Friday, 4 April 2014

Tristan Tzara ( 4/4/1896 -25/12/63) ) Radical Dadaist Poet of vivid imagination.

The individual . .  .  lives poetry every moment  that he affirms his existence. The poetic image itself, as much as experience, is not only a product of reason and imagination, it is valid only if it has been lived. Every creation is therefore, for the poet, an aggressive  affirmation of his consciousness."

-Tristan Tzara:- Dialectics of Poetry, 1946 

Tristan Tzara was a writer for whom artistic and political revolution were one and the same. He was a Romanian and French poet, essayist and performance artist and founding member of the anti-establishment artistic movement known as known as Dada.
Born Samuel Rosentsock on April 4th , 1896 in Moinesi, Romania, to a wealthy jewish family.In his early youth was  the lover of the dancer Maja Krusceek, he would go on to  to marry the Swedish aritist and poet Greta Knutson.
In 1915 his parents sent him to Zurich, where he enrolled at a University to study philosophy, inspired by the Symbolist Poets, in particular, the works of Arthur Rimbaud. He adopted  the pseudonym Tristan Tzara (sad in country) as a protest of the treatment of  jews in his native country. It was here in Zurich that he was to write the first Dadaist  texts, after meeting  the German Hugo Ball, an anarchist poet and pianist and his young wife Emmy Hennings, a music hall performer, attending events at the Caberet Voltaire, where he also put on shows that would combine performance art, with his poetry and art manifestos, which were all  to become key components of early Dadaism.
His talent as a performer and event organiser, and his role  on the journal DADA and his founding Dadaist writings quickly placed Tzara at the centre of this blossonming movement.
Dadaism was principally an anti-art, anti-war, anti-bourgeois movement born  as a reaction to World War 1. They reacted in horror and disgust to the brutality of thewar, to the mechanical anonymous killing and to the cynical justifications put forward by the powers that be on both sides, who sought to use the seeming logic of their arguments to legitimise their war policy. The Dadaists  accused the public in the belligerent nations  of a deferentia, nationalist attitude, so they formulated  their own position with a corresponding self confidence. Also together with kindred spirits Tzara and the Dadaists laid out in Hugo Balls' original Dada Manifesto (1916),  their opposition to all characteristics of the middle classes, including materialism, convention and consumerism. They believed art had become a commercial transaction both literally and metaphorically, so they navigated a deeper pulse, swimming in the deep end of sighs. They used Dada as  a form of shock art that intended  to provoke and outrage its audience, using obscenity and humour in an attempt to probe the cultural public. Anarchic, nihilistic and disruptive, childhood and chance its two most important sources of inspiration, the name itself a nonsense, a baby-talk word, born out of dissillusionment, a cult of non-art that became overtly political, that for me has much enduring appeal and the presence of immense passion and beauty. He would collaborate with Breton, Aragon, Soupault, Picabio and Paul Eluard, much illustrious company methinks.

" Freedom: Dada, dada, dada,
crying open the constricted pains,
swallowing the contrasts and all
the contradictions, the grotequeries
and the illogicalities of life."

- Tristan Tzara

Tristan Tzara's writing I have only be able to read in translation, unfortunately, highly experimental, rich and anarchic. His later poems would reveal the anquish of his soul, caught between revolt and wonderment at the daily tragedy of the human condition. He was committed to art being used as a  political weapon and  continued to be involved in politics and political activism throughout his life. A stauch anti-fascist he joined the republicans in the Spanish Civil War and became a member of the French Resistance in World WarII. Though originally alligned  with the Communist Party of France, serving a time  in the French National Assembly, he later distanced  himself fom them after the 1956 Hungarian uprising. He did however, remain a spokesman for Dada, and in 1960 was among the intellectuals who protested against French actions in the Algerian War.
On December 24th, 1963, he died in Paris of lung cancer at the age of sixty-seven.Still a Poet of Revolt, a proud defender of Dada's movements. His legacy still echoes in our rumbling confusions, in every art fad that has since echoed,down the age.
The following poems that I share, have no structure or rhthym, but they speak with boldness, beauty and wonder, translated by someone who understands Tzara's potency, the fine poet Lee Harwood ( who I was fortunate to catch reading his own work in Carmarthen last year),  even in translation, the raw honesty is allowed to  breathe and reveal.
Hope you appreciate them as much as I do.

To Make a Dadaist Poem

Take a newspaper,
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next  take  each cutting one aftr the other.
Copy conscieintiously  in theorder in whichthey left the bag
The poem will reseble you.
And there yu are-an infinitely author of charming
sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.


the clashing seas spread the ocean of their idleness
in the beds with white foam sheets
as the sound of pages of waves turned by the reader of
the unsated sky
the loving and steady caress of clouds
dissolves behind the mist
the long awaited promise on the horizon of your smile

the land at its bursting point reveals the young white stone
of a giant's firm breast offered for the length of time
and the wind bites its lips in its black rage

smashed is the clarity passing through the glasses of our lives
the wind chokes the word in the village's throat poor village
its life of strange revelations

shattered is the chain of wors covered in winters and dramas
which connnected the  the intimate revelations of our lives

and the wind spits in our face
the untiring brutality of it all

(Translated by Lee Harwood)

ambling along

the glance's sand
the loose earth
the tower's bark
the exchange of pleasant hills

the first stone
charming octopus
the vines tore off
from the flock of stacks
they're lying

then the low trusting water
and night everywhere
doors banging
unseen hands

the grass sheathed
the voice blocked
the roaf beheaded
the houuse buried

eveything for you you see
you son't see anything anymore

(Lee Harwood)


what is this road that seperates us
across which I hold out the hand of my thoughts
a flower is written at the end of each finger
and the end of the road is a flower which walks with you

glass to pass through peaceful

the joy of lines wind around you soul's central heating
smoke speed steel smoke
geography of silk embroideries
colonised with flowering sponges
the song crystallized
in the
body's vase with the smoke flower

the black's vibration
in your blood
in your blood of the evening's intelligence and wisdom
a blue wrinkled eye in a clear glass
I love you I love you
a vertical comes down  into my tiredeness which no longer enlightenjs me
my heart muffled in an old newsapaper
you can bite it: whistle
let's go

the clouds set in ranks in the offices' fever
the bridges mangle your poor body is very large these milky way
           scissors and cut out the memory in green shapes
in one direction always in the same direction
expanding always expanding

Recommended  Further Reading:-

Chanson Dada :-- Tristan Tzara
Selected poems  translated by Lee Harwood
Black Widow Press, 2005

dada :- art and anti-art
-Hans Richter
Thames and Hudson, 1965

Hugo Ball- Flight out of time
Viking Press, 1974

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