Expansive Poetics – (Kurt Schwitters – 2)

Allen continues his lecture/remarks on Kurt Schwitters, returning to a singular moment in Schwitters’ biography, (as recounted in Robert Motherwell’s classic The Dada Painters and Poets – An Anthology)]

AG: Well, I won’t read you the whole thing, but when it gets hot.  The situation is – the disharmony – [Allen begins reading]

(Lazlo) Moholy-Nagy, (Kurt) Schwitters and I… ” – (that is Moholy-Nagy’s wife, Sibyl, writing) – “..were sandwiched between the head of the National Socialist Organization for Folk Culture and the leader of the “Strength Through Joy” movement. The disharmony among the guests was accentuated by the absence of speeches and an unlimited consumption of excellent German Rhine wine. Moholy was silent. His face was shuttered, and when our eyes met I saw that he was full of resentment. The more Schwitters drank, the more fondly he regarded his neighbor. “I love you, you Cultural Folk and Joy”, he said. “Honestly, I love you. You think I’m not worthy of sharing your chamber, your art chamber for strength and folk, ha? I’m an idiot too and I can prove it.” Moholy put his hand firmly on Schwitters’ arm, and for a few minutes he was silent, drinking rapidly and searching the blank face of his neighbor with wild blue eyes. “You think I’m a Dadaist, don’t you?”, he suddenly started again, “That’s where you’re wrong, brother. I’m MERZ!” He thumped his wrinkled dress shirt near his heart. “I’m Aryan – the great Aryan MERZ. I can think Aryan, paint Aryan, spit Aryan.” He held an unsteady fist before the man’s nose. “With this Aryan fist I shall destroy the mistakes of my youth” – “If you want me to”, he added in a whisper, after a long sip. There was no reaction at all from the “Strength Through Joy” man while the official from the Folk Culture Organization nodded droolingly, his round cheeks puffed up with wine and amazement. Schwitters took a sudden liking to him. “Oh joyful baby face”, he muttered, tears running down his cheeks. “You will not prohibit me from MERZing ny MERZ art!”. The word “prohibit” had finally penetrated the foggy brain of the “Strength Through Joy” man. “Prohibited is prohibited” [ Verboten ist Verboten] he said with great firmness and a heavy tongue. “And when the Fuhrer says “Ja” he says “Ja” and when the Fuhrer says “Nein“, he says “Nein“. Heil Hitler!”. Schwittters looked wildly at Moholy, at me, at (F.T.) Marinetti, but before he could incite anybody to action, Marinetti had risen from his chair. He swayed considerably and his face was purple. “My friends”, he said in French. “After the many excellent speeches tonight” – the silent officials winced – “I feel the urge to thank the great courageous, high-spirited people of Berlin. I shall recite my poem “The Raid on Adrianople”. There was polite applause. Some nice poetry would break the embarrassing dullness of the dinner. “Adrianople est verne routes parts SSSrrr zitzitzitsitziti PAAAAAAAAAAghrrrrrrrrrr” roared Marinetti. “Ouah ouah ouah. depart des trains suicides, ouch ouch ouch“. The audience gasped, a few hushed giggles were audible. “Tchip tchip tchip feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelez!”. He grabbed a wine-glass and smashed it to the floor. “Tchip tchip chip – des messages telegraphiques” (telegraph messages) “couturiers Americaines” (American fashion-dressers, dress design – telegraph messages, dress design) -“Piiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing,  ssssssssrrrrrrr, zitzitzit, toum toum Patrouille tapie-” Marinetti threw himself over the table. “Vaniteeeee, (Vanity), viands congeleeeeeeee – (meat congealed, frozen, not frozen, gelatinous, meat, gelatine meat – like when you take the fish yuck – (that’s a Yiddish word, “fish yuck”, you know, the fish juice in the ice-box, my grandmother called it “fish yuck” – speaking of Marinetti and Futurism) – “veilleuse de La Madone” (who speaks French? – eilleuse de La Madone? – the age-iness of the Madonna, I guess), expiring almost as a whisper from his lips.  Slowly he slid to the floor, his clenched fingers pulling the tablecloth downward, wine, food, plates, and silverware pouring into the laps of the notables. Schwitters had jumped up at the first sound of the poem. Like a horse at a familiar sound the Dadaist in him responded to the signal. His face flushed, his mouth open, he followed each of Marinetti’s moves with his own body. In the momentary silence that followed the climax his eyes met Moholy Nagy’s. “Oh Anna Blume”, he whispered, and suddenly breaking out into a roar that drowned the din of protesting voices and scraping chair legs, he thundered Oh Anna Blume/Du bist von hinten wis von vome/A-n-n-a“”  

And this is his poem,  “Eve Blossom” (“Anna Blume Has Wheels”), which goes, as follows (called “MERZ Poem Number 1“):

Oh thou, beloved of my twenty-seven senses, I love thine! Thou thee
thee thine, I thine,
thou mine, we?
That belongs on the side, not here.
Who art thou, uncounted woman, Thou art, art thou?
People say, thou werst,
Let them say, they don’t know how the church tower stands
Thou wearest thine hat on thy feet, and wanderest on your hands,
On thine hands wanderest thou
Hallo, thy red dress, clashed in white folds,
Red I love Anna Blume, red I love thine,
Thou thee thee thine, I thine, thou mine, we?
That belongs on the side in the cold glow!
Anna Blume, red Anna Blume what say the people
PRIZE QUESTION: 1 Anna Blume has wheels
2. Anna Blume is red,
3. What colour are the wheels?
Blue is the colour of thy yellow hair
Red is the whirl of thy green wheels,
Thou simple maiden in everyday dress,
Thou small green animal,
I love thine!
Thou thee thee thine, I thine, thou mine, we?
That belongs (on the side) in the glow box
Anna Blossom, Anna
I trickle thy name.
Thy name drips like soft tallow.
Dost  thou know, Anna?
Dost  thou already know it?
One can also read thee from behind
And thou, thou most glorious of all,
Thou are from the back as from the front,
Tallow trickles to strike over my back
Anna Blossom,
Thou drippest animal,

That’s the end of the section there, the description, (a description by Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, (wife of) Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, a painter and architect, a member of the Futurist circle, or Expressionist and Bauhaus group)

[Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-one-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding approximately forty-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in]   

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