Sunday, October 06, 2013

ModPo 2013 #28 Circus, my very own Dadaist poem: On Tzara's "To make a Dadaist poem"

Tristan Tzara  from "Dada Manifesto on Feeble & Bitter Love"
Translated from the original French by Barbara Wright

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 carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are--an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd."

The YouTube instructions were particularly hilarious, especially with the mystical background music. While it sounds funny to me, I imagine that it was an earnest attempt by Tzara to define a new kind of poetry, a poetry stripped of subjectivity, a poetry determined purely by chance. I liked how this particular set of instructions were compared to Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain," an overturned urinal set in a museum. The first question one might ask is: Is this poetry? Is this art? I think both pieces are about questioning what art is in the first place, questioning its assumptions and challenging traditional notions.

I was very tempted to fulfill on the instructions and construct my own Dadaist poem. But given current advances in technology, I decided to look up a Dada poem generator. I found one. Here's the link: I took one news item from a popular local news portal and here is the resulting poem:

Image generated by a newspaper clipping generator.

barrel mastermind funds. is assist
the pork Napoles Executive Arroyo funds. Fund
accused of P337 Malampaya Justice
5 filed barrel accused and the rehabilitation
Executive release in an Fund
the mastermind Mario issued Leila days requests

Amazing! I love it. It turns the news of the day, the circus of pork barrel funds and corruption that riddles all houses of our Philippine government, into a mishmash of words that are circulating day and night in our national consciousness. I appreciated the discussion on how the Dadaists were subverting the headlines of the day by using the method, fragmenting all narrative in a world that was fragmented after World War 1. I see this fragmentation once again in the daily news: the exposure of graft and corruption and the endless pointing of fingers among those in power.

From the random generation of words, there is a composition of the national subconscious that is forming. A composition of our times made up of the words: mastermind, funds, rehabilitation, executive, accused. And what magic put Malampaya (one of the biggest scams by those in power) right beside the word Justice? The magic of chance operations. Let me put a special touch to my Dadaist poem by giving it a title: Circus. A circus of words. A circle of words. A ring of masterminds. And lost in the middle of everything is Justice. Does it mean anything anymore?

While I wouldn't create any more Dadaist poems, I appreciate the impulse behind the Dadaist movement.

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