I Am a Beautiful Monster
Who is with me is against me.—Francis Picabia
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, Andre 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. His early poetry, with its uncompromising disregard for literary convention and readerly expectation, seems to anticipate Dada; His Dada manifestos are alternately engaging and insufferable. Picabia's later poems are more troublesome critically, given their wholesale borrowing and manipulation of Nietzsche. I Am a Beautiful Monster painstakingly documents Picabia's hitherto undocumented appropriations from Nietzsche's work.
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: maddeningin 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 all of Picabia's significant publications, his books Fifty-two Mirrors, Poems and Drawings of the Daughter Born without a Mother, Purring Poetry, Unique Eunuch, Yes No, Chi-lo-sa, Thoughts without Language, and others, all presented complete, many of them accompanied by their original illustrations.
More poetry from Picabia:
IN ORDER TO LOVE
SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO
HAVE SEEN IT OR HEARD IT
FOR A LONG TIME YOU BUNCH OF IDIOTS
I saw me
cracked like a gong
About the Author
Francis Picabia (1879-1953), painter and poet, was a leading figure in the Dada movement.
“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.”
“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 annotated 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
“Francis Picabia's raucous early Dada poems dare the unprecedented andtraffic 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 élan into English. His translations of the turbulent work of this “freeloading angel” show uncanny skill and welcome verve.”
—Charles Bernstein, Donald T. Regan Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania
“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
"Best of Category", General Trade Nonillustrated, in the 2008 New England Book Show sponsored by Bookbuilders of Boston.