the surrealists -- many of them, including the main man andré breton -- wanted to get rid of the notion of the "bourgeois" author, hence surrealist texts are full of seemingly unrelated strings of surprising images, incomprehensible to those "bourgeois" readers imprisoned by societal logic and constraints. these texts, then, are the product of some more or less random process rather than the deliberate composition of some author.
i've become intrigued by many traditional poetic forms: haiku, sonnet, sestina, villanelle.
in my mind it would be just "too easy" to fill, say, a sestina, with random cutup lines and appropriate end words. if we're just doing random cutups, what does the traditional form add to the poem?
i think these traditional forms demand some intellectual effort on the part of the poet to fit the words and images into the formal regime, not necessarily of rhyme, but often the regulated repetition of end words, images and lines.
doesn't mean it has to make "sense" in some grand narrative arc, but readers need to feel some
poetic urgency to the image sequences, end words, lines and stanzas.
here's a sestina i just put together:
you told me never
you told me never reveal our secret internet burrow
so the monsters won’t capture the composer
of our hearts stolen by the fairy
when i break her i fear
the winged thing mourning
for me and i’m scared it’s night and i don’t know where i wandered
fervent fucking O please take me in where i wandered
to meet these women in our hidden burrow
the little boy scared my mourning
your frequent laughing composer
so long ago eating on the sandy field where fear
asked if she's artificial like the fairy
see me kiss the women imagined by the fairy
who let you in the cockpit as you wandered
joking that you live in fear
in our glass burrow
never talk to my composer
who wanders in the days that hitler’s myth is mourning
the luger in his hand can’t be mourning
the barracks the bodies the impotent fairy
an asteroid denied there was ever a composer
so much smoke wandered
fearfully in our burrow
hack my optic nerve so you won’t fear
we worry hitler’s box is full of fear
it’s such a long drive to visit your mourning
you thought you hid it in our secret burrow
i’ll do anything to come to your house and talk with your fairy
mother called me to your room the night i wandered
from nowhere and came after your composer
other days i think my new women talk to your composer
but friday night i’m going somewhere else where they’re not dead yet and i don’t
understand what they fear
prepare to leap into empty space where you wandered
trying to fight off the mourning
without you i feel like such an empty fairy
always watching the film burrow
i fear i made the mannequin look into mourning
snow that wandered where your fairy
composer put it all in our internet burrow
evolving writing style?
this is what i call "image arcing": surrealism tries to evoke emotional energy by getting it to blast out of juxtaposed images, just as you can see a spark jump between two electrodes held apart.
in his 1924 Manifesto of Surrealism andré breton quotes pierre reverdy:
"The image is a pure creation of the mind.
It cannot be born from a comparison but from a juxtaposition of two more or less distant realities.
The more the relationship between the two juxtaposed realities is distant and true, the stronger the image will be — the greater the emotional power and poetic reality . . ."
— André Breton, Manifestoes of Surrealism, University of Michigan Press, 1972, pp. 20
it's not clear what reverdy meant by a "distant and true" relationship between "juxtaposed realities" but "distant" is easy to grasp. as max ernst put it, ". . .the reconciliation of two (or more) seemingly incompatible elements within a scheme, incompatible to them, provokes the strongest poetic ignitions"
— Max Ernst, What is Surrealism?, in Surrealists on Art, Lucy Lippard, ed., Prentice-Hall, 1970, pp. 135
more emotional energy
here are some thoughts by the composer roger sessions and the poet robert bly. i'm a great believer in this notion of a pre-conscious emotional channel in us all. music and poetry both try to evoke the "emotional energy" that lives there.
"What the music does is animate the emotion; the music, in other words, develops and moves on a level that is essentially below the level of conscious emotion. Its realm is that of emotional energy rather than that of emotion in the specific sense."
— Roger Sessions, The Musical Experience of Composer, Performer, Listener, Princeton University Press, 1971, pp. 24
"And what are notes? When sounds are absorbed and shaped by and inside, say, a string quartet, they contain almost no life stuff. Notes are pure sound vibrations connected apparently to feelings (but not to experiences) that resonate somewhere inside us. During the Well-Tempered Clavichord we feel 'feelings' that we seem not to have felt in daily life. There is evidently a layer of consciousness that runs alongside our life, above or below, but is not it. Perhaps it is older. Certain works of art make it their aim to rise up and pierce this layer, or layers. Or they open to allow 'memories' from this layer in."
— Robert Bly, TruthBarriers: poems by Tomas Tranströmer, trans. Robert Bly, Sierra Club Books, 1980, from the introduction, pp. 9
for each poem in realtime babies i generated raw material — a big block of words formed by randomly recombining stream of consciousness texts, quite often using the emerging randomly selected phrases as a composition starting point. i'd choose the phrases i'd want to use and throw away many that didn’t seem to fit. i'd often get a phrase and revise it on the fly. maybe there were bits that i felt were funny, bits that were surprising juxtapositions, bits pointing somewhere interesting, and bits i had no idea what they meant, but the sound and rhythm seemed to fit into the word flow
i then read these new texts and often found several themes to go after. maybe i couldn’t articulate such themes or even understand them. but i had chunks of something — maybe i was afraid of mom hitting me when i was little, maybe i wanted to love this girl, maybe some event wounded me. from then on i'd craft the final poem — paying attention to rhythm, sound, and meaningful moments. i'd flow by sonic rhythm from moment to moment, and try to end with a punch line — a lyrical, mysterious resting place.