POETRY FOR THE FIVE SENSES (excerpt)
by Karel Teige
In lieu of the old categories of art, corresponding to the higher aesthetic senses (sight and hearing), to man’s intellectual and practical needs which are today better served by other fields of self-realisations, poetism creates a poetry for all the senses.
Poetry for sight, or “liberated painting”: 1. dynamic: cinography, fireworks, games of reflection and all live spectacles (“liberated theatre”); 2. static: the visual poem of the typographical or montage-type, new image as colourful poem.
Poetry for hearing: the music of roar, jazz, radiogenie.
Poetry for olfaction: poetism conceives of new olfactory poetry, a symphony of smells. Smells have deep impact upon our “lower,” instinctual psyche: the smell of blood, powders, perfumes, flowers, animal smells and petrol, oil and drug smells, can all move us mightily and unspeakably. Baudelaire still filtered clusters of smells into the system of poetic language. Smells can be aesthetically effective in an immediate fashion, just as sounds and colours. The talk of smells, of strong erotic excitation, is best known to loves: flower gifts, perfumed love letters are the first step toward olfactory poetry. After all, master gardeners have always been familiar with its alphabet and its emotional reverbs, just as the liturgies of various religions. So: poeticise with smells as directly as it is possible to poeticise with colour and sound!
Poetry for taste: As long as there is no doubt that certain individuals display an immediate connection between sight and sensibility or the gist of personality, we can also suppose that trenchermen and gourmands of the history, perfect gastronomers and voluptuous Pantagruelists can relish a perfect communication between taste and soul. That the joie de vivre, as Delteil has observed, can develop from good digestion as much as from good prayer. What is at stake here is not poetry of intoxicating beverages and narcotics, of alcoholic hallucinations breeding almost automatic lyrical tensions. The joy of a good lunch is no less sublime or aesthetic than any other, given that joy is on the highest degree of human hierarchies measured by the goal of human life: happiness. It is to our regret that the art of cooking today has no longer the respect it was rightfully accorded in medieval aesthetics. Poetry for taste, the art of cooking (written about already in Apollinaire’s Poète Assassiné), should—in addition to its peculiar gustatory values—impact upon the entire concert of the senses through its forms, colours and scent variations.
Poetry for touch: its founder is Marinetti, who in 1921 called it tactilism. […] As long as plastic arts work also with tactile elements, Martinetti’s tactile poems have nothing to do with painting or sculpture; their goal is to realise tactile harmonies. Our sense of touch has been civilised into dexterity, but has remained hitherto uncultivated in terms of impressionability. Visual sensations—upon seeing matters of diverse smoothness and roughness—oftentimes evoke in us associative notions of touch, whereas a mere touch in the dark will fail to resonate intensively across our inner feelings. Tactile poetry, composed of delicate, smooth, rough, warm or cool materials, of silk, velour, brushes, electrified wires, etc., can train our tactile emotionality and provide maximum sensual and spiritual pleasure.
Poetry of intersensorial equivalences: optophonetics, “liberated theatre,” colourful lights and fountain songs.
Poetry of physical and spatial senses, the sense of orientation, the sense of speed, the temporal-spatial sense of movement: sport and its diverse types: celebrations of the phys-cult, aviatics, tourism, gymnastics, acrobatics: thirst for records, innate to our mentality, is fed by athletics, the passion of victory erupts during football matches simultaneously with the joy of collective teamwork, with the emotions of taut harmony, precision and coordination. The sport poem outshines the pedagogic and orthopaedic tendencies of P.E. Liberated dance, a self-contained dynamic physical poetry independent of music, literature or plastic arts, a tangible physicality of flesh and blood whose movement gives rise to dynamic and abstract forms of the dance poem.
Poetry of the sense of the comic: Grock, Fratellini, Frigo, Chaplin etc. Dada humour.
The demise of art has been proclaimed many times; not only by iconoclastic, futurist-dadaist-romantic manifestoes, but also by precise historical, sociological and aesthetic analyses, which have expounded and documented the gradual extinction and progressive degeneration of the individual art spheres. Analysis the last chapters in the development of fine arts and poetry, and examination of the inner changes within these arts and changes in the arts’ relations with the society have shown us the very limit of what is nowadays called art, i.e. a state in which moments of disintegration and demise have gained gradual prevalence over moments of existence. Historical preconditions which have hitherto animated art and its individual modes are increasingly losing their validity. As long as we say, “the demise of art,” we are pointing to the necessity of defetishising the phenomenon of social and spiritual life, nowadays this abstract category of aesthetic thought and cultural awareness: art in its former forms and modes becomes an anachronism from the dying social formations and ideologies.
The process of separation between romantic art and bourgeois society has to do with the process of extinction of the inherited art forms. Contemporaneous with the process of extinction in the individual art disciplines we’re witnessing today is the process of creation of new forms essentially different and unrelated to historical art forms, qualitatively other. This process cannot be comprehended or explained by the old-school aesthetics and the art theory of static ideals and idealistic illusions. […]
In the arts’ isolation from production and society, in an age whose production has been transformed from manufacture into machine industry, all art forms tied with the civilisation of crafts must eventually perish. However, it is the very refocusing of production onto machine industry and the consequent separation of artistic crafts from industrial life has established technical and material conditions for the creation of a new poetry, whose methods and functions are utterly different from those of former arts. Which means that “art ceases or has ceased to be art.” This means, first and foremost, that we won’t continue to deal with art as a fetish of cultural eternity, with art “as such,” but regarding the so-called art as nothing more than a series of craft- or poetry-forms which know no supra-historical laws, we shall ask questions concerning solely the actual and concrete developmental change of old forms into new ones, in connection with changes in the world of production and society. As long as we understand or divine the marvellous nascent possibilities of new people’s cultural and psychological enjoyment within the new cultural order, we shall resist the temptation of transferring certain cultural and ideological forms called art, considered the “human prehistory” proper, which have become nothing within the order of the new social era, new world.
In an age where the old arts, painting, literature etc. are wearing off and dying out, POETRY is born, poetry in the Greek sense of the word without the Greek conception of it: poiesis, integral, self-governing, life-giving creation. This conviction is the very own contents and sense of poetism as “large poetic faith, faith in the universality of poetry,” in the words of F.X. Šalda. Poetry, i.e. a new composition of aesthetic qualities, constructed by new methods and out of new materials, searching for the new consumer, new spectator and auditor, the new man whose thirst for lyricism it seeks to quench, whose senses and sensibility it seeks to endow with vital energies and intensities.