Because Nothing Else Works




As the Military-Police-State increases, now aided by the NSA and the voyeurism develops as a third eye in the head of the International Cyclops, the question of surrealist revolt should be called into question entirely.  This is no longer the world of Wallace Fowlie or Franklin Rosemont, however  we would like it to be.  Things have gone slant and all over the place as in a curling match taking place on black ice.   I am reminded during this time of H.G. Wells’ “Mind At The End of It’s Tether”. Not often read or even mentioned, the author insisted: “There is no way out or round or through,” noting the rise of technology and the impotence of man in matters of justice.

“in a country where the great majority of artists, writers and even self-styled “radicals” have always identified themselves with “liberal” (i.e., bourgeois) political traditions, or their pseudo-Marxist equivalents (social-democracy and the many variants of Stalinism), surrealists in the U.S. from the start were grounded in the theory and practice of working class self-emancipation. What Rosa Luxemburg called “the inner wretchedness of bourgeois liberalism, as well as its intimate connection with Reaction,” was obvious to us then, and seem so excruciatingly obvious now that it is hard to understand how anyone could possibly deny it. For us, surrealism was—and still is—the most thoroughgoing expression of individual revolt and social/cultural revolution.

We recognize capitalism—wage-slavery—as a global system, rotten to the core and utterly destructive to humankind and the planet. The countless and multiplying horrors perpetrated by this system (from homelessness and war to an out-of-control technology and the devastation of the natural world) can not be cured by piecemeal reforms, or even by large-scale reforms within the framework of capitalist exploitation. Nothing less than social revolution—a radical break with all stultifying and life-denying forms of social organization—can put an end to capitalism’s cataclysmic reign of violence, liberate the Earth and its inhabitants from oppression, and bring about a truly free society.

Clearly freedom and equality cannot be realized by a revolution hostile to poetry. As the myth of the “vanguard party” and other authoritarian illusions recede, new emancipatory models of revolution are emerging. Surrealism itself is an active factor here, helping to revolutionize the idea of revolution. What is needed is a revolution that is unafraid of poetry, a revolution determined from the very beginning to lessen the gap between poetry and “reality.”

Social revolution of course is only the beginning of the realization of the surrealist project. The Surrealist Movement remains “at the service of the revolution,” but it is important to recognize that, for us, revolution is also in the service of surrealism.”

In contemporary times this has a wistful beauty indeed.  Very wistful.

If Surrealism to be a tool of revolution and also a revolt against reality (devoid of rune-like-credentials) and coincide in a way that affects the world, the entire idea of perpetual optimism in the face of what goes on in the planet must be done away with. The use of pessimism should be vitriolic and not restricted to black humor: it should spit in the face–and induce despair–in the lives of those who claim that this monstrous state of affairs is “all that works”.   Coopted by the absolute miserabilists who celebrate their own despair in mediated voodoo boxes, we will take it and use it for own purposes. 

The release of our manifesto, “Nouveau’s Midnight Sun: Transcriptions From Golgonooza and Beyond” was met with a bit of strife because of the OCCULT, BEATIFIC

Logos implied in the introduction.    71anFyLlLFL

Some are comfortable with the move from museums, and some are not.  In any case, let the antinomies snake as plastic fireworks birth new ashen antibodies and smear the terrain of Cop Land.


For Frank Lima

After the Ward and Gatti fight, we are sitting at a picnic table in a cubicle of winter domes. There are aged politicians who double as as boxers using virtual zorro masks and electronic antennas. Somehow, I am still an up and comer, and inside our equipment we are swinging. I am at the table and we move in a leather ballet, slow motion, pulling our punches as fruit falls, fuzzy round icicles popping soundlessly like feathers. I sleep within the rope a dope, untouched, tickled. I win in the ring and the zorro mask, where I am stronger, more tan, and announce something blue in a crystal lit microphone. The politician weeps, rising from the table, running away from the table.  You give them a three point combination, and all is frozen as an ivory horn making no sound in the mellifluous drum pounding of space. Shiva Thappa ices away on crystal skates, bound for the gold.

Transmissions: The Imaginal Bubble Backward and Forward


Going over the history of the NSI–which is only to say the New Surrealist institute, which rejects all precepts, all places, all commitments, all attempts to impress other groups or even ourselves,  everything but the liminal spaces where sewers may be eyes ovulating in alka seltzer giggles eyes–we have discovered some of our old dialogues, our old posts, and everything in the Ministry of the Interior of the Feathered Purple Glove.  The Memory Hole has opened.  We intend in the next two months to produce a handmade magazine which covers the entirety of the NSI from first to last.  Let us welcome our new members before we descend into which continent Eurasia was at war with, though.


What is Neo-Surrealism:

Lee Ballentine

It is a worthwhile question to ask. For if surrealism is a dead thing,
finished and laid in its art-historic and literary-theoretic grave,
then to partake of its spirit perhaps we do need something like
“neo-surrealism” to moderate between ourselves and history. And if,
as some poets do, we find ourselves taken up with all the phases
of surrealism, early and late, with experiments in broken and erotic
grammars, with works of ecstatic religion or ecstatic unreligion, 
and with heady documents of the machine age; with dreams and
rant and the found . . . does this make us “neo-surrealists”?

I say no.

This single, definitive, but ultimately inappropriate tag has seduced some.
It is an angular little compound that has apparent advantages. It’s a search 
key that librarians, bookselling people, and other masters of context are 
likely to find useful. It does manage to thumb its nose at the posers in every 
era who’ve imagined themselves (their only authentic act of imagination) to
be surrealists. However as Andre Breton wrote in This Quarter in 1932, 
albeit of a slightly different population, “unable as yet to treat itself to an
ambulance, surrealism simply leaves these individuals by the wayside.”

We have passed the end of what may with justice be called the surrealistic 
(though not surrealist) century, when eyeballs are juxtaposed with
razors daily and both are for sale. Like the pillow of the same name, the surrealistic century was hallmarked with the monogram of surrealism. Predictably however,it failed to integrate surrealism’s essential character. So it is no surprise that some people shrug at the naked ism and try to see an improvement in the addition of neo.

Fortunately, and especially as we still have a few poets with real (if I may 
put it so) and original credentials to resent the insult, it turns out that the 
neo is wholly unnecessary. For surrealism is always and inherently new. 
Anything posing as surrealism that needs to defend itself against the new is 
by definition no longer surrealism. The neo makes a tautology: surrealism 
is already neo-surrealism, it was born fully fledged in its mature freedom.

But surrealism has learned some new strategies to surprise. 
The new day it is making replaces an era which actually 
ended some time ago although few were awake to notice. The crystalline 
purity of the marvelous that was smeared with the excremental impurity 
of the horrific has been chopped into regular polygons by new machines 
and seduced into the inexact, probabilistic, but still beautiful miasma 
of new equations and the force of new approaches to language, or indeed, 
to entirely new language. Underneath and out of all these purities 
and impurities still rises the underlying voice, the voice of the dream.

Lee Ballentine, 2000

Sir Edward James' surrealist garden, Las Pozas...

Sir Edward James’ surrealist garden, Las Pozas, Xilitla, Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Words Are Made For Dreaming

John Olson

Words are made for dreaming. But when the words come awake, a metaphor crawls out of its torpor and begins a new world. The eye of a tiger opens. The color ocher emits a tongue of maniacal red. Bedbugs and belladonna shine like Egyptian onyx. What kind of world is this? It is a world of words. Hallucinations of language, the murmur of subterranean rivers. My emotional spectrum is suddenly so large that a pound of sound condenses into teeth. Thought is the echo of a distant proximity. The near is so far that it appears to be solid, like a handful of hypnogogic candy. Oysters of Montmartre lust. A stupefying vagina large as the membrane of reality opening to deliver a baby of trembling demands. Desire collapses from its own weight on the page and rubs itself in consolations of touch. As one walks through the poem, one realizes one is not in a cave, but an imaginary space so large that it blazes with light, wind, fire, and sperm. Cézanne leaves imprints in the outrageous spring mud. The mouth opens, glimmering with ecstasies of light and coughing up speculums of red. The spurs of a dragon answer the feet with contingent silver. A convocation of angels in drag drop Jungian confetti. Words quarrel with the grammar of their construction. A delirium in the blood animates the bones of a leathery shadow. The shadow speaks. It says that the human ear is a turbulence of skin and that this must be taken as a sign of language secreted into a web of convulsive silk, and that poetry is an exploration of the psyche. We hear the song of wild blackberries under scudding clouds. We hear the sound of a carillon in a cherry orchard. We hear the rustle of consciousness illumined by the light of an ancient flame. A strong odor of antelope dilates an ageless exaltation. A piece of infinity ripens in the movement of snakes. Horses and bison embellish the tyranny of stone. When we reenter the light, our animal eyes open to a literal sun. We create ourselves step by step. I have sewn these words together to make this happen. To make these words hang upside down whispering experience in pursuit of a lip. THE BRUTALITY OF ORNAMENT

Tattered and stunned in the dunes, across a river of slate-grey, I had forgotten collections of religious effigies. Red handprints of bronze, dig a yard beneath their secret grave and you find them: snakes and cymbals. You find them, separated, each complete in its own being. Still, life has no chance against the brutality of ornament. Its optical collisions cannot explain night’s black and lucid flower.

Lee Ballentine

And poet Allen Parmenter’s latest mysterious ballad:

“Bone Graffiti” –

In time time’s bruised kisses fed
graffiti into our bones

Museum Bones 2

Museum Bones 2 (Photo credit: aha42 | tehaha)

we talked a stranger’s talk
old violence in the shift of a hip
but our gestures composed
in shadow-stations
between the moons
beyond the sun

“The escalators are drowning. Each cube is a razor cache. The crevices between each finely dull square are bleeding dice. The end is a flipping of each one. Your number is coming up as the dice roll, a thundering sound, beneath the waterless abyss.”  

John Thomas Allen


In a boat in the wondrous ocean, cloaked in Our Lady’s mantle with her secretly beside me beneath the turbulent turquoise sky, I see the Queen Of The Night blooming as she does only once a year in the darkness although if it’s foggy she’ll continue through into the moaning morning. I see the mother-in-law’s tongues with their sharp tips, I see all the striped plants praying with their hands held upwards and tinged with stigmata, the waves sighing. In Spain there is a desert where women come in droves in their wheelchairs, reading the arid scratches in the ground for truth while a black man tells us slyly that unearned suffering is redemptive and that grace is unmerited mercy. In Japan men who are not doctors are using electronic scalpels to change the lines on people’s palms. The horses of the morning trot by but I am disquieted, I need more than mercy or the pretense of my fate being changed, I need those with surgical exactitude, I need the wisdom of those who will extract whatever they must from the deepest caves of my heart, I need the stars on Our Lady’s mantle to twinkle. But instead I have you, you who do not care, you to whom selfishness is survival, you who in the hurricane say Listen to the doctor, you who walk through lush forests alone never hearing birds of every color cry out until their wings turn to silver and they fly magnetized towards the moon, you who like to help the animals only at a distance although you think that you understand them, you who don’t believe in miracles, the miracle of millions of blades of grass screaming beneath you, the miracle of the shouting sun to revive you, the miracle of white plants whose bells are filled with water when this journey of foolishness is beyond you, the miracle of women in spotless white gowns who can cure you by merely singing while holding your hand underwater. But I see red and yellow globes of fire falling from the sky, the cattle mooing in sympathy, the mouths of the richest sinners filled with thorns, the seas applauding, the aromatic lawns that extend into forever, the huge bells of morning languorously intoning the darkness of every nation, the sleeping children yearning to return to heaven where even there they may be safe no longer, the vaults of every bank in the world automatically clicking open, the chanting of the faithful unsealing every door and window, the lilies of the valley turning even their own shadows towards the mountains, the nuns of insanity no longer mourning. In the hospital corridors all is glory, no one is measuring anything anymore, no one blames the greenery, no one is scared silently, every soul appears as it absolutely should be, the tiniest boat in which each of us floats rolls itself backwards towards eternity, the clouds have lost their mystery, the magician raises his fingers from the earth to the sky bringing each river to its source while he’s beckoning each creature to fruition, reminding us that we and the seas are all water, churning water, women rinsing their hairin purity, as we are miracles beyond surcease and spectrum. And in the Garden of the Night the Mother who has sewn every conceivable light into a garment of protection now sleeps, she sleeps cashing in on the results of her labor, she sleeps because the water will carry her underground, she sleeps because the rhythm that none of us fathoms is as simple as dreaming, she sleeps because in sleeping she becomes one with every Other, kissing everything beyond every imaginable horizon, touching everyone who has ever lived and who ever will be, sleeping away every nonsense, cruelty, disorder, blessing me, blessing me, blessing me. And I have you, who plucks the Queen of the Night from her stem and tramples her, you who holds sway over practically nothing dressed up in your rags of treachery, you with crocodiles biting your feet beneath the water, I have you so that I can believe in a miracle.

 Christina Zadawisky 

(Christina is the author of “The Hand on the Head of Lazarus” and a new member).

Christina Zawadiwsky is Ukrainian-American, born in New York City, has a degree in Fine Arts, and is a poet, artist, journalist and TV producer. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Award, two Wisconsin Arts Boards Awards, a Co-Ordinating Council of  Literary Magazines Writers Award, and an Art Futures Award, among other honors. She was the originator and producer of Where The Waters Meet, a local TV series created to facilitate the voices of artists of all genres in the media, for which she won two national and twenty local awards, including a Commitment to Community Television Award. She is also a contributing editor to the annual Pushcart Prize Anthology, the recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, and has published four books of poetry, The World At Large, Kissing The Murderer, Sleeping With The Enemy and The Hand On The head Of Lazarus. She currently reviews movies for  HYPERLINK “” , music for  HYPERLINK “” , and books for  HYPERLINK “” .

We are also happy to announce the arrival of Mong Lan, American poet, musician, and all around Apollonian extraordinaire:

Miss Lan apparently has a flair for the arcane avenues of dissipation which boil as storming clouds do in monsoons of earmarked rain.


BANGKOK [neon lights]  by Mong-Lan, from her chapbook “”Love Poem to Ginger & Other Poems.”

O the orchids of Bangkok!

O the luxuriant ladyboys, their devilish seductive smiles
O the decadence, the freedoms of Bangkok!
your serpentine ways
into another unawares our embrace defined night-days
one thinks in embraces

young girls from the village pretend to be go-go girls
naked from waist up
city girls completely naked
Go-go girls dancing like embarrassed sardines
in the lady-boy club   an effervescent pretend land . . .
Miss Brazil, Miss Mexico,
Miss France, Miss Singapore, surgically amplified.

in another bar
birds breathless up cunts,
ping pong balls inserted, being thrown out
birds flying out of cunts
needles & needles being pulled out of cunts.
a whole string of sharp needles
razors being pulled out     a whole string
of razors being pulled out.

— Mong-Lan

from The Antioch Review, Winter 2005, v. 63, no. 1

Mong-Lan is a multi-disciplinary American poet, writer, painter, photographer, dancer (of Argentine tango), singer (bel canto, tangos), and educator, left her native Vietnam on the last day of the evacuation of Saigon. Mong-Lan’s first book of poems, Song of the Cicadas, won the 2000 Juniper Prize, the 2002 Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Awards for Poetry. Her other books of poetry include Why is the Edge Always Windy?; Tango, Tangoing: Poems & Art, the bilingual Spanish / English edition, Tango, Tangueando: Poemas & Dibujos ; Love Poem to Tofu and Other Poems (chapbook), and Love Poem to Ginger & Other Poems: poetry & paintings (chapbook). A Wallace E. Stegner Fellow in poetry for two years at Stanford University and a Fulbright Fellow in Vietnam, Mong-Lan received her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arizona. Her poetry has been frequently anthologized to include in Best American Poetry, The Pushcart Book of Poetry: Best Poems from 30 Years of the Pushcart Prize; Asian American Poetry —The Next Generation; Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond (Norton) Visit:


Oh Blue Croon
Blurry man with a hatchet lunar eye
Your memory is a putty axe handle spinning
Oh, blue croon
The cheap karate instructor
A Dollar A Color
The starship made with green dice cheese
The coiffure guitar banjo, held
in wreaths of rain

Shadow arrythmia,
story of the chalk maiden a banished woman
DOA, they called the dope
and she was dead on arrival
Since she passed I ate my voodoo beads one by one
And everyone heard my sermons
As I passed pearl gallstones
In front of the faithful
John Thomas Allen


Hommage1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Heretofore a script was immured with this light of words untouched by imagination, only to say no inhabitantss of the City of Golgonooza. Only the smoking letters moved as weak preying mantises, darting from thumb to thumb in mere cheap sensuality, as that of a Beast in it’s last days of heat: this was the modern script. Even fireflies were to lively for it, too filled with life and vision. Only inhabitants and engaged plugs in the magnetic fields, perhaps USB inserts in an ocean’s floor recorder, could truly accomplish or reach beyond mere minutes slinking the drowning green dots of a digital watch with insomnia.

Also a new Head we have in our group, Peter Cherches, is the author of Lift Your Right Arm and two previous volumes of short prose, Condensed Book and Between a Dream and a Cup of Coffee. His work has appeared in the anthologies Poetry 180 and Up Is Up, But So Is Down: New York’s Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992. His fiction and other short prose work has been featured in a wide range of magazines and journals, including Harper’s, Semiotext(e), Transatlantic Review, Fiction International, North American Review, Fence and Bomb. Cherches was active, on page and on stage, in the raucous and unpredictable literary, music and performance scenes of downtown Manhattan in the 1980s. Sonorexia, the avant-vaudeville music/performance group he co-led with Elliott Sharp, appeared at such legendary venues as The Mudd Club and CBGB. Cherches also writes about food and music and is a two-time recipient of New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships in creative nonfiction. He is a native of Brooklyn, New York.

The following is an unpaid presentation of  Dadadeedooooooo, and if you’ve ever had trouble dating, this performance by Mr. Cherches is where it’s at.

Peter Cherches, Brooklyn author of "Lift Your Right Arm," a blogspot entitled "Word of Mouth", and

Peter Cherches, Brooklyn author of “Lift Your Right Arm,” a blogspot entitled “Word of Mouth”, and “Condensed Book”

The Blogger

And we are now privileged to have the company of Skull Man, aka Alan Graham: record producer, singer, author of “I Remember Jim Morrison” available from and his own personal website:


Alan is also one hell of a singer and saxophone player, as evidenced by his home on YouTube:

In other good news, SHAHla ROsa and I have found a home for our Magnetic Fields Redux with Deleted Scenes:  “The Manifestation of Creation”.  On that note, a closing excerpt

A: The icy sound of the gem cutting factory, the rainbow blade squares down, through crystal bits that role like volcanic thimbles and refract the light from all sides, spider web triangles of rainbow tarantulas, I have bitten the teeth of the rainbow blade and filed the clippings.  There are color spectrums out of our concern.  Turn mercury on the porcelain highway, you don’t know where?  Here comes somebody, maybe I should be put my seat belt on.

SR:  A small bird cage can be filled with pieces of railway terminal or lump of sugar. The natural wood can open a door in a frame which is resemble a brick wall. 

A fluttering heart can change in to a white spiral and manifold activities.

JA: The fire escapes wind like captured spiders chasing free legs, but if you DO chase the chart will cease fluttering–secrets of the flying circus, the smashing pagination of the soul, the confetti smoke rings, and the perched branch of your lucidity will burst about, too much for that fluttering 

heart, but only enough.

SR: The capillary tubes horizontally released the liquid to aid varnish the region.

The region of shots drops the dazzled splash which occupying the positive identification.

The luxury of searching and discovery, follows hope and inspiration towards extraordinary statement and a solid foundation, an ignorant desire, could simulate the timid powers

JA:  Only that which remains within itself for a time has any strength.  The rest have no seen that which HAS NO CONTEXTHave you seen the Yellow Sign?  The rituals were unspeakable, candy colored cars running clean in synapses of malachite, barely avoiding the edges….but only the carnivore dumplings who run in the sunlight from this to that  are who trouble our world. (The Positivists.)

A Signpost Up Ahead in the Goo of Unfurling Jasmine: The Collected Poems of Philip Lamantia


Philip Nunzio Lamantia (1927-2005) was a bard from the San Francisco forest made King  who burned with the mercurial fracture of Rimbaud’s edict toward a le dérèglement de tous les sens, Breton’s crown of dark green (“The kind of voice that rises once 1,000 years”), and made it back from the steep forestry of the other side only by a few steps to find his spiritual home with Christ.

Philip Lamantia

First author photo, San Francisco1943

This new collection of Lamantia’s poems, edited by Garret Caples, Andrew Joron, Nancy Joyce Peters and with a foreword by beat/sometimes proto surrealist/legend Lawrence Ferlinghetti, biographical insights from Michael McClure, Joseph Donahue, David Meltzer and Will Alexander.

Though in the surrealist anti-tradition we often like to imagine ourselves immune to the canonical processes of hero worship and canonization, nothing could be further from the truth.  Since Guillaume Apollinaire first coined the term Surrealism in 1917, watchwords and signposts unfurling freely as balustrades grasped in a drowning seize fever have grasped for radiated conniptions as breath as fast as one could muster a “LAUTREAMONT” or a “RIMBAUD” or a “VACHE” or “BARAKA”, these names filling Breton and Rosemont’s tracts and declarations as assuredly as one might tamper with a lighter and scream FIRE in a theater to announce the presence of danger.  And LAMANTIA
was added to this canon as assuredly and firmly as all the others.

"Did I appear in angel time or did the Angel appear in time, all time? I am a seer for whom the Revelation is intact/The Revelation!/beatitutdes in a sweep of arm, gesture, magnificence in miracles/invisible visible white light manifestations!"    "Visions"

“Did I appear in angel time or did the Angel appear in time, all time?
I am a seer for whom the Revelation is intact/The Revelation!/beatitutdes in a sweep of arm, gesture, magnificence in miracles/invisible visible white light manifestations!”

Though Philip Lamantia’s contribution to the surrealist canon cannot be underestimated and there is little doubt he was one of the few genuine American surrealist geniuses of his time, this eagerly awaited collection of his poems gives a more rounded out picture of who, exactly, he was.  A mystic to be certain, fascinated with Native American cultures who frequently visited Mexico in his own Artaudian quest for the ecstatic experiences indigenous cultures had to offer, his unrelenting and lifelong obsession with Catholicism, reminiscent of the Prodigal Son, and also an individual with cyclical bipolar illness that at times caused him to withdraw completely from the literary world of his time.


Lawrence Ferlinghetti, reading some of Lamantia’s work at a Summer 2005 memorial event, once described Lamantia as “a man who it was hard to say goodbye to.”  Lamantia voraciously devoured every form of language he could find, and described Robert Duncan and the poet’s conversations as “brilliant streams-of-consciousness discourses that flew over my head like exotic birds making letters with their legs” in the foreword to the collection.  This is the earmark, perhaps of the true poet, if one has been fortunate enough to be in one’s company: an almost merciless energy and passion that leaves one needing desiring a manifest gold “miracle in words” as Philip wanted to create with every poem, or a long, dream filled nap afterward.


More important than the mystification so inevitable with a poet of this caliber and what he said she said or they said about him are his own thoughts and poetry.  Lamantia’s own definition of Surrealism, one I’d never encountered before, and his fervent Catholicism (it actually did seem fervent,  if one follows all 400 steps of his spiritual trek), surprisingly revelatory about this figure:

“Surrealism is fundamentally a philosophy of endeavoring to form a unity between particular opposite forces….Surrealism carries this dialectic process to one of it’s farthest points.”

Particularly surprising–considering that Lamantia was favored over many other young poets because of his perceived loyalty to orthodox surrealism–are his numerous
poems which express the faith of a Vatican II Catholic, trying desperately to believe in his Church and even praising Pope John Paul II as the antidote to postmodernism and bloodless literature.  I never saw these poems in “Bed of Sphinxes” or “Meadowlark Visible”, and I always under the impression that Lamantia had an irreconcilable difference with the magisterium, as might be predictable.  In fact, as soon as he arrived at his Catholic faith, he began to stabilize.  Like Holderlin, though, that had a double effect: a withdrawal from the world of letters albeit more serenity.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poem plague near the C...

Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem plague near the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco Chinatown’s Jack Kerouac Alley. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the end, the frenzied quest of Philip Lamantia for Truth and Reality reminds me of poet David Emery Gascoyne, a British expatriate surrealist responsible for translating “The Magnetic Fields” and bringing innumerable otherwise unknown French poets (Pierre Jean Jouve, Benjamin Fondane) into the English language.  Not as fortunate as Philip, Breton reprimanded Gascoyne early on for translating Fondane’s book “Rimbaud Le Voyeu”,
which suggested that the Charleville poet might have had deeper Christian roots than some of the more scatological poems might have suggested.

David Gascoyne, portrait by Patrick Swift

David Gascoyne, portrait by Patrick Swift

Gascoyne once wrote that a poet in his time period (which was also Philip Lamantia’s most productive period, the 60’s) could only accept the Church of Vatican II.  “Christ of revolution and of poetry/redeem us from our sterile misery/so that man’s long journey through the night/may not have been in vain.”   A phlegmatic Lamantia with the same mental and spiritual struggles, I see them meeting underneath the rainbow prism that a simple, unadorned cross produces, the smoke of incense like tusk ivory inhalants of fairy dust.

Surrealism and the Spectacle: How It Was or Was Not Intended To Be

Surrealism has above all been the relish for images and the incantatory magic of chthonic, labyrinthine verbal wizardry.  It wasn’t only Andre Breton who relished Pierre Reverdy (one of the often unsung masters of the prose poem as well) for his understanding of a spoken imprint, a sentence within a sentence, the castanet rapid-fire of thought which, whether good or bad by literary judgment, culminates in a phrase or two which has a spatial orbit all its own:

“The image is a pure creation of the mind.
It cannot be born from a comparison but from a juxtaposition of two or more distant realities.
The more the relationship between the two juxtaposed realities is distant and true, the stronger the image will be–the greater its emotional power and poetic reality…”

Later in the same paragraph of the First Manifesto he expresses his enthusiasm for sprites of  Rapid Jasmine and Books of August Yellow, he dismisses Reverdy’s idea as a “posteriorized aesthetic” and then dismisses his own point of view.

All personalities, and this could certainly be said of Andre Breton, are schizophrenic to a degree.  As the philosopher Gurdjieff was fond of pointing out, we lose our minds and regain them every hour of every day.  The cork pops, twists in its own orbit, and then decides what fiber it wants to be constituted of.  It is what it is already, of course, but if a cork is unable to twist spaceless white, at least in this text box and decide what it is or is not, we have to throw Surrealism out the window.

This necessary schizophrenia of the soul and the body is nowhere more apparent than in the division between Surrealism and Situationism.  (To add to my case, both long ago renounced “isms”.)  Guy Debord and Raoul Vanegeim produced work which is the becoming more and more prophetic as time goes by, almost boring because it is so true.


“If you’re not very familiar with the dialectic of Hegel and Marx, a lot of this book will be lost on you, but the effort is worth it when you realize the enormity of what Debord is saying about our society.  It becomes even more relevant when, surveying your own environment, and you recognize that he is for the most part right. Debord’s thesis is that the personalities of the people who surround are not their own, but are acquired through images made by pop culture, which replace whatever the person might have become free from these mediated images. “–Jean Sales


The Situationists (without getting too far into their kind of wishy washy world) were a group of hardened social activists who discovered (or made light of) one cursory dimension of art that is extremely dangerous: it can be co-opted.  It can be co-opted not only by the hucksters (Avida Dollars on “What’s My Line?”,  Andy Warhol in a commercial for Campbell’s soup with Sonny Liston looking more terrified than when Muhammad Ali, pretending to be insane, broke out into faux hysterics at weigh ins) but by us.   By assent to technology.


The Situationists accused not only the Parisian group of Surrealists, but all surrealists, of being undercover occultists, particularly after Breton’s not too subtle call to



Perhaps the most venomous and final condemnation of the Surrealists from the SI was published in Internationale Situationniste #1, 1958:

“Although this intellectual generation exhibits more aggressiveness outside France, its consciousness still ranges from simple imbecility to premature self-satisfaction with a very inadequate revolt. The rotten egg smell exuded by the idea of God envelops the mystical cretins of America’s “Beat Generation” and is not even entirely absent from the declarations of the Angry Young Men (e.g. Colin Wilson). These latter have just discovered, thirty years behind the times, a certain moral subversiveness that England had managed to completely hide from them all this time; and they think they’re being daringly scandalous by declaring themselves antimonarchists. “Plays continue to be produced,” writes Kenneth Tynan, “that are based on the ridiculous idea that people still fear and respect the Crown, the Empire, the Church, the University and Polite Society.” This statement is indicative of how tepidly literary the Angry Young Men’s perspective is. They have simply come to change their opinions about a few social conventions without even noticing the fundamental change of terrain of all cultural activity so evident in every avant-garde tendency of this century. The Angry Young Men are in fact particularly reactionary in attributing a privileged, redemptive value to the practice of literature, thereby defending a mystification that was denounced in Europe around 1920 and whose survival today is of greater counterrevolutionary significance than that of the British Crown.

In all this pseudorevolutionary sound and fury there is a common lack of understanding of the meaning and scope of surrealism (itself naturally distorted by its bourgeois artistic success). A continuation of surrealism would in fact be the most consistent attitude to take if nothing new arose to replace it. But because the young people who now rally to surrealism are aware of surrealism’s profound demands while being incapable of overcoming the contradiction between those demands and the stagnation accompanying its apparent success, they take refuge in the reactionary aspects present within surrealism from its inception (magic, belief in a golden age elsewhere than in history to come). Some of them even take pride in still standing under surrealism’s arc de triomphe, so long after the period of real struggle. There they will remain, says Gérard Legrand proudly (Surréalisme même #2), faithful to their tradition, “a small band of youthful souls resolved to keep alive the true flame of surrealism.”

A movement more liberating than the surrealism of 1924 — a movement Breton promised to rally to if it were to appear — cannot easily be formed because its liberativeness now depends on its seizing the more advanced material means of the modern world. But the surrealists of 1958 have not only become incapable of rallying to such a movement, they are even determined to combat it. But this does not eliminate the necessity for a revolutionary movement in culture to appropriate, with greater effectiveness, the freedom of spirit and the concrete freedom of mores demanded by surrealism.

For us, surrealism has been only a beginning of a revolutionary experiment in culture, an experiment that almost immediately ground to a practical and theoretical halt. We have to go further. Why is becoming a surrealist no longer a meaningful option? Not because of the ruling class’s constant encouragement of “avant-garde” movements to dissociate themselves from the scandalous aspects of surrealism. (This encouragement is not made in the name of promoting originality at all costs — how could it be, when the ruling order has nothing really new to propose to us, nothing going beyond surrealism? On the contrary, the bourgeoisie stands ready to applaud any regressions we might lapse into.) If we are not surrealists, it is because surrealism has become a total bore.

Decrepit surrealism, raging and ill-informed youth, well-off adolescent rebels without perspectives (though certainly not without a cause) — boredom is what they all have in common. The situationists will execute the judgment that contemporary leisure is pronouncing against itself.”

ImageNeither side was right entirely, of course, and the man pictured above–Benjamin Peret, perhaps the most uncompromising of all the surrealists–came from a poor background, remained in poverty most of his life by choice, and was kept as a political prisoner more than once.  And he still found time for marvels:

Little song for the maimed

Lend me your arm
To replace my leg
The rats ate it for me
At Verdun
At Verdun
I ate a lot of rats
But they didn’t give me back my leg
And that’s why I was given the Croix de Guerre
And a wooden leg
And a wooden leg
(Translated by David Gascoyne from the French)
The point of this heady diatribe is that we have taken our eyes off the ball as Surrealists, Situationists, or whatever.  Even the spectacle itself now wears glasses which are steamed by a spectacle behind it; and yes, it is true, we willingly (if not at all times consciously) submit our marvels to these industries.If we are not to be complete hypocrites about it, we have to look at, for instance, Facebook.
Here we have the penultimate capitalist figure, Mark Zuckerberg, who has stolen some of the most vital information from us and sold it to third parties without even really apologizing.
If we are to remain in a permanent state of rebellion and not merely hold the tenets of the Surrealist creed to be fun little additions to an adolescent fantasy, we need to do something new.  I call on surrealists and writers at large to get more involved in understanding what this “social network” is, who is behind it, etc.   This is a series of surrealist aphorisms about the subjectAphorisms: La Surrealistica Snowden + Facebook

Peach fuzz of October’s approach. The tide enmeshes hair slowly, a crucible of bones flipping toward the shore in a new creature. Birth anew.


The age demands a thermal X-ray no one can squeeze into. The idea of a “picture” is as dated as a “Kodak Moment”. Avatars are not free, bytes draw blood. Networks will spill our names back in rainstorms of barcoded idenmnity, strips of fortune cookies letters running backward. *


Dice were originally used for purposes of divination. A dice game could end in wild gunfire, the pride of men. Now our eyes have been cut from the snake. We arrange our pips in holograms that drop in a privacy so open it could be a roadstop sign.

For the first time we spy on ourselves and want our Administrators to nod at our voyeurism.


The stripshow, the bordello, the seance, the circus is common as direct deposit. Control spins as wildly as porch shingle nunchucks on a tricycle lit up by faulty electricity. The Watchers read our palms half asleep. It’s that easy.


* The monitor itself is a deep fossil. It is a pagination and a deep freeze of each nuance, wink or nod. Who signed us up? Us. * All the JPG’s were wound in time for the mirrors to debunk our dispersion, and collect it like a pieces of a glass house with mirror windows of flashbulbs.


Who is the Landlord for our likes and dislikes? Our affirmations and negations may one day face us on a ride to see our children, to church, to meditation, and post our prayers. . The ones we never say, even, to God. Each click is memorized for eternity. * The earnestness of the nose in dialect, the drowning fever seize, is laminated. Soft plush fever of the instant abides. The tribes haven’t run home–they’ve been taking pictures of their flight.


A palette is formed. A Rubix Cube. Our faces as places, tiny as soot blotches, contort in the cubes casually. Keep the trains of our algorithms moving. A slim executive, probably not a bad guy. Just doing his job.

An alchemical hourglass switches barrels like a shotgun The man in charge wears a wire to the paranormal ballroom. * A galley of missing posters in an art museum photographed by a man with no license and a big white truck, rife with clean graffiti, drives off into the night.

The Scream of Aime Cesaire, Amiri Baraka, SURREALISTS AGAINST RACISM!


The murder of Trayvon Martin and the release of his murderer is cause for every surrealist, and every person of conscience, to take a good look at the
putrid conventions of the society they live in. In the screams of this helpless young man as he was shot, we hear the screams of all our oppressed.

I am proud that two members of my group, Adam Francis Cornford and Lee Ballentine, both of whom I have interviewed here previously, have decided to speak about this.

“Even if the prosecution’s version of events was true–and there is good reason to believe it wasn’t the whole truth–Zimmerman was unjustified in killing Trayvon Martin. So he was getting punched and getting his head banged on the sidewalk after he chased down an unarmed teenager who had every right to be there and confronted him physically. The worst that would have happened to him is a concussion. The problem here is not only that Zimmerman had demonstrated hostility to young black men–it’s that he was allowed to carry a gun.There is a madness in America about guns. The fact that there are so many of them and that they are being used in more and more conflicts–as well as being discharged accidentally and killing that way–is a death spiral in a country whose rulers have determined to beggar 99% of the population. They’re pushing us into smaller and smaller spaces and watching us turn on each other.”

Adam Francis Cornford


It is clear that this moment can’t be blamed on six Florida women. The jury’s mission is to apply narrow rules of responsibility while protecting the rights of the defendant from the great power of the state. They seem to have done that. 

Once you allow a fearful, angry racist to represent society in the “Neighborhood Watch,” arm himself with deadly force, and tell him he should “stand his ground,” it’s no great leap for him to pursue a black stranger, provoke a confrontation, and kill him when he fights back. Society was not on trial, but it needs to be.

Let’s be clear. Zimmerman is not an anomaly; he is society. Economic hard times for everyone but the wealthiest have lured the most racist into the open and given them platforms (like the internet) to spit their poison. African Americans were the most recent arrivals at the pre-recession table of plenty, and the rule is “last hired first fired.” It’s hard times in America for all but a few.

The far right was racist all along. The near right distrusts government anyway, and having a black president has legitimated their more or less unconscious and unexamined racism too. 

More than anything, as artists we need to show our black friends and colleagues and neighbors that we are paying attention. That we know this society is sick. That we stand with them for change. As Martin Luther King wrote: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Lee Ballentine