Dada koans #1: surreal poem, the box full of fail

Dada koan

Dada koan

Is my apartment leaking?  Nope, that’s just Tristan Tzara spitting on me.  A couple of weeks ago, I was inspired after reading A Book of Surrealist Games, compiled by Alistair Brotchie (and edited by Mel Gooding).  So I’ve taken a stab at this random art form.  But I’ve tweaked Tzara’s instructions a bit.  So the poems are not quite as impenetrable perhaps.  Here’s his advice from page 36 of the Shambhala book:

To make a Dadaist poem

Take a newspaper.

Take a pair of scissors.

Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.

Cut out the article.

Then cut out each of the words that make up the article and put them in a bag.

Shake it gently.

Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.

Copy conscientiously.

He says some other things too like being “beyond the understanding of the vulgar” but this will do for our purposes.

So.  The tweaks.

  1. Unlike Mr. Tzara, I don’t cut words from a single article.  I’m shredding entire newspapers.  So far, I’ve cut up two Chicago Sun-Times newspapers, a Chicago Tribune, a Chicago Reader, a New York Times and a New York Post.  Also, a sheet of very important information from ComEd.  Because “electric” is a good word.

B.  Using– not a brown paper lunch bag– but a Whitman’s Sampler box to hold all the word slips.  Walgreens had one of their $5 sales recently.

7 1/2.  Starting off, I counted 15 word slips from the box.  Trying to be a Dada purist, I’d forcibly cram every word on every slip into the poem.  Now, older and sadder, I limit myself to 10 pulls.  Plus I don’t feel guilty if I don’t use all of them.  I never use the exact order of my pulls– (how could I? damn things are so tiny– the little rectangles stick to my fingers 3 at a time–and fall all over the place)  But most egregiously, and the real reason for Mr. Tzara’s spittle– I spend quite a bit of time rearranging words so that they might make some small sense.  Yes, I’ll even scissor off part of a word if necessary.  Or drop a couple words from a phrase.

Here is my picture-pink– as seen above– surrealist poem in black and white. (Not doing too well with adding media to the blog, I guess.  Hopefully this makes the poem more readable.  Until I pony up for that  Computer  Basics course.)

How Women Lose

eye-rolling and faint praise

playing nice with strangers

any slight loss of purity

drinking eggnog

still, without enough “appetite”

has a box full of fail

such that you wonder if any of

these words will matter


One of my earlier poems has a line that is perfect for my gravestone.  (How handy!):  “I’m honored to be/ celebrated/ only as a cautionary tale.”

Happy New Year!  Thanks for stopping by.  Let’s all hope and pray Hillary Clinton gets rid of her “box of fail” (poem reference).





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