Posted in Glit Lit

On Surrealism in Paradise: Or How Collaboration Makes People Crazy (I mean Magic)


The 1948 work Dali Atomicus by Philippe Halsman

Q: What does writing in paradise have to do with a bunch of poets beneath a palm tree? (0)

Several years ago, during the Eden of a Miami dry season (known as winter in most of the country), I sat around with a group of young poets playing language games the French Surrealists made up almost a century ago. Our goal was to unlock the unconscious and share our loamy, gritty, terrible (1) personal ephemera. Or: our goal was to make something new from the viscera of our collective imagination. Or: our goal was to honor insouciance in a scholarly setting (halls of ivy and strangler figs, rules of meter and meaning). Maybe we just wanted to free ourselves from the constraints of rational order, substituting chance and indeterminacy for premeditation and deliberation. (1½)

Or maybe Paradise made us crazy (I mean magic).


Why are there good people locked up?

I am of Irish heritage and my mama is Catholic and my dad is Jewish.


Why am I not focused!?

Yes, there in every moment a breath transpiring, but can you decide
whether it is exhaling or inhaling?


Why do men think with their penises?

Kill the flowers and smash the vase.


Why is today the worst day to forget to wear panties? (1⅗)

Zebras all have the exact same number of stripes, black and white.
It has something to do with the golden ratio of nature 1.641 (or 1.416),
I’m not sure. They started preaching equality or attempts at integration
before the black and white cookie drew the line down the middle.


You may recognize the above as the typical sloppy happy results of the Surrealist game “Question and Answer,” one of several collaborative “Chain Games,” which fall under the heading of “Language Games,” which in turn fall under the heading “Chance and Accident,” which reminds me of magic but is really crazy, and vice versa. “Game” means that the poet who answers the question has not seen the question and therefore the question is moot. Or the answer is cute. Or both answer and question are exquisitely cute and moot, which means something is always hidden and everything is randomly combined, both the question and the answer. (Da da da.) What you may not know is that in Paradise the results of a Surrealist game take on colors in much the same watery way as a double exposure:


Photo: P.B.Toman

Or, in the case of poets writing together near an ocean that slops up against Eden like a lover 24-7, it may look more like a multiple exposure of two pelicans in flight:


Photo courtesy of


What words does the earth speak as it moves away from Pangaea?

Everything is one circle after another.


How does one pop a pimple if it resides in your butthole?

It makes the mountain air sing with sharp light.


Given the state of the nation, who would you pick as our Queen?

That’s a difficult question. I’ll approach it from 2 directions:

1.When people get pleasure from running over cats with their
cars, they are often abused by children or attacked by a cougar.

2. Your hair looks okay, but there’s a little bird shit in it.


Who is out there listening?

Thursday—across from the park—at a table in the Italian
Restaurant on the block with all the Starbucks.


When will the next World War begin?

Because there are no clean towels left in my room,
so just dry off with that shirt on the floor.


When did 60 degrees become freezing?

A hole in the fingertips of creative genius.


What is the touch of paper?

Because I seldom vote, I’ve decided to throw the dice,
then run like hell.1⅝


In this way, Surrealism is rebirthed in Paradise on soil that is not really soil but salt, sponge, a mirage of blue.



0      A: Raw fish, lime, and a girl named Ceviche.
1       French for terrible.
1½   Surrealist Games, Shambhala (1991).
1⅗     Regarding the word “panties,” please see “Of Language, Love, and Tiny Musicians,”
by M. Seaton. Thank you.
1⅝    All Q & As are from Dialogic, a chapbook (’08) by Patrick Bennett, Kristen Chipman,
Alyssa Eily, Meaghan Fondiler, Taylor Frappier, Jordan Fulghum, Annika Held,
Rafael Jara, Jason Lopez, Jonathan Merker, James Provencher, Kimberly Rubenstein,
Sydney Slater, Nicole Stecich, Mallory Strock, and Denise Vidot.

Photos: Wikimedia Commons

Maureen Seaton, 12/5/10

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