A Brush with Surrealism

I spent the entire weekend last week by the beach in Corpus Christi for a long-overdue visit with my good friend Elin and her husband Lantz. Elin seized the opportunity to show me what she loves about her city so we spent most of our time in some pretty cool galleries, cafes, and coffee shops. We’re all the kind of people who adore talking a lot for a long time about whatever is currently interesting to us, so we consistently found ourselves in deep conversations about life, love, and everything in between. In retrospect I have realized all of these conversations were viewed through the lens (or with the naked eye?) of surrealism. Lantz is a self-proclaimed surrealist and, through our conversations (completely lucid or otherwise), I’ve come to realize that I have roots in surrealism as well.
     For me, surrealism has always been characterized by the art the movement produced, like that of Salvador Dali, who I have always been intrigued by but have never studied in great depth.

Until I was about 15 I assumed the white blob on the ground was some sort of ghost, so this painting has always scared me to some degree. Source.
     After these discussions with Lantz, I’ve discovered that I often think in surrealist terms, especially regarding society and how fragile its structure actually is. But that’s not what this post is about. I’m actually more interested in sharing a poem the three of us wrote together using a surrealist exercise Lantz called opposite scheme poetry.
     Opposite scheme poetry is not unlike the drawing game exquisite corpse in that a group of people work together to create a whole piece. In opposite scheme poetry, each person takes a turn writing a line of the poem. The first person can start out with anything, but each subsequent person needs to try to write the opposite of the line before theirs. In this game, the word opposite is open to interpretation. One could write the literal opposite of the meaning of the line or of the individual words, even the opposite of the writing style. Anything goes. Lantz and Elin said they usually wrote a page’s worth, so we wrote ours until the end of the page, cycling through from Elin to myself to Lantz.

Seas of smoke and waves cloud my vision

Suddenly, the mist becomes my clarity, elucidating
Lazily, wind hollows ignorance blindly
Liquid emphatically fills the gaps in this all-too-visual knowledge
and drains away, leaving non-corporeal ignorance
Madness fulfills with fulfillment every solidarity enlightened
Complete sanity leaves without emptiness, only once, weakly in the dark
Confusion, like a blinding light, hits me upside the head relentlessly
Certainly in the hollow hills of muddy corridors nests me comfortably in fleeting essence
Slick buildings irritate you with strong presence
in the forgiving hills you find a home
Beautiful spring in the stones console my timidity. Accuse my empty chest, a lonely journey.

In the beginning of the poem we had a lot of very literal back-and-forth, making our “poet” appear quite confused as to whether he was confused or not, but eventually we broke free and moved on to something that flowed more naturally.
     I find it especially interesting that, at the beginning of the second stanza, Lantz used hills as the home and then I, without realizing it, used that as the same opposite. I could attribute it to the fact that he and I both feel more at home in the hills than on the flatlands, but also it shows how easy it was for my mind to replicate the style and thought processes of both Elin and Lantz without making a conscious effort to.
     Only now it occurs to me that I could have broken the poetic rhythm of Elin’s first line whenever I pleased, breaking away to something less “deep.” Any of us could have but none of us did. Instead, we all fell in line, using literal opposites instead of stylistic ones. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
     The most wonderful aspect of surrealism is that anything goes. A surrealist, such as Lantz, is open to any and all interpretations of pretty much anything, and places emphasis on not assuming anything. Personally, I prefer to just think what I think without labeling myself as a surrealist or Dadaist or nonconformist or whatever (may be a surrealist trait of my own?), but surrealism seems, to me, to be an excellent springboard from which to delve into other cultures, societies, and personalities, not to mention a wonderful tool for discovering and examining what intricacies, truths, and falsehoods you may find in yourself.

Aside from being a surrealist, Lantz is also an artist. Check out some of his stuff on www.minatus.com

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