Dada “Poetry”?

I was struck by two things in the Alfred Stieglitz inspired 291 vol. 2. First, with my limited knowledge of Dada, I always assumed it to be French art movement. Yet, the synopsis of 291 from Blue Mountain lists artists from different parts of Europe and America, and says, “affiliated with the New York Dada.” I’m sure my ignorance led me to assume this, but I find it interesting that Dada was, though short-lived, an international movement, which might contribute to its jumbled nature and qualities of intersection that lend it original characteristics.

I was also struck by the “poem” in vol. 2 on page 3. Let me transcribe a portion:

 

Silence.

Twilight.

Relief.  Many minds, many voices would have been unen-

durable to-day.

What a restful voice his.

Silence of snow-covered roof-tops.  New York is best from

the back and from above.

He is telling me this ——- laughing clowns ——-

to find out whether I have dared to live. ——-

Windows.

—- one

—— two

——- three ——

How can he bear to speak of it if it was real to him?

 

This section, and the other parts of the poem — which is balanced with drawings of shapes and lines, drawn logos, and other interruptions — reminded me of the style and voice The Waste Land is written with. Though I find the above poem, which I believe is “Mental Reactions” by Agnes Ernst Meyer, to be both more straight forward and surreal, which may seem contradictory. Here, a singular voice seems to be speaking about a concrete place and another person, how unendurable NYC is, and how the man’s voice is peaceful. The surrealist elements come into play with lines such as, “laughing clowns,” and, “How can he bear to speak of it if it was real to him?” which seems to me like a silly, nonsensical thing to wonder. This magazine was dated at “1915-04,” predating Eliot’s magnum opus, but not his own poetics. I like this Dada poem, and if you haven’t you should check out Stieglitz’s photography, he’s a cool dude.

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