The title “Poetry should be made by all” is taken from a quote by Lautréamont – a poet praised by the Surrealist art movement in the 1920s. I found this quote in a book about surrealist games. As a game designer I’m fascinated about the Surrealists and their strong belief in play as almost a magical way into the human mind. They deliberately wanted to break the thread of rational thoughts, in order to set our imagination free. They used chaos, chance and play to do it.
The Dadaists had strong connections with the Surrealists. One of the games in the book is To Make a Dadaist Poem by Tristan Tzara. It says:
Take a newspaper.
Take a pair of scissors.
Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
Shake it gently.
Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will be like you.
And here are you a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar herd.
This method later known as the cut-up technique is designed as a provocation on many levels. One of them is directed towards language itself. Language is a system intimately connected with our thoughts. Mess with language (by putting random words together) and you mess with your mind – in a good way!
The cut-up technique reflects both the Dadaists frustration and buffoonery (they loved the idiotic!) and the Surrealist striving for awakening the creative mind to explore unknown areas in our consciousness. It is part of an artistic practice which challenge the limits of creative freedom and it has served as an inspiration for generations of artists.
William Burroughs, who became a big fan of the cut-up technique in the 60s, had his own theory of the method. He saw it as an alteration of the consciousness both of the writer and the reader. David Bowie, who started to use the cut-up technique directly influenced by Burroughs, said that it helped him cut through the tangle of expectations when it came to writing new songs.
In the early 90s Dave Kapell, a songwriter from Minneapolis, was inspired by Bowie to use the cut-up technique to get out of his own writer’s block. But the use of paper was a problem because of Kapell’s allergies. Every time he sneezed the paper bits would fly around the room. To prevent this he glued the words to magnets, which later ended up on his fridge. So Magnetic Poetry was born and began to spread as a wildfire through the American households. The artistic method finally entered into the mainstream.
There are two things in this story that I find important and that influenced us into making Words of Oz. The first thing being the fundamental power of words, and the second being how chance and play can help unblock creativity. Together these two elements become an interesting tool for artistic expression, and we can wait to see how people will use it through our game.
Poetry should definitely be made by all!