Dada Koan #22: Sensing Atlantis


Last week, I mentioned rescuing seven Weekly World News papers from a dumpster. A “Bat Boy Escapes” WWN paper from the ’80s could fetch $25 now. The ones I cut up for Tristan-Tzara-inspired things were from 1997 and not valuable. You can also go on the WWN website and order a Plush Bat Boy. That sounds pretty good but the ears are too exaggerated to be realistic. They also sell Bat Boy statuettes but they are quite unappealing and sell for $99.95. Good Lord! A better deal is the Vote For Bat Boy T-shirt at $24.95. If you can believe anything they say, they’ve Sold Out of their Vote For Bat Boy buttons. Bat Boy stickers are the cheapest.

Weekly World News stopped publishing their print version in 2007.

Well, words from those seven cut up WWN papers must have floated to the top of the chocolate box for #22. Lurid papers are well-suited for making random poems. You don’t get many references to Atlantis in regular newspapers.

The seven WWN papers contained two separate articles on finding Atlantis 1) undersea (We’ve Been Looking in the Wrong Ocean!, header) and 2) at the North Pole. It’s rare for a Weekly World headline not to culminate in at least one exclamation point.

Chili Con Carnage!, for example, featured a murderous rampage at a wedding reception involving a too strongly seasoned bowl of chili.

Here’s the above blue on blue surrealist poem in B&W:



a dream

within the dream



a vast playful puppy

professing to have ESP


how to

wear nothing but a smile!

Well, thank you very much for stopping by.


Unrelated Addendum #1: Shirley Jackson wrote, “Grace Paley once described the male-female writer phenomenon to me by saying ‘Women have always done men the favor of reading their work, but the men have not returned the favor.”

Unrelated Addendum #2: Danielle Dutton (Attempts at a Life) started her own press, The Dorothy Publishing Project. Exquisite, coaster-sized paperbacks. Smooth, rub-them-on-your-face covers. They’re all strange and wonderful books– sometimes better than wonderful. Especially recommended: The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Leger, In the Time of the Blue Ball  by Manuela Draeger (a.k.a. Antoine Volodine among a slew of other pseudonyms). “Guidance/The Party” is a terrific short story by Jen George. Currently reading Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead by the great Barbara Comyns. Publisher Danielle Dutton is credited with starting that read women twitter thing.


Dada Koan #21: immense traditionalism and warm spoons


Rip van Winkle yawns and stretches, saying, “Okay 2017– but who is president? Who? Oh, c’mon! Knock it off guys– I’m serious. Who? Who? Really, who?”

I’ve been reading the Weekly World News. Someone was about to throw out seven old copies. Bat Boy at NASCAR, the face of God photographed from a Hubble telescope (blurry), a severed finger turns up in a can of peas. Two stories about men who died from their own flatulence– one suffocated, one passed by an open flame. Two stories about female surgeons who– confronted by their rapists who needed appendixes out or something– castrated them.

The Weekly World News definitely had its big furry Bigfoot toe on our 2017 zeitgeist.

Well, here’s Dada Koan #21. The above dada koan was made by following– sort of– Tristan Tzara’s rules for a cut-up technique surrealist poem. Ten words and phrases, blindly chosen, are taken from a Whitman’s Sampler chocolate box and glued to colorful paper. The words are rearranged– sometimes extensively– for sense.

Thanks very much for stopping by. Well here we all are, huh?


Unrelated Addendum: Shirley Jackson was amazing.

Dada koans #7: a surreal casserole


All you need is a Whitman’s chocolates box full of words and phrases.  Cut up or rip out these words from newspapers and gas bills.  Give the candy box a good throttle.  Pull ten word slips and move them around.  Soon you’ll have your very own surreal scissored-out Dada koan poem thing.  Paste it onto vivid paper.

How to interpret today’s koan?

Opening word:  “Butler” refers to one who holds the profession.  Not a surname.

As for a gold-plated statuette of a casserole with the placque:  “The Discouraging Casserole” –well, I’ve won this particular award many times.  Metaphorically speaking.

Line 4: “solid color regret”  is more intense than paisley regret.

The “absurd facts” might relate to politics.  However, it’s followed by “Graphic elevated debt” which could be political or economic.  If not economical.

Last line:  “The party didn’t last” is a too obvious reference to Judy Holliday singing “The Party’s Over” in the movie Bells Are Ringing.  The plot concerns a woman who works for an answering service.  There’s a romance (Dean Martin) and an overall message to follow your dreams.  In a subplot, a dentist in the movie writes a musical with mixed results.

“The Party’s Over” is a melancholy song.  Somewhere a party is always ending, so it will never go out of style.

Here’s the above sea-blue and lemon poem in b&w:


awarded the

discouraging CASSEROLE

solid color regret

and the generous use of

absurd facts

Graphic elevated debt

The party didn’t last



Thanks for stopping by.  By the way, when I wrote the post for Dada koan #6, I lacked sleep.  But made up for it in exclamation points.


Related Addendum #1:  Wishing you all the best.

Related Addendum #2:  Music for “The Party’s Over” is by Jule Styne.  Lyrics by Comden and Green.  “Just in Time” is in this movie too.





Dada koans #6: surreal advice


Hello, internet.  It’s me, awkwardphobic.  Dada koans!  You can do this yourself if you put a crapload of word slips in a candy box and yank out ten.  Rearrange– or don’t.  Paste the finished poem onto colorful paper.  No longer using gluestick.  It’s liquid Elmer’s from now on because I prefer that wrinkled look.  Started in January and now I have a million of these things.  What the hell.

Dada koans remind me of being a youngster on the beach and grabbing colorful shells out of the saltwater.  My mother used to say, “Isn’t it nice to leave them where they are so other people can enjoy them too?”  She was good.  Well, after those shells were out of the water for ten minutes they didn’t look so hot!

And so it is with dada koans.  At the moment of completing a fresh koan, all its words makes a bizarre sense.  But a couple of days later…

DK #6 concerns a woman who made a brave choice for love.

Here is the above cranberry-colored koan in glorious B&W:

Dear Amy: I am in love

romanced by

a large

wrapped fish

in a plastic molding factory

all different

men– have told me

that you won’t be able to

out-do this


parsley, garlic, onion,

beets, kale, eggplant,


Fennel is perhaps not the go-to seasoning for fish.  Even a plastic fish.  A reliable herb reference book, Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham*, informs me that fennel’s planet is Mercury.  So not even Pisces, dang it.  Eh, with dada koans it’s the luck of the draw.

Unrelated and Related Addendum:  Happy July Fourth!  If you are planning a Dionysian ceremony for your backdoor barbecue– you will need an authentic thyrsus.  To make one– stick pine cones on the ends of the biggest fennel stalk you can find* (ibid.)

Related Addendum:  Yes, I believe some chopped up Chicago Sun-Times may have been incorporated in DK #6.  But there’s other people named Amy too.



Dada koans #4: what do robots want or surrealism strikes again!


Yes, another Dada koan. A tiny one, eh?  Fresh from my Whitman’s Sampler box.

HOW-TO make a surreal poem: Scissor out words and phrases from old newspapers, AARP magazines, or tanning salon ads.

Stick the words– heavy on the verbs– into an empty candy box.  Shake.  Extract a maximum of ten slips.

Do not sneak a look.  Pulls must be random or it’s not surrealism.  If you cheat– then it’s just a stupid poem and you are just a stupid poet.

Make some sort of surreal something out of what fate has handed you.  Glue it onto neon paper and call it a Dada koan just to be fancy.  Also, because you are borrowing Tristan Tzara’s original idea.

The above screaming yellow poem in b&w (for clarity):

Robots are


for things


gold bangle



This is a great day to schmooze with others

This is nice.  Perhaps it lacks greatness.  That will be for posterity to decide.  But it does seem to answer that age-old question “What do robots really want?”

Thank you very much for stopping by.

Unrelated addendum:  Regarding the Unrelated Addendum of the last post (Dada koan #3).  Some people may judge that calling Donald Trump PUS does not “elevate the national conversation.”  Be that as it may, I believe I’m able to be objective.  For example, years ago I remember enjoying Trump’s Pizza Hut commercial (with his ex-wife) that promoted a cheese-filled crust.

Still, we are all human beings.  I’ve made mistakes and have many regrets about things I’ve said and done.  These are not in the past but are ongoing.

Well, what can you do?

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).