Expansive Poetics – (Philippe Soupault)

Philippe Soupault (1897-1990)

AG: So you can do it in a short form too. You don’t have to write a big long long (poem). So we go back to “the frogs”, back to the French, to Benjamin Peret (he’s after (Robert) Desnos (where is Peret (in our anthology)?  [Allen searches through the class anthology] – maybe earlier, yeah – 1899. Let’s see, we have Peret, we have (Philippe) Soupault) – Souplault – 1897 – Now Soupault is the man considered by.. French.. 1897.. Philippe Soupault. There’sTristan Tzara, and then there’s Andre Breton, and then there’s Philippe Soupault – 1897, French.

Now this is where they’re doing this somersault of the mind in short form, so there’ll be all these witty little saltimbanque tricks

“To Drink” (“Servitudes”) – “Yesterday it was night/but the billboards sang/the trees stretched out/the hairdresser’s mannequin smiled at me/No Smoking/No Spitting/rays of sunlight in my hand, you said/there are/  I invent unknown streets/new continents blossom/the papers will report it tomorrow/Beware of the painting/I’m strolling naked with a cane in my hand.”

(“Il a fait nuit hier/  mais les affiches chantent/ les arbres s’étirent/la statue de cire du coiffeur me sourit/ Défense de crater/  Défense de fumer/des rayons de sol dans les mains tu m’as dit/ Il y a quatorze/  J’invente des rues inconnues/de nouveau continents fleurissent/les journaux paraitront demain/Prenez garde peinture/J’irai me promener nu et la canne à la main“)

So one thing you can do, one thing I found, if you’re interested in writing, is start yourself a big long epic catalogue poem, and then you run out of inspiration in twelve lines, and then you look at it and you realize it’s a whole poem by itself and you don’t have to go any further, you already did the somersault. And that’s what’s happening here. These may have begun like that. I have a funny poem on Vachel Lindsay which I thought was going to be a big elegy to Vachel Lindsay like some huge monstrous “Boomlay boomlay,boom lay, boom” [Allen quotes here from Lindsay’s poem “The Congo”]  and it wound up twelve lines! [Editorial note – it  ran actually to ten!] – [Allen begins reading] – “You’re sitting with your suspenders on the bed/The shadow hand lifts a pistol to your head/Your shade falls over on the floor” –  (and) then I was going to go, “tah-da, but I warn you because..” instead I couldn’t .. the telephone rang, or I sneezed, or something, and I forgot what I was going to write about. I got bored with doing it over again – the mechanical big long poem. But then I looked at it, and it was just right – enough.

“It’s time/G’bye”..  – “Departure“, this (poem by Soupault) is called – “The crowd swarms/A man jostled, agitated/The cries/of women around me/each rushes by bumping me/That’s how night falls/I’m cold/With these words I make you smile” – So, the consciousness of writing the poem and the effect of the poem on the reader – bam! – right in front of you there – “I’ll make you smile with these words”. (The next poem),“Horizon” – “The whole city has entered my room/the trees are vanishing/and the night sticks on my fingers/The houses become transatlantic/the roar od the sea rises over me/In two days we arrive in the Congo/I cross the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn/I know there are countless hills/Notre Dame hides the Little Dipper and the aurora borealis” – (Probably a very literal line at that moment) – “night falls drop by drop/I wait second by second/Give me a drink and a last cigarette/I will return to Paris.” – (Probably sitting there in Paris, writing. But then, a nice title – “Horizon” – how far in the mind can you go?,  you know, geographically.) – (The name of the next poem) “Francis Picabia”(who was one of the original Dadaists) – “Why/did you want to be buried with your four dogs/a newspaper/and your hat/You asked for “Bon Voyage” to be written on your tomb/You’ll be taken for afool up there.” – Then, here’s a pure Surrealist thing – a four-line [Editorial note – actually five-line] Surrealist shot (“Sunday”) –  “The airplane waves in the telephone wires” – (Well, it’s literal – “The airplane weaves in the telephone wires” – you’re looking through the telephone wires and there’s the airplane going up and down)] – “and the fountain sings the same song’ – (Well, true) – “At the pilots’ reunion the cocktails are orange” – (That was probably true also) – “But the mechanics have white eyes/and the lady has lost her smile in the woods.” – (So that’s really charming) –  These are all translated by Andy Mayer (one of the students). Is he here? Well, Andy in our class translated these.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at  approximately seventy-nine-and-a-half minutes in and continuing to approximately eighty-four minutes in] 

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