Surrealism 101

Surrealism… in its broader sense… represents a spiritual crisis that stems from the ideological developments of the nineteenth century, and has succeeded in producing a technique of writing and painting that conveys a materio-mystical vision of the universe. – Anna Balakian

Friday, Portland.
Working on this entry off and on for the last few days.
We have been scrambling, off to Astoria to see friends at their new seaside cabin, to visiting clients, working on the new edition of The Invisible College Magazine (Lucky #7!) and generally getting things done.

Our friends Leslie & Roberto drove past on Interstate 5 yesterday, sadly they couldn’t stop as they were running late for setting up for a show in Seattle. Hopefully we can visit them and other friends down in my favourite California town later in the year if the weather holds back in October and early November.

It is beautiful here right now. The little birds are all fledgling out, ready to take to the sky only if the parents keep feeding them. I swear, most of them are larger than their parents. Perhaps we are seeing some sort of mutation happening to multiple species in our back yard!

Anyway, hope this finds you well. Another themed entry, enjoy!


On The Menu:
STS9 – The Shock Doctrine
Surrealist Quotes
The Links
La Pieuvre Des Arbres
Scottish Fairytales: Fairy Transportation
The Surrealist Song Of Robert Desnos
Robert Desnos Biography
Layo & Bushwacka – Sleepy Language
Art: Ernst Fuchs

STS9 – The Shock Doctrine


Surrealist Quotes:

The mind which plunges into Surrealism, relives with burning excitement the best part of childhood. (Andre Breton)

One can understand why Surrealism was not afraid to make for itself a tenet of total revolt, complete insubordination, of sabotage according to rule, and why it still expects nothing save from violence. (Andre Breton)

Surrealism is embedded in the everyday, in the daily experience. (Katharine Conley)

Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision. (Salvador Dali)

Surrealism had a great effect on me because then I realised that the imagery in my mind wasn’t insanity. Surrealism to me is reality. (John Lennon)


The Links:

Stepping Into The Distant Past…
Are Cancers New Forms Of Parasites?
Drug Testing Via Your Fingerprints…
The Art Of Failing

La Pieuvre Des Arbres


Scottish Fairytales: Fairy Transportation

The power of the fairies was not confined to unchristened children alone; it was supposed frequently to be extended to full-grown persons, especially such as in an unlucky hour were devoted to the devil by the execration of parents and of masters; or those who were found asleep under a rock, or on a green hill, belonging to the fairies, after sunset, or, finally, to those who unwarily joined their orgies. A tradition existed, during the seventeenth century, concerning an ancestor of the noble family of Duffus, who, “walking abroad in the fields, near to his own house, was suddenly carried away, and found the next day at Paris, in the French king’s cellar, with a silver cup in his hand. Being brought into the king’s presence, and questioned by him who he was, and how he came thither, he told his name, his country, and the place of his residence! and that on such a day of the month, which proved to be the day immediately preceding, being in the fields, he heard the noise of a whirlwind, and of voices, crying ‘Horse and Hattock!’ (this is the word which the fairies are said to use when they remove from any place), whereupon he cried ‘Horse and Hattock’ also, and was immediately caught up and transported through the air by the fairies, to that place, where, after he had drunk heartily, he fell asleep, and before he woke, the rest of the company were gone, and had left him in the posture wherein he was found. It is said the king gave him the cup which was found in his hand, and dismissed him.” The narrator affirms “that the cup was still preserved, and known by the name of the Fairy Cup.” He adds that Mr. Steward, tutor to the then Lord Duffus, had informed him that, “when a boy at the school of Forres, he and his school-fellows were upon a time whipping their tops in the churchyard, before the door of the church, when, though the day was calm, they heard a noise of a wind, and at some distance saw the small dust begin to rise and turn round, which motion continued advancing till it came to the place where they were, whereupon they began to bless themselves; but one of their number being, it seems, a little more bold and confident than his companions, said, “‘Horse and Hattock with my top,’ and immediately they all saw the top lifted up from the ground, but could not see which way it was carried, by reason of a cloud of dust which was raised at the same time. They sought for the top all about the place where it was taken up, but in vain; and it was found afterwards in the churchyard, on the other side of the church.”

126:1 Sir Waiter Scott, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.


The Surrealist Song Of Robert Desnos

Dove in the Arch

be the father of the bride
of the blacksmith who forged the iron for the axe
with which the woodsman hacked down the oak
from which the bed was carved
in which was conceived the great-grandfather
of the man who was driving the carriage
in which your mother met your father.

The Ring of Stars

In order to make a star with five branches
Where six would have been the same
A circle must first be drawn
In order to make a star with five branches …

A ring!

One did not take so many precuations
In order to make a tree from many branches
Trees that hide the stars
You, full of nests and song birds
Covered with branches and leaves
That you lift as far as the stars!


What sort of arrow split the sky and this rock?
It’s quivering, spreading like a peacock’s fan
Like the mist around the shaft and knot less feathers
Of a comet come to nest at midnight.

How blood surges from the gaping wound,
Lips already silencing murmur and cry.
One solemn finger holds back time, confusing
The witness of the eyes where the deed is written.

Silence? We still know the passwords.
Lost sentinels far from the watch fires
We smell the odor of honeysuckle and surf
Rising in the dark shadows.

Distance, let dawn leap the void at last,
And a single beam of light make a rainbow on the water
Its quiver full of reeds,
Sign of the return of archers and patriotic songs.

Sky Song

The flower of the Alps told the seashell: “You’re shining”
The seashell told the sea: “You echo”
The sea told the boat: “You’re shuddering”
The boat told the fire: “You’re glowing brightly”
The fire told me: “I glow less brightly than her eyes”
The boat told me: “I shudder less than your heart does when she appears”
The sea told me: “I echo less than her name does in your love-making”
The seashell told me: “I shine less brightly than the phosphorus of desire in your hollow dream”
The flower of the Alps told me: “She’s beautiful”
I said: “She’s beautiful, so beautiful, she moves me.”

The Voice of Robert Desnos

So like a flower and a current of air
the flow of water fleeting shadows
the smile glimpsed at midnight this excellent evening
so like every joy and every sadness
it is the midnight past lifting its naked body above belfries and poplars
I call to me those lost in the fields
old skeletons young oaks cut down
scraps of cloth rotting on the ground and linen drying in farm country
I call tornadoes and hurricanes
storms typhoons cyclones
tidal waves
I call the smoke of volcanoes and the smoke of cigarettes
the rings of smoke from expensive cigars
I call lovers and loved ones
I call the living and the dead
I call gravediggers I call assassins
I call hangmen pilots bricklayers architects
I call the flesh
I call the one I love
I call the one I love
I call the one I love
the jubilant midnight unfolds its satin wings and perches on my bed
the belfries and the poplars bend to my wish
the former collapse the latter bow down
those lost in the fields are found in finding me
the old skeletons are revived by my voice
the young oaks cut down are covered with foliage
the scraps of cloth rotting on the ground and in the earth
snap to at the sound of my voice like a flag of rebellion
the linen drying in farm country clothes adorable women
whom I do not adore
who come to me
obeying my voice, adoring
tornadoes revolve in my mouth
hurricanes if it is possible redden my lips
storms roar at my feet
typhoons if it is possible ruffle me
I get drunken kisses from the cyclones
the tidal waves come to die at my feet
the earthquakes do not shake me but fade completely
at my command
the smoke of volcanoes clothes me with its vapors
and the smoke of cigarettes perfumes me
and the rings of cigar smoke crown me
loves and love so long hunted find refuge in me
lovers listen to my voice
the living and the dead yield to me and salute me
the former coldly the latter warmly
the gravediggers abandon the hardly-dug graves
and declare that I alone may command their nightly work
the assassins greet me
the hangmen invoke the revolution
invoke my voice
invoke my name
the pilots are guided by my eyes
the bricklayers are dizzied listening to me
the architects leave for the desert
the assassins bless me
flesh trembles when I call

the one I love is not listening
the one I love does not hear
the one I love does not answer.

Robert Desnos Biography

Desnos, Robert (rôbĕr’ dĕsnôs’), 1900-1945, French poet. Among the best-known surrealist poets, he was one of the chief proponents of so-called automatic writing. He put himself in a trance before writing many of his works. They include La Liberté ou l’amour [liberty or love] (1927), Corps et Biens [bodies and blessings] (1930), État de veille [wakefulness] (1943), Contrée [thwarted] (1944), Félix Labisse (1945), and Choix de poems [choice of poems] (1945). He also wrote a novel, Le Vin est tiré [the wine is killed] (1943), and a surrealistic drama, La Place de L’étoile (1945). During World War II, Desnos died as a prisoner in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Desnos, Robert (1900-45). French poet. A very inventive Surrealist, he made contact with Breton in 1922. In the experiments with hypnotic sleep, he turned out to be the best subject, capable of writing in a trance. Even if the aphorisms of Rrose Sélavy (1922-3) were not the result of transatlantic telepathic communication with Marcel Duchamp, the latter provided the model. Desnos’s first published book, Deuil pour deuil (1924), an almost unclassifiable prose text, paved the way for the erotic fantasy La Liberté ou l’amour (1927). In his lifetime he brought out two major volumes of poetry: Corps et biens (1930), covering the decade from 1919 until his exclusion from the Surrealist group, includes the linguistic experiments of ‘L’Aumonyme’ and ‘Langage cuit’ (1923), the lyrical apostrophe ‘A la Mystérieuse’ (1926) and ‘Les Ténèbres’ (1927); Fortunes (1942) shows how he continued to explore the whole gamut of poetry, despite his radio and newspaper work. He also wrote two cantatas with Milhaud, Pour l’inauguration du Musée de l’homme (1937) and Les Quatre Eléments (1938), a novel, Le Vin est tiré (1943), a ‘play’, Le Place de l’Étoile (1945), and essays, e.g. Félix Labisse (1945). A Resistance poet, he died in a concentration camp. His posthumous publications include Choix de poèmes (1946), Domaine public (1953), Cinéma (1966).

[Keith Aspley]


Layo & Bushwacka – Sleepy Language


Like all revolutions, the surrealist revolution was a reversion, a restitution, an expression of vital and indispensable spiritual needs. – Eugene Ionesco

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