Thursday, February 28, 2008

Such that wholly or partially, it is to say that this preface, how shall I say, is nothing more than nonsense to me, or not me.

I’m not sure that I completely agree with Breton’s ideas in some of the things he discusses. I do like his notion of the insane “being honest to a fault” (5). However, I don’t agree that M. Paul Valéry’s suggestion of creating an anthology made up entirely of first sentences from novels is an insane one. I personally look forward each year to the new edition of The Best American Non-Required Reading, which contains a small section, dedicated completely to some of the year’s best opening sentences. I think if someone did create such a compilation as Valéry proposes, I would probably buy it.

Surrealism, as I am trying to understand it, seems very similar to magnetic poetry. The poems on pages 41-43 strike me as being just that, the only difference is that these poems were found poems clipped from newspapers, rather than being packaged up, themed and mass-produced to be sold at your local store of whimsy.
This fashion of combining thoughts that seem, at least on the surface, to be completely unrelated, feels to me more like a conscious effort to sound random. The sense that I get is that people who write surrealism, try to portray it as an absolute freeing of the mind, allowing it to wander where it may. I think when you let your mind wander, it tends to link things up closer together than demonstrated in this writing style. Thoughts, to me, trigger other thoughts: something reminds you of something else and that something else leads to another something else, etc. The samples of surrealism given here don’t seem to be doing that though. They seem incredibly forced. For instance, the answers to the questions on page 34 are so unrelated to the questions, I’m having a hard time accepting it as anything more than a complete disregard to the actual questions being asked.

Writing is such a conscious effort. It’s all about choosing the most appropriate words to get your thoughts across. As far as surrealist writing, I’m not convinced this is even possible. Thoughts are more dimensional than mere sentences and paragraphs can possibly portray. I think in the act of choosing the words to describe your thoughts, you are not entirely in a state of liberating your mind. I liked that Breton mentioned surrealist artists such as Picasso. It further helped me to try to grasp the concept by giving me a concrete visual. I think that visual art is a more suitable medium for the abstract idea of surrealism. When put into written form, it is messy and often hard to follow. The subjects are constantly changing. Although I think Breton did not favor the use of titles as Soupault does (23-24), I find them quite helpful for this sort of thing. Rather than adjusting yourself constantly from thought to thought, trying to decipher what is going on, the text is qualified in a way that prepares you for the shift in ideas. I both understood and enjoyed reading the “Secrets of the Magical Surrealist Art” on pages 29-32, than most of the preceding pages. The reason for this: subtitles.


mel said...

I don't think the intention of the poetry is to come across as random or even really that strange. He even states he is using juxtaposition, two seemingly unlike ideas forming a solid third idea which relates to both. So yes, it is conscious but it's not restricting in the way formal writing limits us to preconceived notions of what poetry, writing, or art are. I think it's really about removing social masks, hence discussion of children and "psychopaths" both of which, even when interacting with others, have a stream of consciousness freeing them from any obligations of politeness (35).

As disjointed as his poem seems, there seems to be a definite story there. (I think about a man from the country visiting Paris on a beautiful day, exploring with a desire to experience everything at every moment).
But I tend to be a bit romantic when it comes to nonsense.

Erin said...

You have this way of making things clearer for me. First the association with Les Enfants Terribles to Cruel Intentions and now surrealism to magnetic poetry. You are not the only one who is having a hard time making sense out of what Breton is trying to say. For me, the word manifesto summons an image of a man standing on his soapbox. (Literally.)

I agree that writing is a conscious effort. However, I have been putting a lot of thought into and I think as students, more specifically English majors, we have been taught or have trained ourselves to make writing a conscious effort. (However, that runon sentence could use some work.) We manipulate text in our own writing to convey our own ideas. Our writing is not for pleasure like journal writing is.

As a sidenote, I am intrigued by how fonts are used in Breton's Manifestoes on Surrealism. How fun is it to manipulate not just the words and phrases you use, but also its appreance.

Carl Kitchen said...

Here's some magnetic poetry off my fridge:

Les femmes dansent dans la royaume des moustiques tristes. Bikinis fragiles.

And something someone wrote on my fridge's dry-erase board with a permanent marker, which I'm pretty pissed about: