Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Note on Poetry

by Tristan Tzara
from "Poetry in Theory: an anthology 1900-2000" by Jon Cook, pp. 91-3

The poet of the last station has given up vain weeping; lamentation slows down progress. The humidity of past ages. People who feed on tears are contented and obtuse, they thread their tears behind the necklaces of their souls so as to cheat the snakes. The poet can go in for Swedish gymnastics. But for abundance and explosion he knows how to kindle hope TODAY. Whether tranquil, ardent, furious, intimate, pathetic, slow or impetuous, his burning desire is for enthusiasm, that fecund form of intensity.

To know how to recognise and pick up the signs of the power we are awaiting, which are everywhere; in the fundamental language of cryptograms, engraved on crystals, on shells, on rails, in clouds, or in glass; inside snow, or light, or coal; on the hand, in the beams grouped round the magnetic poles, on wings.

...

The mind is alive with a new range of possibilities: to centralise them, to collect them under a lens that is neither material nor delimited -- what is popularly called: the soul. The ways of expressing them, of transmuting them: the means. Bright as a flash of gold -- the increasing beating of expanding wings.

Without pretensions to a romantic absolute, I present a few mundane negations.

A poem is no longer a formal act: subject, rhythm, rhyme, sonority. When projected on to everyday life, these can become means, whose use is neither regulated nor recorded, to which I attach the same weight as I do to the crocodile, to burning metals, or to grass. Eye, water, equilibrium, sun, kilometre, and everything that I can imagine as belonging together and which represents a potential human asset, is sensitivity. The elements love to be closely associated, truly hugging each other, like the cerebral hemispheres and the cabins of transatlantic liners.

Rhythm is the gait of intonations we hear, but there is a rhythm that we neither see nor hear: the radius of an internal grouping that leads towards a constellation of order. Up to now, rhythm has been the beating of a dried-up heart, a little tinkle in putrid, padded wood. I don't want to put fences round what people call principles, when what is at stake is freedom. But the poet will have to be demanding towards his own work in order to discover its real necessity: order, essential and pure, will flower from this asceticism -- (Goodness without a sentimental echo, its material side.)

...

The poem pushes up or hollows out the crater, remains silent, kills or shouts in an accelerating crescendo of speed. It will no longer depend on its visual image, on sense perception or on intelligence, but on its impact, or capability of transmuting the traces of emotions.

...

Under the bark of felled trees, I seek the image of things to come, of vigour, and in underground tunnels the obscurity of iron and coal may already be heavy with life.
------
Note: I don't necessarily agree with this, but I understand how a poet strives to break through the barriers of form. And yet the best poetry seems to stem from a collaboration with form, the result of hard-won liberties you reach under the yoke of traditional elements such as rhyme and meter.

Can the same be said of life? Should we not strive to break free of societal rules (such as anarchists do) and instead glory in negotiating the rules and finding our way to our own personal freedoms? (Democracy?)

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