In this survey, the summing up of ‘Introduction to some poets’, summing up by Paul, also groups Guillaume Apollinaire, André Salmon, Max Jacob, Blaise Cendrars, Paul Morand, in the same descriptive family, which is certainly no mistake. On the other hand, the lettrist critical essay which classes as historical the succession Apollinaire, Dada, Surrealism and Lettrism, seems to me – still in the considerable Action that we find in electronics and of which Pansaers had a certain inkling: ‘Words are purges’ – completely mistaken. But it is already another way of seeing, another place where poetry can be found. It is Neuhuys who noted as early as 1921:
Apollinaire has, one could say, attained perfection in confusion. His work is not an attempt, it is result. With him, we change our old way of thinking.
At the time this was not a banal statement.
Going on through Ça Ira! In the number of March 1921 – illustrated by a lovely woodcut by Jan Cockx, I discover ‘Avant-Garde Literature in Holland’, an article by Theo van Doeburg. Here is a passage from ‘Manifesto II by de Stijl’, 1920:
in the old poetry
the intimate meaning of the word was lost
by the domination of relative
and subjective impressions
We want by all the means at our disposal
to give the word a new meaning and a new strenght of expression
the dualism of prose and verse can no longer continue
the dualism of form and content can no longer subsist
so for the modern writer the form will have a directly spiritual meaning
it will describe no action
it wille describe no thing
it will be satisfied with WRITING
it will re-create in words what is collective in Action
the constructive unity of form and content
We are counting on the moral and aesthetic collaboration
of all those who work
for a renewed world.
Leiden, April 1920 Theo van Doeburg, Piet Mondrian, Antony Kok
It was not until 1959 that I was shown this passage by Michel Seuphor, who wanted to teach me what had been produced in the 20’s. I had already expressed a great many of the demands written above, without knowing these lines. So I am particulary glad to be able to quote this today, as the manifesto is extremely important. The word is questioned, it can be regenerated through Action, and I must seize this opportunity to point out to the readers of this book that we must no longer believe in banalities such as: ‘I did that before you’ or ‘It’s already been done’, since even Mondrian and van Doesburg, starting the discussion, call for veritable research into the word, research that can only extend, since from being elementary at the time when our three authors wrote these lines, we have freed ourselves of the last remains of the old world, which has only an aneamic alphabetic phonetism, without the freshness of the time when we had Hugo Ball, Raoul Hausmann, Pierre Albert-Birot or Kurt Schwitters.
Collection OU, 7, Ingatestone, Essex, 1977.