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National Poetry Month: Francis Picabia

We are back for National Poetry Month! This week we're looking at French poet and painter Francis Picabia.  

Picabia was a crucial figure of the "Dada movement", a period when European avante-garde artists rejected capitalist and nationalist society, and focused on creating nonsensical, irrational artwork in protest. Until I Am a Beautiful Monster was translated into English by Marc Lowenthal and published in 2012, most of Picabia's poetry wasn't available in English at all. Though his poems are often considered baffling and maddening, they remain important to the context of the Dada movement. Today, we invite you to read two of those poems. 

American Saliva

Taste is tiresome

like good company

 

The mechanical domino stomach

of fog potbellies

gossips at a dust run

and endures the dryness of a wineglass of sherry.

An uncanny radish rears up

in a piece of broken glass

next to the telephone trout.

On a Zanzibar pocket notebook

the nude arrives without any means of transport.

That reminds me of tie knots

alone in a freight car.

The stairway coughs with the lamppost

my brothers!

(1918)

 

Final Song

Guess what's behind the blue hill:

a king in a wickerwork castle.

And behind this frail castle,

guess what there is.

By a pink tree,

a messenger talking to the moon.

 

Guess what's behind the yellow moon:

a gnome made of wire

blowing into a wooden horn.

At the end of the horn the soul of a bird

summoning the spring from which dreams drink;

dreams that sleep during the day!

 

Guess what's behind the golden dreams:

a body of silk,

hair made of the shadow's dust,

a mouth for arid thirst,

arms to hide my sadness.

Behind my dreams there is you.

(1945)

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