Dada koans #2: a surreal how to, romance


Writing surrealist poetry is an excellent way to avoid what you’re supposed to be doing.

A)  Scissor up a free newspaper or medical bill.  Select both single words and phrases.  Stick to nouns and verbs mainly but be sure to toss in a few spiffy adjectives.

2)  Drop all your teensy-tiny word slips into an empty Whitman’s Sampler box.

17)  Shake it!  This is the fun part–the magic.  Shake that box like it’s James Bond’s next martini.

8b)  Pull slips but don’t look yet.  Try not to worry overmuch that you’re pulling the “wrong words”.

M)  After you’ve pulled 10 slips, stop and take a gander.  Rearrange as needed.  You may use words on either slip-side.  Don’t feel obligated to use every damn word if your poem feels finished at, say, 8 words.  Also, it’s perfectly kosher to trim excess words off a phrase.

While my “cut up technique” is inspired by Brotchie and Gooding’s A Book of Surrealist Games— it’s a loosey-goosey surrealism that deviates from Tristan Tzara’s stricter strictures.

What’s the trickiest part?  The actual scissor-cutting.  Tiny word rectangles are guaranteed to pop off your scissors and disappear.

On Friday, December 31st, much to my dismay, I lost the word “zeitgeist”.  Sometimes, days later, words will turn up stuck to a linty sweatshirt elbow or the peeling sole of a shoe.  Other words rip and are effectively destroyed before you manage to cut them out.

A kind of surreal patience is highly recommended.

Here’s the above neon-tangerine Dada koan in black and white (for clarity).  Maybe I should’ve saved this one for Valentine’s Day.

a guy waiting behind me

loved and lost him.

we wanted

Avant-Garde joints


bigger destiny Confections

lax attention


watertight dream of a

sex comedy

When your poem’s complete– Elmer’s glue your chopped newsprint to sturdy paper.  Tah dah!  Continue pulling, rearranging and then glue-sticking for posterity until the Whitman’s Sampler box is empty.  Better still– keep refilling your box with new words so that it’s never empty.


That’s it.  Thanks for stopping by.  Come on zeitgeist.  I know you’re around here someplace.


3 thoughts on “Dada koans #2: a surreal how to, romance

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