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This article is taken from Poetry Nation 4 Number 4, 1975.

Positive Refusal - English Poetry and the Dadists Alan Young


FIFTY YEARS ago Surrealist activity in Paris, especially in the plastic arts and poetry, was at its most intense. Later in the decade Salvador Dali, Luis Buñuel, and Tristan Tzara were to give fresh radical impetus to the movement, but by the mid-twenties Surrealism had moved only a short way from its Dada origins. Dadaism sprang up in Zurich, New York, and Barcelona during the First World War and had a wild year or so in nearly every other European country immediately after the war. Some of the Germans of the Zürich group had returned to Berlin during the last year of the war to help to promote political anarchy and violent revolution. A few others, including Hans Arp and Kurt Schwitters, had gone home to try to create new art out of the possibilities offered by spontaneity, chance, and deliberate 'bad taste' - all those qualities developed to high degree in the multi-media and abstract productions of wartime Dadaism.

The movement reached Paris in 1919 when Tzara and Francis Picabia joined the young writers of the periodical Littérature who were led, even at that time, by André Breton. For the next four or five years this enlarged group created a frenzied stir in the French capital, though much of this was a consequence of fierce wrangling inside the group, an inevitable result of the coming together of such egocentrically wilful and energetic personalities. However, there was sufficient unity for the Dadaists to rampage effectively and ...


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