the Modern Era %2/
Avant-Garde All the Time [podcasts]
UbuWeb [website with hundreds of audio files]
If you have any comments, suggestions for future posts, and/or Flarf you can spare, please send them along.