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.
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
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.