--Jean (Hans) Arp
Kaspar Is Dead (1912, trans. Ralph Manheim)
alas our good kaspar is dead.
who will now carry the burning banner hidden in the pigtail of clouds to play the daily
who will now turn the coffee mill in the primaeval barrel.
who will now entice the idyllic deer out of the petrified paper box.
who will now confound on the high seas by addressing them as parapluie and the winds
by calling them keeper of the bees ozone spindle your highnesss.
alas alas alas our good kaspar is dead. holy ding dong kaspar is dead.
the cattlefish in the bellbarns clatter with heartrending grief when his christian name
is uttered. that is why I keep on moaning his family name kaspar kaspar kaspar.
why have you left us. into what shape has your beautiful great soul migrated.
have you become a star or a watery chain attached to a hot whirlwind
or an udder of black light or a transparent brick on the groaning drum
of jagged being.
now the part in our hair the soles of our feet are parched and the fairies lie half-charred
on the pyre.
now the black bowling alley thunders behind the sun and there's no one to wind up
the compasses and the wheels of the handbarrows any more.
who will now eat with the phosphorescent rat at the lonely barefooted table.
who will now chase away the siroccoco devil when he wants to beguile the horses.
who will now explain to us the monograms in the stars.
his bust will adorn the mantelpieces of all truly noble men but that's no comfort that's snuff
to a skull.
excerpts from Dadaland (1938/1948, trans. Ralph Manheim)
"The Renaissance taught men the haughty exultation of their reason. Modern times, with their science and technology, turned men towards megalomania. The confusion of our epoch results from our overestimation of reason. We wanted an anonymous and collective art. Here is what I wrote on the occasion of an exhibition we put on in Zurich in 1915: These works are constructed with lines, surfaces, forms, and colors. They strive to surpass the human and achieve the infinite and the eternal. They are a negation of man's egotism ... The hands of our brothers, instead of serving as our own hands, had become enemy hands. Instead of anonymity there was celebrity and the masterpiece; wisdom was dead ... To reproduce is to imitate, to play a comedy, to walk the tightrope ...
"I met Tzara and Serner at the Odéon and at the Café de la Terrasse in Zurich, where we wrote a cycle of poems: Hyperbole of the crocodile-barber and the walking cane. This type of poem was later baptized "Automatic Poetry" by the Surrealists. Automatic poetry issues straight from the entrails of the poet or from any other organ that has stored up reserves. Neither the Postillion de Longjumeau nor the Alexandrine, nor grammar, nor aesthetics, nor Buddha, nor the Sixth Commandment can interfere with it in the least. It crows, curses, sighs, stammers, yodels, just as it pleases. Its poems are like nature: they stink, laugh, rhyme like nature. It esteems foolishness, or at least what men call foolishness, as highly as sublime rhetoric, for in nature a broken twig is equal to the stars in beauty and importance, and it is men who decree what is beautiful and what is ugly."