Archive for the ‘DADA’ Category

Do Not Awaken Them With Hammers
March 29, 2008

Do Not Awaken Them With Hammers

How about a pleasant poem to start your month off right? Ugly Duckling has smartly created a Eastern European Poets Series that we Americans might benefit from. I am currently immersed in Lidija Dimkovska’s most excellent book, DO NOT AWAKEN THEM WITH HAMMERS, translated by Peggy Reid – yay!

Craig Santos Perez wisely reviews this collection at Galatea Resurrects – check it. And if you’re thinking of holiday gift giving already … hint hint.

Incidentally, I’ve been thinking about where the bulk of my paycheck goes lately, after rent and other bills. I’ve narrowed it down to books, fine wines (recently got into sampling), and the occasional dining experience. I don’t even go nuts for clothes anymore, and many friends would concur – I’m not the “fashion plate” I once was – ha! No more keeping up with the Joneses, ahem, I mean, the hipsters.

Okay, no further ado; it is now for your daytime treat – here’s one from the collection:


The Newscaster entered the history of her people,
the children study her for a grade, and they know her
from the advertising billboards in all the suburbs.
Who knows if she’s going to have her photo taken for “Playboy?”
Mommy, why does this lady have such a big ass?
So that the daily “Nova Makedonija” will not perish or else your father
will hang us. And why did you get an F in history?
The teacher asked who wrote our anthem,
and I said Ataturk, because I had melted into the palms
that the Turkish girl sitting next to me on the school bench
was warming between my legs, and drawing
bridal veils in my notebooks.
Shame on you son.
Is that why I sit at home, patching dead languages,
starching sonnets, is that why my back’s killing me
from washing Byzantine hymnographers’ manuscripts,
Havel’s letters and all sorts of other cult mystifications?
And every night my cheeks defecate,
and I have to tell you, not even Cleopatra went through
so much toilet paper. It is for nothing that
I press Delete, nothing can erase them,
and even less stop them from ejecting
feces–worms in a game of mirrors.
Oh son, son, it’s not the wind beating against the shutters that wakes you at night,
it’s the pores of my outer skin flushing themselves with water from the toilet,
and whoever arrives first in the dream
on the other side of the cable TV goes to pee. Look at her,
she’s all dressed up as if she was talking about Osiris,
not about the rice that caught diarrhea at dawn,
and do not ask shy she has such red eyes,
or why her nails are all gnarled, and her cheeks transparent.
Study son, repeat, not battles and peace summits,
but: why doesn’t a dead person’s hairdo stay in place
for more than ten minutes, why didn’t Isis
catch it from Osiris,
(and your father once told your uncle:
the more I beat her, the more she loves me),
because you have to know everything so as not to know anything
and be photocopied on freshly painted walls,
white walls for all those wonderful people.
Study son. Study will not harm the head underwritten
by the Lethe Insurance Company.



Lidija Dimkovska was born in 1971 in Skopje, Macedonia. She is a poetry editor for the online literary review Blesok (Shine). She took her Ph.D. in Romanian literature from the University of Bucharest, and now lives in Slovenia. Her books include The Offspring of the East (1992), The Fire of Letters (1994), Bitten Nails (1998), and Nobel vs. Nobel (2001).

Ljubica Arsovska is editor-in-chief of the quarterly Kulturen Zivot, the leading cultural magazine in Macedonia, and translator of numerous books, plays, and poems.

Peggy Reid is a translator of Macedonian poetry and prose. In 1973 she and her husband, Graham W. Reid, received the Struga Poetry Festival Translation Prize for their translation of The Sirdar, by Grigor Prlicev. In 1994 she received the Macedonian Literary Translators’ Society Award; she has also won first prize at the Avon Poetry Festival, UK, twice for her own poetry. She teaches English at the University of SS. Cyril and Methodius, Skopje.

One Response to “December Day Treat”

  1. ashok Says:
    December 9th, 2007 at 4:22 pm eHope all is well – just curious, any particular sort of wine?I always like drinking Sauvignon Blanc b/c it’s readily available and (relatively) cheap: yeah, I admit it, I know squat about wine.

Marie Osmond Does Hugo Ball?
March 27, 2008


How strange would it be if our Mormon pop icon started reciting, by heart, a German Dadaist’s ‘nonsense’ verse?

“Marie Osmond became co-host with Jack Palance. In the format of the show, little topic clusters (like ‘weird language’) were introduced by one of the hosts. In this case, the frame was Cabaret Voltaire. Marie was required to read Hugo Ball’s sound poem ‘Karawane’ and a few script lines. Much to everybody’s astonishment, when they started filming she abruptly looked away from the cue cards directly into the camera and recited, by memory, ‘Karawane.’ It blew everybody away …” (con’t at UBU Web).

Listen to the actual recitation, done with feeling, here. (Thanks to Lara Glenum for the heads up.)



“Hugo Ball was born in Pirmasens, Germany and was raised in a Catholic family. He studied sociology and philosophy at the universities of Munich and Heidelberg (1906–1907). In 1910, he moved to Berlin in order to become an actor and collaborated with Max Reinhardt. He was one of the leading Dada artists. He created the Dada Manifesto in 1916, making a political statement about his views on the terrible state of society and acknowledging his dislike for philosophies in the past claiming to possess the ultimate Truth. The same year as the Manifesto, in 1916, Ball wrote his poem ‘Karawane,’ which is a German poem consisting of nonsensical words. The meaning however resides in its meaninglessness, reflecting the chief principle behind Dadaism.” — from Wikipedia


“[Marie Osmond] has launched a personal crusade to clean up the Internet after learning her two teenage daughters have been posting explicit correspondence on their websites. She felt compelled to give a statement to US tabloid National Enquirer after the publication uncovered outrageous content on her daughters blogs. In her statement, shocked Marie, a devout Mormon, says, ‘I am saddened by some of the choices that two of our children have made. The insidious potential for harm from adolescent Internet sites like only exacerbates these kinds of problems.’” –from Wikipedia

The stuff of a surprise Hugo Ball aficionado?


One Response to “Marie Osmond Does Hugo Ball?”

  1. Jim K. Says:
    July 8th, 2007 at 3:29 am eHumans are a peculiar lot.
    I suspect the true Dada backstory would be dull.
    Maybe memorized for voice lessons, or for a skit.
    Something banal.

Lars Palm Flips the Script
March 27, 2008


The gentleman in a little Swedish town re-wrote Antidotes for an Alibi, cleverly-so, making old news young again –>

Thanks, Lars!


(a king’s alibi)

a machine played back the story. mother phoned father to me. enchanted the little kettle dripped hints of home-ground coffee. a cornershop spirit. an old minstrel show. warm featherbed & hope chest. a glimpse into the black. cigar so historical. set upon the anteroom shelf the words keenly followed. a crew telling in-jokes to themselves. the tailor divining milk from its coat pocket. that was the day a battery box suspended quiet. history told as an eminent doctor above water. napkin-folded boats find purpose at sea

make a miraculous bluebird. make wine to toast the tender empty church echoing bats. cage the dog’s bark. veer into stampbook etiquette of peace. photograph a functional razor where unarmed people approach the hovering trees. sing songs of memos on tender tendons. break from citizenry & become the land you’ve always meant. lip-sync history along with the world. brighten the woman on the curb. report before sundown

they live as if within a large city nestled in a valley. husband mows & wife vacuums. they stretched each other to influence. they were like moving in. she broke every crayon in the box. household acts boiled over the likelihood of work. your signature loving you stings paying a piper’s penalty. bulletproof people who classify ketchup as a vegetable with or without faith. you cannot believe the wind last night. made of water & light an iceberg floats into you. a patchwork seamstress watches her flower garden. i eat the neighbor’s mountain side. i steal lines only to ask if there was ever a question. i have lived on the rooftop in internal weather. sun on top. i’m also taking your small house. shocked that one day i fall asleep the crowd never acts on its own theme. giraffes feed on leaves from my upper branches. streets report back to me. like snakes we shed guns

another freedom learning only the lights of asylums. city-born flies bark & reach toward the rafters. mosquitoes & night moths fill government

a capsized girl holding court. neighbors on a fence rumble. ramblings of old men seated on stoops. they discovered color returned. he dons his work-worn cape. resists a person who has false teeth & makes a certain hour. he was a bee in summer & in the wake of your buzzing bridge. played a sleepy harmonica that pushed puddles to deeper lakes. a peony eats its neighboring cow. after dinner teak wood fell for cork. lightning drowns veined wooden frames. fat berries ripened brought back from dust fields. peasants dance stomping tile flowering with sin & perfection. bourbon-doused dusk. every twig snapped. vipers in the grass heard their sleekness between thin blades. wars rained upon the fields. wine-stains or silk vest. background cow smiles loudly. silver night spreading westward. toad on an old country road exit. creek babbles brook-like. disappearance messing with directions on the drive back. sleepy gravel road pours forth evening breeze

–Lars Palm


p.s. The image is Marcel Duchamp as Belle Haleine, 1921, not as Rose Sélavy.


p.p.s. Do you still advocate the Jim Crow mentality?


2 Responses to “Lars Palm Flips the Script”

  1. Jim K. Says:
    June 30th, 2007 at 3:32 am eThat is so cool! You are kind to allow it, and rewarded for
    your openness. Our microclimates confuse me, but
    this is a fun versioning!
  2. Sara Says:
    June 30th, 2007 at 3:16 pm eI think this is pretty beautiful at times and very tricky and fun. You’re lucky amy to have an alibi like that in your arsenal. It’s like a get out of jail free card, but radder.

How To Tell A Masterpiece
March 26, 2008


Not long ago while viewing the Société Anonyme: Modernism for America show at The Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., Ron Padgett stood before a painting and said something favorable, which in turn prompted me to ask, “What makes this a good painting?” Now mind you, I was asking a man who has viewed thousands of paintings and whose hunger for the visual only seems to grow. Ron replied (or so I approximately recall), “I could point out all sorts of reasons, technical or aesthetic, that make this is a good painting, but to do so would just limit your experience. You just know a good painting when you see it, and no single aspect makes it so.” And I did just know, without trying to pinpoint exactly which combination of elements made it stand out from rest on that wall.

This conversation reminded me of one with another friend, noted a few posts ago, who, in an ongoing basis, tried to explain singularity to me. To poorly paraphrase one particular discussion (sorry again, Isa), Isabella ‘defined’ what makes a masterpiece: its singularity. Basically, the singularity of a literary work is something people recognize but can’t define (though critics may try) — and it’s what makes it last; people continue to recognize and return to it over time.

Anyway, these little stories are leading to an excerpt from Bruns’ book, but I was sidetracked checking out Jane Hirshfield’s Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry today at a local bookstore. In an essay called, “The Question of Originality,” she asks, “A question, then, is how does a poet enfold into language the singularity that marks each living creature and object of the world and also those works of art we most admire?” Yes, how, dear public?

Later, Hirshfield quotes Picasso, from which I excerpt for the frivolity of it, “Nobody drew up a program of action, and though our friends the poets followed our efforts attentively, they never dictated to us. … The painter passes through states of fullness and emptying. That is the whole secret of art.”

But even better, her full Walt Whitman quote, “The greatest poet has less a marked style and is more the free channel of himself. He swears to his art, I will not be meddlesome, I will not have in my writing any elegance or effect or originality to hang in the way between me and the rest like curtains. I will have nothing hang in the way, not the richest curtains. What I tell I tell for precisely what it is.” Ha!

And now for la piece de resistance, one that resists the recipes, we encounter a kind of pointing at of singularity, including one revealing footnote, to wrap the above notes together, however loosely, direct from Gerald L. Bruns’ book, On the Anarchy of Poetry and Philosophy – A Guide for the Unruly:

“In Intimations of Postmodernity, the social theorist Zygmunt Bauman says that what postmodernists know is that we are all of us inhabitants of complex systems. A complex system, unlike logical, mechanical, or cybernetic systems, is temporal, not so much in time as made of it. This means that it is turbulent and unpredictable in its workings and effects (structured, as they say, like the weather). A complex system is not governed by factors of any statistical significance, which is why a single imperceptible event can produce massive changes in the system. It follows that a complex system cannot be described by laws, rules, paradigms, causal chains, deep structures, or even a five-foot shelf of canonical narratives. It is beneath the reach of universal norms and so it forces us to apply what Hans Blumenberg calls the principium rationiis insufficientis: the principle of insufficient reason–which is, however, not the absence of reason but rather, given the lack of self-evidence in a finite situation, a reliance on practical experience, discussion, improvisation, and the capacity for midstream corrections. In certain philosophical circles this is called ‘pragmatism’; in others, ‘ anarchism’ (meaning–the way I mean it in this book — not an embrace of chaos, but a search for alternatives to principles and rules [an-arche], on the belief that what matters is absolutely singular and irreducible to concepts, categories, and assigned models of behavior).” 8 [emphasis mine]

Footnote #8 — On singularity, see Gilles Deleuze, Logique du sens (Paris: Editions du Minuit, 1969), p. 67 (The Logique of Sense, trans. Constantin V. Boundas [New York: Columbia University Press, 1990], p. 52): “The singularity belongs to another dimension than that of denotation, manifestation, or signification. It is essentially pre-individual, non-personal, and a-conceptual. It is quite indifferent to the individual and the collective, the personal and the impersonal, the particular and the general–and to their oppositions. Singularity is neutral.” For a slightly different view, where the singular is not an isolate and is also a person, see Jean-Luc Nancy, Etre singulier pluriel (Paris: Editions Galilee, 1996), pp. 1 – 131 (Being Singular Plural [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000], pp. 1 – 100). The notion of the singular can be traced to Emmanuel Levinas’s conception of ethical alterity, where the other is irreducible to the same, that is, refractory to categories. …


4 Responses to “How To Tell A Masterpiece”

  1. derek Says:
    April 5th, 2007 at 10:39 am eseems a lot of poems (maybe paintings too) are organic, & isolating a certain aspect that illuminates the quality may irrevocably diminish one’s appreciation of the work. or something. i think so anyway.
  2. Jim K. Says:
    April 5th, 2007 at 7:19 pm eMany things [early] post-modern tend to demonstrate the inability of
    static modernist analysis to really model or predict what’s going on.
    But there is a late post-modernism, built on the intense
    (if difficult to completely grasp) theory of Deleuze. Manuel Delanda
    bases most of his stuff on Deleuze, and is my best bet for a way forward
    to a constructive post-modernism. The patterns in the semi-chaos,
    the meshworks instead of old stratification, intensive processes causing
    the articulation of instances, here and now. I’ve enjoyed working with
    that a lot in art. Now…how that might might play out in poetry..
    ..that I haven’t figured out yet.
    But one common theme in constructively moving from modern to post-modern:
    static needs to be replaced by dynamic imagination, and simplified surroundings
    need to be replaced by thinking of everything moving together with everything
    else….an ‘environmental’ view, in the much broader sense of environmental.
    Relationships as environmental, etc.. Things as verb-based, not noun-based:
    properties that are not static. Semi-random writing might be an analog of one
    intensive method: jumping from perspective to perspective, even while those
    perspectives are reacting to each other and changing. Not sure..
  3. Sam Rasnake Says:
    April 5th, 2007 at 8:52 pm eNine Gates is one of the most impacting studies that I’ve read. Very helpful. I like this Hirshfield quote from “Poetry and the Mind of Indirection”: “Art, by its very existence, undoes the idea that there can be only one description of the real, some single and simple truth on whose surface we may thoughtlessly walk. The intelligence that simmers in stories, paintings, and poems warns us: if the mind of art cannot entirely be trusted, nor can the ground.”

    Thanks for the post Amy.

  4. Robert Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 5:24 am e“irreducible to concepts, categories, and assigned models of behavior” – one of the better distinctions between prose and poetry I’ve heard in awhile.

March 25, 2008


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.



O beloved of my twenty-seven senses, I
love your! – you ye you your, I your, you my.
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?