Dada Koan #24: sex dancer on Mars


Here’s another Weekly World News-influenced dada koan. First-timers to this post should know– these are surreal poems created with random words. Well, the capital S joined to the Ex might strike some as a bit of a cheat. Tristan Tzara would be shaking his head and sighing. But sex in caps is a good poem-enhancer.

Here’s the above blood on pink poem in B&W:

an actress

flawed and sumptuous

is SEX dancer

at a

graveyard on Mars

pulling weeds

cutting down weeds

Weather really cold

I had a friend who was a sex dancer. She did it for a month to prepare for a role in the play In the Boom Boom RoomShe told me that when people asked her to do things she agreed because “who am I to say no?” She additionally worked for a brief time at a sex phone place. She said the other women were quite old and bored and eating big ham sandwiches while they talked.

Well, thank you very much for stopping by. May 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.


Unrelated Addendum #1: Read for two days straight. Didn’t go out of the apartment– sustained by animal crackers, pretzels, diet soda, vitamins.

1) The Sisters by Mary S. Lovell. Bio of the Mitford sisters– a rich and powerful clan. There’s six of them just like Henry the VIII’s wives. Debo (duchess), Diane (big-time fascist married to Oswald Mosley), Nancy (novelist), Jessica (muckraker and Commie), Pam (magnificent blue eyes matched her blue stove), and Unity Valkyries (super-duper rabid Nazi and Hitler groupie and pal). When they were children Jessica and Unity used their diamonds to scrape competing hammers/sickles and swastikas into the family home’s window panes. Jessica grew up to write The American Way of Death which blew the casket lid off the funeral industry’s unsavory methods.  Unity worshiped Hitler and trembled and shook in his presence. She dropped stuff so he’d notice her. It worked.

 2) The Secret History by Donna Tartt. The author interview in back lets us know that originally this novel was over 1000 pages but due to a clever typesetter– it’s only over 500 now. Set at the fictitious Hampden College in Vermont. (Tartt went to Bennington). The writing is lovely, “coffee-colored snow,” for example. Also, there’s a likable chatty Cathy character with Weekly World News headlines pasted over her door. Six degrees of WWN! This book shows how easy it is– especially for a group– to kill someone.

3) Started H.P. Lovecraft, a biography by Sprague de Camp. When Howard P. L. was five years old his mom sent him to Sunday school. The teacher talked about the Christian martyrs and little Howard stuck up for the lions.




Dada Koan #18: twin boys in ear canal


Today’s dada koan tackles the tricky problem of poor hearing.

What is a dada koan? It’s a kind of Frankenstein monster pieced together from old newspapers. Tristan Tzara, the great dadaist, is credited for inventing the cut-up technique poem.

You know, the candidates for this very fine 2016 presidential election don’t do mud-slinging. They’ve clawed past that to reach the primordial ooze and now there’s a hole in the earth and we’re all falling through.

But I digress.

Here’s the above pink on yellow dada koan cut-up poem in B&W:

robust, 75-year-old:

I feel strange essentially

twin boys in ear canal

whooped and clowned around.


coloring books.

problem may just be wax.

Just little boys horsing around with their coloring books. What a relief!

Thanks very much for stopping by.


Unrelated Addendum #1: We Speak Chicagoese, stories and poems by Chicago writers is edited by Bill Donlon and Dennis Foley. It’s hot off the presses and includes such abundance of local amazing as: “Brothers” by Sherwood Anderson, “My Brother’s Ass” by Carl Richards, “A Deal in Wheat” by Frank Norris, and “I Took the Santa Claus Job” by Beau O’Reilly.

Unrelated Addendum #2: Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet and Clarice Lispector’s Agua Viva feel more like philosophy than fiction. Reading these writers both at the same time makes me feel surreal, displaced, and uh… disquieted.

Addendum-related Addendum: Did Gregor Samsa have disquieting dreams?


Dada koan #15: we are pleased to offer…


Here’s a nice dada koan poem.  It’s good to have choices.  Someone cut it oddly, though.  I guess that was me.  Glued onto weird-shaped paper.  Is it less aesthetic than if it was square?  Yes.  Looks like I just used up a scrap.  I wasn’t making deliberate artistic choices.

Choices, choices.  November is nearly here.  Speaking of.

Articles popping up on the internet saying it won’t be easy to move out of the country.  The United States will punish you and charge you double-taxes for being a traitorous ex-pat.

I don’t want to talk about the election.

This is a cut-up technique poem.  It borrows from Tristan Tzara’s method but I’ve added a few tweaks.  So.  Scissor up maybe a free travel magazine you’re getting because the person who lived in your apartment before didn’t update her subscriptions when she moved.  Then you stick words and phrases in a box.  Pull ten slips.  Push them around until there’s a poem.  Dab on the Elmer’s glue and press it to bright paper.  Yes, yes the apartment’s a pigsty and the exterminator’s due in a week.  But hey, you’ve got a poem!

Here’s the above mermaid-blood blue and Easter-egg pink poem in B&W:

We are pleased to offer you a choice

shortness of breath

or develop a serious nervous disorder

would love to do nothing but watch

cement growing


Well, let’s all keep a good thought, shall we.  Thanks for stopping by.

Sort of related, light-hearted Addendum:  I didn’t know mermaids had blue blood.  But the shop owner of Enchanting Elixirs sells mermaid’s blood on Etsy.  It comes in a little vial.  It’s actually not as dark as the paper for the dada koan.  The blood is more robin’s egg blue.

Cryptic Addendum:  Please not the guy with the super-glued toupee and the small hands.

Dada Koans #10: found in a Louisiana bayou


Yes, at long last– the tenth anniversary of dada koans.  Exhausted by this morning’s round of radio and TV interviews.  Same questions:  How old are you? Did you know Tristan Tzara?  Why the name ‘dada koan’?  Did you foresee the day you’d reach Ten DK?  Hey, would they care how old I was if I was a guy.  But that’s okay.  Never met Tristan so I tell a story about Dali’s sex jacket and 55 dead flies in 55 shot glasses and they seem satisfied.

Back from Michael’s craft store. Ribbons and crepe paper, balloons, plastic animals (those are pretty expensive actually), and stick-on letters that read “DK: Number Ten!”

Difficult to scrape a small hole in the glass but managed and am now shot-gunning a bottle of Barefoot Bubbly Brut.


Why not celebrate DK Tenth your way by making your own dada koan poem? Scissor out words and phrases from Trader Joe’s newsletters, political flyers, and diet pill ads. Hide them in a Whitman’s Sampler box labeled “Surrealism”. Pull out a maximum of ten word slips. Rearrange, squeeze some Elmer’s glue onto loud-colored paper and presto. A dada koan for the ages. (Presto! is also the name of Penn Jillette’s weight-loss book where he recommends eating potatoes with no butter. He lost a hundred pounds.)

Here’s the above #2 pencil yellow poem in b&w.

as discombobulated as a fresh-

Celebrity Pink

football or life in general


lumped in with the muck

found in a Louisiana bayou

Well, there it is. A certain flooberty* state of mind explained.  Thanks for stopping by.  Keep drinking fluids and buying books and avoiding those mosquitoes.


Unrelated Addendum #1:  “Why do people always try to tell you that life gets better?  Like life has a bad cold.”– Kelly Link, Get In Trouble, short stories.

Unrelated Addendum #2:  First Shake, Rattle, and Read  on Broadway goes.  Now Bookworks on Clark Street will close in the fall.  No more bookstores can close in Chicago!  Jeez.  Ronda and Bob of Bookworks are so smart, friendly, and kind.  If it weren’t for Ronda– I doubt I’d ever have read the amazing Jose Saramago.  A beautiful, soothing atmosphere and chock-full of treasures.  I’ll miss them and their bookstore like crazy.  It was sanctuary.

*the term “flooberty” was coined by Hermione Slugfish in the late 1970’s.  Noun that means fuzzy-headed-ness.  Her (copyright 1982) “Feeling Flooberty” T-shirt is no longer in stock.

Dada koan #5: devious old radio host


This one’s my favorite dada koan (thus far). Maybe that’s because The Unsuspected by Charlotte Armstrong was a beloved mystery novel for me as a teenager. Old radio host Luther Grandison was so sweet.  (Nobody could believe anything bad about dear old Grandy!)

A dada koan, by the way, is just a short random “cut up” poem. Similar to the ones Tristan Tzara used to pull from his Cubs baseball cap. Only perhaps not so “elusive” as Tristan’s.

(Ha ha! That’s a little inside joke with myself. My American Heritage dictionary helpfully defines elusive as “tending to elude capture”.  However, I’m easy to find these summer months– usually sweating in my apartment holding an ice cube.)

At any rate.  Here is the above neon cantaloupe-colored poem in b&w:

an old radio host

saying “this is an onion”

Led to Brazen Killing

the central mystery of the case

scapegoat neck

is trending higher than

signs of the apocalypse


inspired by the theme “Joy”

Well, there you have it.  Vegetable comment causes bloodshed.  Not very elusive.

By the way, the plot of The Unsuspected is pretty far-fetched.  And also, I suppose, disturbing and wrong.  If you’re reading Charlotte Armstrong for the first time, you’d probably be better off with Mischief or something.  She’s written multitudes of mysteries that are better than The Unsuspected.  But I don’t care because it’s still the one closest to my heart.  She seems not so much in vogue now.

Thanks for stopping by.

Unrelated Addendum:  Remember those Oprah shows where a group of women who looked thirty-ish turned out to be ninety-five?  I’d never make it onto those shows because I look MUCH older than I am.  There’s no money in that.

Dada koans #3: delicate Gothic children


Hello.  After five months, I decided to try to tidy up my apartment. Found my WordPress password! Crushed under a hardback of horror novel House of Leaves (by Danielewski)   the notebook paper had soda stains, was crumpled and ripped in two, but still readable.

Due to a wrist injury– I now use a razor blade instead of scissors to cut words and phrases from old newspapers.  Other than that, my methods for these Dada koans– Whitman’s chocolates box, Tristan Tzara input, random pulls of word slips– haven’t changed.  For a more in depth explanation, see Surreal Poem How To: Dada koans #2.

The above pink Dada Koan reads (in b&w):

a fertile


appeared to be mulling


delicate Gothic



supported themselves



Thank you for stopping by.

Unrelated addendum:  The President of the United States is often shortened to POTUS.  If Donald Trump becomes President, it could further be shortened to PUS.

Also, I guess Bernie Sanders is the best choice for campaign 2016.  However, in politics, it’s dangerous to like anybody at all.

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.