Dada+Eliot=Oysters?

eyesonthehalfshell

I took a look at a magazine called The Blind Man which can be found in full here.

I almost wrote about another piece in this issue, a letter apparently written by a mother from Minneapolis but then this small visual poem by Robert Carlton Brown caught my eye.

My mind instantly went to Act II of The Waste Land specifically the shell shocked veteran. “I remember / Those were pearls that were his.” (124-125) The parallels with “Eyes on the Half shell” are almost spooky. Both compare eyes with something related to oysters, the pearls being the product of the oyster and half shell referring to a style of oyster dish. Both also have an element of the upper class in them, pearls being an expensive jewelry item and oysters on the half shell being an expensive dish. Lastly both seem to be referring to the war dead. I’m not suggesting that the two lines have any concrete relation or anything (Eliot is obviously pulling the line from The Tempest) but Eliot and Brown do seem to be trying to present similar ideas with scarily parallel imagery.  My rational side wants to chalk this one up to probability and the capacity for the human brain to make connections where none exist but I can’t help but think this is just weird.

As far as how this line applies to Dadaism, I feel it falls under the Dadaist Disgust. The image of eyes on the half shell is reminds me of Lovecraftian horror. It is clearly meant to invoke a very physical reaction in the reader. The drawings of the eyes around the poem are unsettling at best. The pair at the top, although almost childish looking, are filled with more emotion than I think I’ve ever seen in most real humans’ eyes. They really set the tone for the poem. This tone seems to tear down the idea of classical artistic beauty and almost feels like an accusation of the reader. The fact that the poem is in handwriting, and not put to paper with the perfection (or apparent perfection) of printing also seems to rebel against the tradition ideas of art.

 

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