To Make a Dadaist Poem

My First Dadaist Poem

after Tristan Tzara

EVER “Bridesmaids.”

JOKES doing Mastodon year.


Specifically the BEST terribly

I biggest laugh ever them: the shop where OK! not go shit

I dress

The love things it because this haven’t got wrong


You can watch a video presentation of “To Make a Dadaist Poem”  at Moving Poems, curated by Dave Bonta.

Modern and Contemporary Poetry (ModPo) with Al Filreis via UPenn and Coursera has been a bright spot in my poetic life.  Most of the modern American poets I’ve read branch off from Walt Whitman  to Robert Frost and later into the narrative and confessional mode, such as Theodore Roethke, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton.

My own work follows this narrative aesthetic, to an extent.  But it’s important to takes risks in order to find the language that best expresses this experience of life that arises each day.

This free, online course has helped me understand the desire to break apart conventional modes of expression. As Al Filreis explains in his video talk about dadaist poet Tristan Tzara, to write a poem based on a somewhat random selection of words allows the writer to transcend ego.

My grasp of this thought process is that writing about one’s feelings in a romantic, expressive manner reinforces codified ways of thinking. The idea is to use chance in the process of creation in order to reach the self that transcends conditioned responses to life. It relates to the imagist manifesto ” to make it new.”

I’ve used a certain amount of random words in my poetry, such as computer-generated words I insert or work into a poem, but this time I adhered to Tristan’s Tzara’s instructions in his poem “To Make a Dadaist Poem.” 

What you see here is a faithful copy of all the words from a magazine article that I cut up, put into a bag, and then chose one by one.  The only punctuation marks I use come from the cut up words. I enjambed only when the next word was a capital letter or if when I was copying I ran out of room on the page. While I don’t consider this experiment to have produced a work of art, involving myself in the dadaist process broadened my poetic toolbox.


2 thoughts on “To Make a Dadaist Poem

    • Christine says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Andrea. Yes, the course has been enlightening. I just finished listening to a talk about how some poets used traditional forms as a way of subversion. For example, one proletariat poet from the thirties used a ballad hymn stanza to rail against the State and the Church for their stance against abortion.


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