Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Ninth Arrondissement Press, 2006 - £5

This pamphlet is part homage to the man, part thumbnail history of Dada, part study of a life as a work of art, and the rest is a chronicle of self-obsession. A neat trick to pull in the space of 23 poems. I liked the Dada-esque ones the best, such as ‘Max Ernst, Solarized, 1935’:

 

Shrunken eyes took

     birds behind minds.

 

We lesser muttered ruthlessly,

          mundane dawn above us.

 

Mourning children that laughed,

we look out on

haunted children:

        grey sullen:

anonymous,

      fatherless,

            fractured.

 

Pity there weren’t more like this. Were I a curious newcomer to Dada, they would have been more likely to stir me to investigate further, rather than being told, in ‘Man Ray’ that talent is

 

a gift,

its sharp tacks

rip open preconception of art.

 

Hard to imagine a tack ripping anything open, let alone art.  Doesn’t everything become mainstream and establishment eventually anyway?  As Adams himself says in the same poem, ‘The metronome swings’—yes, but it swings back again.

    The poems also contain a little too much cliché, that antithesis of Dada. “The ghost from the machine”, for example, “dream’s hall of mirrors”, and “flashbulbs popping”.  The proofreading was also sloppy: “gental” appearing for ‘gentle’, “whither” for ‘wither’, and “terasses” for ‘terraces’. You can’t attribute those to the ‘movement’. 

    But this is clearly a work of love, and they are rare. I’m glad I’ve had my own zest for Dada re-awakened, and here is a last, witty word from Adams:

 

‘Smoking Device 1959

assemblage, wood, plastic, glass.

 

This is not a pipe.

 

Paul Lee