Dada koan #19: you’re never too old to be hiding behind something


Here’s a profound dada koan. It would be bad taste for me to call something I’d written profound but since this is a dada koan it means I grabbed all the phrases and words, readymade, from a candy box that has a notecard marked “Surrealism” scotch-taped to its lid. These candy boxes are easy to come by. Wait a couple weeks for Walgreen’s to have another $5 sale. Anyway, it’s the candy box that deserves any accolades for profundity.


Aw c’mon, guys. Twarn’t nuffin.

Here’s the above flamingo-colored cut-up poem sailing on its blue-green rectangle in B&W:

you’re never too old to

be hiding behind something.

an overweight comedian

the Internet

three red lipsticks,

stop being a snowflake

falling onto tables


to  die first

Thanks very much for stopping by. Brotchie’s A Book of Surrealist Games has lots of inspiring word-play strategies by Tristan Tzara and other Dada experts.


Unrelated Addendum #1:  Note to a wonderful composer/musician. My Insignia CD player is silent.  It has 9 buttons including 2 on/off switches on the sides. I’ve tried these buttons in all different configurations but nothing. Batteries are new and correctly placed. This happened last year too and when I brought it over to Best Buy, the blue shirts had it singing my Ultra Lounge CD– Teach me, Tiger, whoa whoa whoa– in two shakes of a dachshund’s tail. But that Best Buy is a Target now. Everything in Chicago is either a condo or a Target, by the way. Anyway, hoping to find a remedy to this problem soon so I can hear songs with titles like: The Hand That Feeds Me Could’ve Used a Little Salt (Troll Braille CD by Walker Evans).

Unrelated Addendum #2:  Wow, I’ve really put a lot of weight on recently. Wonder if something’s bothering me.

Unrelated Addendum #3:  Turns out I’ve formatted 300-plus pages completely, totally wrong. I guess you don’t tab over or count out 5 spaces to indent paragraphs anymore. What a mess.

Unrelated Addendum #4:  Lots of novels piling up in To Read stacks including several by Dawn Powell. Despite this fact, last night I stayed up to re-read her A Time To Be Born which is a roman a` clef about Clare Luce Booth (Amanda Keeler) and her newspaper magnate husband. The early description of her house–“the marble-floored, marble-benched foyer”– with its gargoyles and “urns of enormous chrysanthemums” is pretty great, as is, actually, the entire book. Here’s a sample bit that concerns a different character:

“She was thirty-two but she looked like a woman of forty so well-preserved she could pass for thirty-two.”


Dada koans #11: American lawyer still itching


Well, the balloons have slunk to the floor, the crepe paper’s been tossed, we’ve used up a lot of scotch tape, and that brief shining milestone is officially over.  But we persevere and here’s dada koan #11.  It’s cynical but we don’t choose the words– blame the Whitman’s Sampler box.  (See previous dada koan posts or Brotchie & Gooding’s A Book of Surrealist Games for instructions on the cut up technique poem).

The above brickyard-red poem in black and white:



still itching for


we might advise that


is daunting

had eluded




This is solid advice for anyone heading to California.

Thank you very much for stopping by.


Unrelated Addendum #1:  Bachelorette Recipe for a hot summer.  You will need:  a bagel, a toaster, 2 slices of cheese, paper or dish towel, patience.  Toast bagel.  Immediately put the 2 cheese slices on one bagel half and then bagel lid it.  Wrap sandwich in a paper (or dish) towel and squeeze it for two or three minutes depending on how hungry you are.  Voila!  A delicious toasted cheese bagelwich you didn’t need to turn your oven on for!  (This doesn’t work very well with bread, by the way.)

Unrelated Addendum #2:  Nabbed a copy of the confessions of Aleister Crowley for a buck!  That’s because someone had scissored off part of the cover and scrawled black magic marker all over it.  But that only adds to its Satan-Worshipper patina.  Crowley’s mom called him The Beast as a bad thing but later he adopted this nickname for himself.  Kind of like me and awkwardphobic!  When he was a tyke, his mom who was religious told him ‘Ladies have no legs’.  Then one day, these two old church women visited and little Al crawled under the table and yelled, “Mamma!  Mamma!  Sister Susan and Sister Emma are not ladies!”  I’m sure the book is full of charming anecdotes like this.

(the confessions of Aleister Crowley, an autohagiography edited by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant)


Dada koans #8: for a safe & healthy business


Well, I’ve been posting these dada koans since January.  Thanks to A Book of Surrealist Games by Alistair Brotchie. Why make dada koans, you may ask, as opposed to doing laundry?  Because a koan takes a minimum of effort– and in the end you’ve got yourself a weird little story.  Whereas with laundry…  To paraphrase Joan Rivers– you cook, you clean, you do laundry and then in a year you just have to do it again. So. Fill a Whitman’s chocolates box with words and phrases–little rectangles cut from Orkin ads, dental check-up come-ons, free newspapers, etc. Shake the box and pull ten slips.  Glue the finished piece to colored paper to fool yourself that your dada koan has some permanence.

The good: It’s calming to rearrange words. To be Whitman’s Sampler-gifted the words– narrows the options. Thank god.

The bad: What you’ve created is one of these Tristan Tzara-esque cut-up technique dada things. Which may not make sense. Or, in the case DK #8, too much sense.

The above blood red poem in more consistent typeface:

YOU DON’T NEED Online Application

Protect your family from


2000 to 2002

tech bust

For a Safe & Healthy BUSINESS



Well, there you go.  Helpful advice.

Thanks for stopping by.  “Winter is coming” which I say in a positive non-Game of Thrones way.  If you live in Chicago– make sure to drink your diet Dr. Pepper, and iced caffeinated beverages.


Unrelated Addendum:  Buying a Snickers last night– I was delighted to see none of them said “Snickers.”  Took me a while to choose the right one.  Had my hand on “Forgetful” but then thought ‘but I don’t want to be Forgetful’.  Rebellious seemed inappropriate.  Finally, I made my decision and slammed “Loopy” onto the counter like a challenge.


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.

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).