I Am a Beautiful Monster
Poetry, Prose, and Provocation
- "Best of Category", General Trade Nonillustrated, in the 2008 New England Book Show sponsored by Bookbuilders of Boston.
488 pp., 7 x 9 in, 20 b&w illus.
- Published: February 10, 2012
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: September 21, 2007
- Publisher: The MIT Press
The first definitive edition in English of writings by poet, painter, pickpocket-plagiarist, and consummate anti-artist Francis Picabia, one of Dada's leading figures.
Poet, painter, self-described funny guy, idiot, failure, pickpocket, and anti-artist par excellence, Francis Picabia was a defining figure in the Dada movement; indeed, André Breton called Picabia one of the only “true” Dadas. Yet very little of Picabia's poetry and prose has been translated into English, and his literary experiments have never been the subject of close critical study. I Am a Beautiful Monster is the first definitive edition in English of Picabia's writings, gathering a sizable array of Picabia's poetry and prose and, most importantly, providing a critical context for it with an extensive introduction and detailed notes by the translator.
Picabia's poetry and prose is belligerent, abstract, polemical, radical, and sometimes simply baffling. For too long, Picabia's writings have been presented as raw events, rule-breaking manifestations of inspirational carpe diem. This book reveals them to be something entirely different: maddening in their resistance to meaning, full of outrageous posturing, and hiding a frail, confused, and fitful personality behind egoistic bravura.
I Am a Beautiful Monster provides the texts of of Picabia's significant publications, all presented complete, many of them accompanied by their original illustrations.
Picabia's manifestos, essays, and poems, well known in France, are presented here for the first time in a complete English edition, ably translated and annoted by Marc Lowenthal. From the early exuberant poems in Fifty-Two Mirrors to his erotically charged Thoughts without Language, to his 'Cannibal' manifesto and Surrealist screenplays, Picabia's writings constitute a fascinating chapter in the history of the avant-garde.
Marjorie Perloff, Professor Emerita of English, Stanford University, and author of The Futurist Movement, and Radical Artifice
Like a number of other modernist masters–Schwitters, Arp, Picasso, Kandinsky–Picabia's reputation as an artist has long overshadowed, even hidden, his more than equal achievement as a writer and poet. Now, in Marc Lowenthal's masterful re-creation, the secret is finally out. Picabia emerges here full-blown among his contemporaries and as a forerunner to the most adventurous poets of our own time. Beautiful and monstrous by turns, the artist and his works are a testament to what happens when a poet creates up to and including his limits–and ours.
Jerome Rothenberg, Poet
This is a brilliant translation of Picabia's delightfully insufferable poetry. Witty, banal, explosive, aphoristic, and articulate, his deployment of source texts, collage, appropriation, and pastiche provide further proof that techniques often called postmodernist were fundamental to modernism.
Francis Picabia's raucous early Dada poems dare the unprecedented and traffic in the sheer possibilities of abstract shimmering gesture. His late aphorisms are startling bolts of congealed thought. Marc Lowenthal has done the history of radical modernist poetry a great service by bringing these works of exquisitely offbeat taste and intoxicating
Charles Bernstein, Donald T. Regan Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania