Colin Morton: The Merzbook: Kurt Schwitters Poems

Copyright Colin Morton, 1987

Contact for permission to reprint and distribute.


A Kurt Schwitters Chronology
Lighting a Fire, 1914
November 7, 1918
Hausmann Remembers (I)
Birth of Merz
Garbage Picking on Kaiserstrasse
Anna Bloom (trans. from Kurt Schwitters)
Hausmann Remembers (2)
Getting Around
Home in Hannover, 1922
Great Moments in Modern Art (1)
With the van Döesburgs in Holland, 1923
W (adapted from Kurt Schwitters)
Ursonata (adapted from Kurt Schwitters)
Waldhausenstrasse 5
Opherdicke Revisited
At Dr. Steinitz'
Critics (adapted from Kurt Schwitters)
Passing through Paris, 1927
Great Moments in Modern Art (2)
Beginning the Merzbau
The Cathedral of Erotic Misery
The Man Who Died
Midnight Sun
At Molling's Printship
Not Schwitters
Great Moments in Modern Art (3)
Harlequin at the Chessboard
Election Day Ballet
Ask a Neighbour
All Hail the Party
For Ernst
Great Moments in Modern Art (4)
At Freedom's Gate
To Helma: Letters from Norway
A Toast in Goat's Milk
Howler Monkeys in Midlothian Prison
Enemy Alien
How My Life Has Changed
Wantee, to Her Neighbour
Number Poetry Revisited
To Ambleside, 1945
To Spengemann (1946)
Asthmatic Poem
Ambleside Landscape, Early Spring
Hausmann Remembers (3)
Ernst Replies

A Kurt Schwitters Chronology

Kurt Schwitters wrote no autobiography. In fact, his novels and plays subvert the very notion of anyone's "lifestory." Neither the poems that follow nor the "facts" below tell the "whole story;" they couldn't. But all are parts of the design.
- Colin Morton



When I was born Picasso
had not yet entered his blue period
-- I cried

As soon as I could stand
I stood under Picasso's influence
I pointed to the arch where
the road passes over the canal
and "Tom" I said or "happening"

My lyric period was when I lived in
Violet Street -- I never saw a violet
That was owing to Matisse
whose palette then was always red

As a boy I built little houses
out of little bricks with Mondrian
Later on I played football with the Surrealists
trapped turtles and frogs and
kept them in my pocket till they died
but I never went along with
tearing the wings off flies

I had my own garden -- strawberries
roses a pond with lily pads --
till the boys I ran with
tore up root and branch
for the pleasure
of watching me kick in rage

Ever since I've been wary of gangs
parties movements teams
Some friends I have made
have loved also but few
I meet are droll as guinea pigs say
or even white mice
though mice like men are always
stupidly running in circles
and when old they often go bald
like men in their prime of life

As for cold-blooded creatures
I prefer salamanders to men
They don't spin in circles but keep
a noble repose digesting worms

Best of all a salamander
sheds its skin more often than a man
-- a trick I'm still hoping to learn


Lighting a Fire, 1914

                              Kindle, little words
Ode to Sunset
                              Feed the flame
. . . how you wept when we parted . . .
                              Words that burn twice --
Picking Flowers in the Park
                              in my heart and on the page
. . . the pools of your eyes . . .
                              How the tears have dried
. . . could I but rest on your heart . . .
                              How they tinge the flames green
. . . your ivory breast . . .
                              Burn, little words,
. . . the Kaiser said . . .
                              Warm me once more now we are cold.

Outside my window grey clouds weep . . .

         No more of this! --
piston!    sprocket!    carburetor!
         -- these are the words of the new poetry!

Or if I can't believe that
-- if the old words of heart and tears endure --
I will write them as I see them flare up,
turn black, then grey, then go up in smoke
like -- like nothing! --
simply write them as the paper curls and burns
and give them back their own place in the world.

                 . . . as when you . . .
                                        . . . furtive . . .
                                           . . . waxen . . .
                   . . . billows . . .
                                          . . . roseate . . .
              . . . Morocco . . .
                                        . . . the bride wore . . .
           . . . fter . . .
                . . . ving . . .
               . . . over . . .       . . . bl . . .
                            . . . essen . . .
                                          . . . ei . . .


November 7, 1918

On the morning of the great revolution
I cleaned my drafting pens thoroughly
they would not be used for a long long time.
The stockman was drunk on something
so I helped myself to pencils and paper
and sketched at the window
faces and flags, the shapes of laughter.

The iron works stoked up its engines
though the machinists only stood and talked
so at noon when the great revolution arrived
in a car full of sailors waving red flags
the steam whistles blasted a welcome
far louder than the cathedral bells.

The streets filled with singing and dancing
the mounted police were nowhere in sight
the mayor's office was empty, the door unlocked
and soon the red flag hung from his window.
I wrote my resignation in fine Gothic script
and set off for home
all the drawings in my head
celebrating their hour of liberation.

For the soldiers had not yet hobbled home
and this was victory.
As we always knew it would
peace had won.


Hausmann Remembers (I)

People told me Kurt came from Hannover,
as if that said everything about him --
his accent, his high starched collar,
his need for a wife and an income,
even the way he used the word Art.
But I didn't care where he came from
the night he introduced himself
in the Café des Westens.
"I'm a painter," he said,
"and I hammer my pictures together." ..

Well, it was the month of Rosa Luxemburg
and from where I stood,
beside the workers in the streets of Berlin,
it seemed possible, it seemed right
to hammer together a future
from the debris of Verdun and Versailles.
"You're just the comrade we need," I told him,
and now more than ever
I'm convinced I was right.

But Rosa was shot without trial,
and Kurt -- dismissed with no hearing.
He wasn't committed to the cause --
he published in Der Sturm --
what more need be said against him?
"You're not dada," they threw at him
He only shrugged, "I'm not anti-dada either."
And that was all, he went home
(it's then I learned to place his accent),
and we laughed, thinking we'd heard the last of him.


Birth of Merz

It's not true, what one or two
self-important men have said
-- that I left Berlin in a sulk --
I never meant to stay.

I left revolution to the martyrs
and finding the few I could show my works
I made them my friends for life --
Walden, Lissitsky, Hausmann, Hannah Hoech

and Arp, who when he saw my first collages
erupted in a stammer, telling
how once he tore up a sketch in frustration
-- later found what he wanted
in how the pieces landed on the floor
and pasted them down that way.

That's what I needed to hear --
not "I make them in protest against beauty"
but "I like it that way, it speaks to me."

He pulled one from my folio to admire
-- the one with MERZ in the middle
clipped out of a COMMERZBANK ad.
"What's it called?"
I shrugged. "Merz picture; merzbild."
"But of course!"

And in an instant
what had spun in my head for days
"I call them all merzbilden.
Merz, not schmerz, is the core of my art."

"So you're Mr. Merz!" Arp laughed,
and I was laughing still
when I boarded the slow train for home.


Garbage Picking on Kaiserstrasse

"In Merz painting the box top, the playing card, the newspaper clopping become surfaces, string, brusAstroke, and pencil stroke become line, wire netting becomes overpainting, pasted-on wax paper becomes varnish; cotton wool becomes plasticity."

The butcher throws out little more
than bone chips and odd ends of string
knotted in blackened gristle.

The print shop's bin is bulging, though,
with the primitive authority of the alphabet,
the naked cyan of colour discards,

while the tailor's and ah the dressmaker's shops
trail scraps of gleam and shimmer down the alley;
the milliner's barrel runs over with ribbon.

If you're going on from here, be sure
to bring a strong bag or basket;
next comes the tanner's, the machine shop
and, ah paradis, the dump
where all the cast-off dreams are thrown.


Anna Bloom

O you, beloved of my twenty-seven senses, I
love your!
You your thee thine, I your, you mine. -- we?
This (by the way) is beside the point.
Who are you, uncounted woman? you are
-- are you? People say you are, -- let
them say it, they don't know how it stands with us.
You wear your head on your feet and walk about
on your hands, on your hands you walk.
Halloo your red dress, sliced in white pleats.
Red I love Anna Bloom, red I love your! -- You
your thee thine, I your, you mine. -- we?
This belongs (by the way) out in the cold.
Red bloom, red Anna Bloom, what do people say?
Prize question: 1. Anna Bloom has a screw loose.
                       2. Anna Bloom is red.
                       3. What colour is the screw?
Blue is the colour of your yellow hair.
Red is the thread of your green screw.
You simple girl in simple dress, you dear
green animal. I love your! you your thee thine, I
your, you mine. -- we?
This belongs (by the way) in the ashcan.
Anna Bloom! Anna, a-n-n-a, I trickle your
name. Your name drips like soft tallow.
Do you know it, Anna, do you know already?
You can be read from behind, and you, you
loveliest of all, you are from behind as you are
from the front: "a-n-n-a."
Tallow trickles softly over my back.
Anna Bloom, you trickle beast, I love your!


Hausmann Remembers (2)

Then came Anna Bloom, and Kurt was famous.
"For all the wrong reasons, of course," he said,
but clearly, from his grin, he enjoyed it.

-- Anna Bloom is out of her tree!
    Anna Bloom is red.
    What colour is the tree?

That's how a schoolboy teases his sweetheart,
not satire at all; and in this age
(so we dadas proclaimed) art must be savage
-- a frontal attack!

But Kurt held a mirror up to dada
-- reversed its sneer
to a laughing face.
He called our southern tour "Anti-Dada"
and added an "h" to my Hanna(h)'s name
so he could read her backward.


Getting Around

"Inspiration," the false artist says,
"it just comes to me." And it shows.
His pictures are as like as the four walls of his room
-- morning, evening, midnight, noon.

For myself, I have to search for it.
The whole world is your palate,
but only if you reach,
take hold of what you need and pocket it.

I've walked every street of this town,
know every crumbling curb,
old bullets' pockmarks in the brick,
the unsifted rubbish piles where treasures
sometimes rise from the ashes.

In getting around, the first thing
is to be able to stop.
That's why I rely on my bicycle --
a sturdy old clunker, no gears or gadgets
to let me down far from home,
but a basket of course,
to carry pockets' overflow.

If you must take the train
go fourth class, ride the local.
Avoid motor cars and express trains.

Get to know your travelling companions
and don't dwell on your destination.
Remember, at any station you may step down
stay the night or the morning
rummage in a flea market or listen to gossip.

The whole world is your palate.
But only if you touch it -- take hold!

A note on airplanes, airships, dirigibles:
    As already stated, in getting around
    the first thing is to be able to stop.



So, Huelsenbeck has put our feud in print -- HA HA
So he sneers at my bourgeois home -- my child
who cries, who has to be changed and fed
So he laughs at my solid wife -- that she's no Anna Bloom
So families are not dada -- HA -- neither is the future then
So an artisr has nothing to do with kids,
with homes, with Christmas trees
And this is commitment -- HA -- this is communist art

Well, art is not communist -- not bourgeois either
It's no club and has no party line
Not wild nights make an artist -- not drugs or manifestos
It's art -- HA HA -- that's no secret
The one who makes art -- he's the artist
His one duty-to shape the stuff that comes to hand
So he can't serve two masters --
Not art in the service of revolution
Not revolution at all -- if it fetters art

These Huelsendadas -- husks of artists --
have winnowed out the kernel
So I spit back at you, Huelsenbeck
But where you spit venom, I spit art
I laugh at you -- HA HA --
I laugh at you

  HA             HA HA        HA HA HA HA HA
          ha ha ha                          ho ho ho
HA HO HO HA              HO HA HA HO
    ho ha ha                     ho ha ha
         HO HO   HO HO HO HO
               ha ho ha ha ho
  HA                     HA HA               HA


Home in Hannover, 1922

"He understood money matters."
- Hans Richter

Yes? No? Money doesn't matter!
This much I understand
If I loaf bread = 1 mark (today)
                   = l0 marks (tomorrow)
              = l0,000 marks (when the government falls)
           = 1 million marks (next winter)
then you can keep your Reichsmarks
it's the bakery I want
This much I understand of how money matters

Very good, so I own no bakery
But I own a house
A grimy house that smells of onions
Papa's wedding gift-and I'm glad
so glad he wasn't rich enough
-- too practical anyway    too bourgeois --
to give me cash

So my roomers can't pay?
can barely afford last week's bread?
Very good, the house is still mine
It doesn't get stale
and if the doorframe falls off, very good
I'll nail the rotting board to my picture

A mark? You have a mark to pay me?
Stamped with a row of zeros? Very good!
I need its grimy grey for my picture
-- right there in the centre --
hand me over the glue pot while you're here.


Great Moments in Modern Art (1)

October 1922

Mussolini attends the opera in Milan
before following his Black Shirts to Rome
to rescue king and country from anarchy.

    - Black on green, black type on green paper
        Caslon          Bodoni          Baskerville
        edge         wedge         edge
        a wedge of paper        strip of paper
        blue china chip          playing card
        a feather
        enamel on ivory

"Dada is dead; long live Dada."
- Tzara, at the Hannover



"A few characteristics of the will to a new style and their counterparts in the old art expression are:

    definiteness instead of indefiniteness
    openness instead of closedness
    clarity instead of vagueness
    simplicity instead of complexity
    relation instead of form
    synthesis instead of analysis
    creative expression instead of mimeticism and ornament
    collectivity instead of individualism, and so forth.
The will toward a new style expresses itself in many ways."

-Theo van Doesburg, The Will To A New Style, 1922

He was dada himself in evening dress, white tie, monocle
-- Herr Doktor Professor van Döesburg --
passing solemn judgment on the dada weltenschauung-
until clearing his throat he sipped from his glass of water
-- my cue -- and I started to bark -- WWAA WWAA --
the hell-hounds would have run away in fright.

But the Dutch are born dadas, they responded in kind --
some of them stormed the stage, one waving a massive Bible
as if to throw it, but declaimed from it instead;
they crowned me with a rotting wreath
looted from the cemetery; they were furious,
and we whipped up their fury to let them see themselves.

"Idiots! idiots!" someone shouted, but the voice was lost
amid cries of rage and laughter; the funeral wreath flew,
the public addressed one another with boots and fists,
policemen wept, and dada -- dada was crowned.


With the van Döesburgs in Holland, 1923

Schevenigen on a blustery day
Beach almost deserted    café chairs
stand upsidedown on tables    on the terraces
parasols turn insideout in the wind
Clouds torn apart like scraps of paper --

that one -- I want that one for the blue collage!

A little boy    I run out after the waves
and they chase me back     clutching my treasure
-- no shell or polished stone    but bottle caps --
Dutch ale    Norwegian lager    sun bursts
of pleasure's language -- Sköl!

Nellie turns cartwheels, skirts flyirlg over her head
You are Anna -- yes -- you walk on your hands -- you do!

Döes stands in the surf    his checked suit
wet to the knees    homburg tipped back
shaking his fisds at the waves -- "DADA!
    and the sick are healed    the lame
    jump up and dance the shimmy -- DADA!
    and the blind can see"

Xerxes the conqueror    defeated by the Bosporus
spectacles splashed    he wades back to us
    "No use Kürtchen    these waves are deaf
    as a German bourgeois    and almost as dumb"

But that's nonsense    just look at them
They need no one's bluster to raise them
They see the world in a dada mirror and laugh
Whooshwhooshwhooshwhoosh    that's their answer
They're useless and they know it
They are dada!



"The basic material of poetry is not the word but the letter."










wwwwww wwwwwww
www wwwwww www
www wwwwww www
wwwwwoooo wwwooo
wwwwooooo wwwoooo
wwwwooo wwoooo
wwwooooo wwwoo


Slow breath of deep sleep

Light breath of waking


Light breath of wind at dawn


Salty breeze from the sea

Gust of wind to fill sails

Blow    wind

Thar she blows
A wail

Bark    Howl

Beast after prey

Siren in the night


Wail of the tortured

Shriek of the
crazed beast man

The wild, the
mad, the civilized



  I  f M



Fümms bö wö tää Uu
Uu zzee tee wee bee fümms

rakete rinnzekete
rakete rinnzekete
rakete rinnzekete
rakete rinnzekete
m Beeeeee


          böwörötääzääUu pö
fümmsböwötääzääUu pö
          böwörötääzääUu pögiff
fümmsböwötääzääUu pögiff






Desdesnn nn rrrr

Dedesnn nn rrrr
     desnn nn rrrr
          nn nn rrrr
               nn rrrr


Dedesdnn nn rrrrr, Ii Ee
Dedesdnn nn rrrrr, Ii Ee,
Dedesdnn nn rrrrr, Ii Ee,

               mpiff tillff toooo


               mpiff tilll
               mpiff tillff
               mpiff tillff toooo
               mpiff tillff toooo
               mpiff tillff toooo, tilll
               mpiff tillff toooo, tilll, Juu-Kaa?


Waldhausenstrasse 5

The odour of bake ovens moistens the air
when at 5:45 the first streetcar
pulls out of the station, circles
the old duke's palace then heaves
up the shopworn streets where beer is bottled
coats and caps and boots are sewn
and the butcher's boy
swabs down the blood-stained sidewalk.

I lean my head on the window and doze
in a swirl of images faces cities --
Picassos    Kandinskys    Picabias    Klees --
in the colours of this last week
all dada euphoria and raw nerve-ends
Hausmann's wail of fmsbwe becomes
the wheeze of air brakes -- the clatter of rails
-- the bell! -- and shiftworkers board
smelling of grease that seeps through my head
like oil through my clothes when I paint.

Now evergreen shadows spin on my eyelids --
it's time to step down
where roses and peonies mingle their scent
with the forest floor, the rich manure
my neighbours dig into their gardens
on hands and knees so early in the morning.

Smoke rises from the chimney of Number 5
guiding me home to hot coffee,
a week's mail waiting by the plate,
to Helma's cool hands and warm lips, my son
in his sailor suit hanging from my arm,
an egg cup steaming in the sun.


Opherdicke Revisited (for Helma)

to the bridge at the locks where as children we fished,
the church above the graveyard where we looked at each other first with love,
to the fields I painted under flood when we stayed here as newlyweds,
almost strangers after my years away at school,
to the inn where we met as if for the first time, my pockets bulging, her arms full of flowers,
to feel the power of line thrust up through the earth,
to rise with it, giant, blaze man, steep

something should be made of this after all, in case it should not survive the peace,
the bearded lady will surely suffer us to crank out a carol on her music box,
even if we have to crank backwards,
and backwards we climb the hillside, wanting to miss none of the view behind

jutting mountain, village reflected in the stream,
stumps, fences, old granaries, well-worn paths,
the shimmer of green that rolls time backwards,
farm wagons toddling along the dike, sunk in thought,
bonfires, scratchings on a pad of paper,
a bell, a flower, a top hat, a steeple spinning away,
secret code for an incantation, a quivering of love,
its undoing, the code's, the scent of green


At Dr. Steinitz'

Ha --              Haischaaaaaa

It's no joke -- my sneezing poem --
but a simple notation
of the bane of my life every winter
and spring, even -- haisch -- high summer

but as Momma always told me
It's no use snivelling
over what can't be helped
so I made friends with good Doctor Steinitz --
a cultured man for Hannover --
who distributes pills from his parlour
and each month holds chamber concerts
in his drawing room
with Katie, his wife, who one winter
between the croup and flu
convinced me to write an opera with her.

So one day I sat in Steinitz' office
feeling helpless in my cubicle
half in half out of my nightshirt
wondering when the doctor would return

when a verse of song ran through me
-- spark across a gap --
and I had to write it down
but where were my clothes? a pen?

In a wink I slide off the couch
out into the empty reception room
and when the nurse walks in
she sees my bare tail wagging
as I scribble on a prescription pad.

I can't say what came over her --
or what she thought -- first I knew
she was whipping me away with a stethoscope,
screaming like Momma
last time she tried to spank me

and I'm retreating -- none too dignified --
when in walks Katie
singing the theme from our opera
-- so what should I do but hug her
and sing her my new song
and if that makes the nurse turn tomato red
well -- philistines be damned

give me an audience who understands!



Critics are a special kind of human being.

To be a critic one has to be born to it.

The born critic, thanks to the exceptional
sheeepness of his wits, finds out exactly
what it is not all about.

He invariably sees,
not the faults of the work of art,
not those of the artist, but his own.

The critic, thanks to the natural shee-
eepness of his wits,
becomes aware of his own deficiencies
through the medium of the work of art.

Critics resemble those well-loved men,
the schoolmasters, although it is true
the critic needs to pass no exams:
critics are born not made.

Critics do not have to give up their umbrellas
when they go to an art exhibition.

The umbrellas do, however, have to take an exam.

Only umbrellas with holes are admitted to art criticism.

The difference between artist and critic is this:
the artist creates, the critic bleates.


Passing through Paris 1927

Gare du Montparnasse.

Twenty years later the sidewalk's still a chorus line.
Men with powdered faces drink green liqueur from tall glasses,
talk in whispers to tuxedoed countesses.
The loud ones at the next table, the artistes,
eye the portfolio slung round my neck
and depart for another cafe
to drink strong coffee between their brandies.

Taking me for a Romanian, the waiter
asks to see the art in my case.
He wants to buy a collage, yes,
only ten francs, the small ones,
but it's a big one he wants --
the one with Algerian stamps and palm trees,
he'll bring me drinks and a meal for that.

But I haven't time to eat, Arp expects me
and the waiter shrugs, hurt I won't haggle,
sees I am German after all;
I have a train to catch, the suburban to Meudon,
hack to the song of real birds instead of les filles.

My first visit I met no one, barely opened my mouth.
It was even more sinful in Paris then, to be German.
Yet I was not German enough, not Trakl-ish or Nietzschean,
too fond of a laugh, even at myself.
And I had no portfolio then, only wandered into galleries
eyes wide open, piercing no one
-- till that last day. on my way to the station,
I followed arrows up a stairwell
and stepped out into the twentieth century --
Braques and Picassos stacked three deep,
the front page of Figaro pasted to canvas!

Shudders, the world-heart; shatters, the glass in the frame.
Now Plato explodes like a fat balloon,
today steps into eternity, the thing and the picture touch
in the kind of dream where the more you pour
the more the bottle holds.

I did catch my train at 10 o'clock,
though my whole month in Paris would not have been enough
to finish looking at those pictures
(and today I will catch my train,
though the galleries are full of them --
Arp's garden of gratified desire awaits).
But then, through the train window I saw
no vistas of smokestacks or vineyards
but a great letter R, an article,
a particle of speech pasted over a corner of sky,
a picture inside my head --


Great Moments in Modern Art (2)


    In the spirit of Locarno
    the christian/social democratic/liberal/conservative/
    national/patriotic/fascist government takes a nosedive.
    The armies, left right and centre, offer to step in.

       - Inside the frame inside
           the frame is order

October 1929

    World stock market crash.

       - Rampele, trampele
           Trampele, rampele
           Old pear tree!
           Ghost of years to come,
           stay away from me.


Beginning the Merzbau

line          plane
               circle              orb

in the round
all is flat
intersecting planes

On one Charlie Chaplin twitches his moustache,
on another Mussolini shakes his fist,
and here Anna Bloom
wears every woman's face in turn.

     My glue pot heating on the stove
     smells like the cabbage of paradise.

     (A lyric poem's no railway schedule).

I stir lumps out of the plaster
then trowel on pure forgetfulness.

     (Retain as proof of purchase).

With scissors I cut out the walls of paradise,
facet them into a gem at the centre
of the grotto of longing.

Anna Bloom changing her lingerie --
with my trowel I colour it white.


The Cathedral of Erotic Misery

"Working hard at it over a period of years, Schwitters succeeded in completely 'Merzing' the house where he lived. The soaring Merz-columns ingeniously constructed out of rusty old iron bars, mirrors, wheels, family portraits, bedsprings, newspapers, cement, paints, plaster, and glue -- lots and lots of glue -- forced their way upward through successive holes, gullies, abysses, and fissures."
- Hans Arp


At first it grew slowly -- was the name
I gave the disorder of my studio.
I saw it as a sculpture to build and balance
then finish and place in a gallery.

But "sculpture" was a place I fell into
each day. Lines of force cut the air
-- I plastered them in -- my column
became hollow, inverted -- a hole
I poured everything into -- a well
I came to when dry.

Dr. Schliemann move over! There are more
undiscovered cities than you dream of
under your fingers. To find them
and build them are one and the same.

A child born dead -- I took a cast of his head
and from it began building down --
a shrine of rubbish, a column
that became a cathedral.


My friend, while you're here
give me something to remember this day
-- a lock of hair, a toenail clipping,
the label from your bottle of beer-

see, here are Arp's socks, Sophie's bra,
the Mona Hausmann, and in this grotto
Hanna Hoech's photomontage
stands alone as my tribute to her.

Friendship grottoes -- there are more
hidden deep in the walls --
it would take a Schliemann to unearth them all
-- one for Mondrian, one for Gabo, Lissitzky,
Moholy-Nagy -- and another for Hannah
only I know where.

I build shrines for heroes too --
public and private -- look
here's the Göethe grotto, filled with pencils
worn down to stubs by poetry.

And beyond this golden vial of urine
is the grotto of love -- see armless Venus
and her headless lover, holding
a huge blank cartridge between his legs.


My shell, my skin, my diary of dreams
-- dark corners of a life plastered over --
my search through time for a form beyond.
All this it is and more,

for this search need not end in
these planes of white plaster -- this vision
like a life will go on transforming
till darkness takes all.


The Man Who Died

"My father's life: typhoid fever, apprentice, clerk in a ladies' wear shop. Special interest: decorating. In 1886 had his own shop in Hannover. Bad teeth."
- K.S.

grey rain the day
the man said when I die
let it rain that day
whenever it rains then
is grey to whomever
time says goodbye

who set the man singing
said the man who died
said grey the man is grey
said grey the rain is dead
goodbye said the rain

whenever the man is singing then
in a grey raincoat time says die
wring out the rain
ring it out that day
save the grave for whomever the man said
save the rain for a gay day
sing it whenever said the grey
die sighs the rain
goodbye whenever


Midnight Sun

Without each other, the tourists on the cruise boat
would die of boredom the third day out of port.
They sigh at the mountains' beauty for an hour;
the cliffs and the blue-turquoise waters
divert them a few minutes more. Then
they check their watches and go to change for dinner

where they linger over wines and cheeses
dancing with each others' spouses,
flirting with the serving staff till midnight
when they line the deck again to admire
the twilight that turns into dawn.
Soon this too ceases to thrill, and there's the sizzle
of back bacon, kippers, the morning lager, and finally
a deck chair and a good book to shade the eyes from the sun.

Only I and the student hikers remain at the rail,
they dreaming of climbs up a steep rock face, I
waiting for the light to strike a summer meadow
in just the right way, to trap the sea's violet
between the green of glacier, red of sky.

In the long afternoon the matrons, waking
restless from their drowse, are drawn to my easel,
heave a sigh, less of awe than relief
I'm not one of those modern artists --
I paint what I see (how wonderful for the eye
to exercise in such a playground of light).
"Oh sir, it is lovely, you have a sure hand.
My husband, he's so dull, see him snoring there."
A hand, pressing mine, blurs my palette's blue,
the sun goes behind a cloud, and I find my gruff voice.

Next day I take a razor blade and cut up
the unfinished canvas, slide the parts about
and paste them into place. The women, aghast,
go back to their gossip, the students sneer,
since I'm no Picasso, and I, I am left in peace
to dream over my collage and stare, eyes raised,
at the glistening juniper clinging to a cliff,
the glints of rose embedded in the distant ice.


At Molling's Printshop

"The Molling factory had a basement room for all the rubbish and wastepaper. All the proofs and misprints from the lithography department were broomed twice a day toward a chute that dumped them down into the cellar. This cellar was a treasure trove for Kurt ..... One day the chute in the ceiling suddenly opened and a mountain of paper came down .... He stood bent over, defending himself against the onslaught. Then, raising his head, he stood up in the midst of the rubbish, a new Gargantua, twisting and dancing in the whirl of papers."
- Käte Steinitz

                      and in Norway now a destroyer-sized
                      ship of ice is breaking
                      away from its mountain
                      floating seaward down the narrow fjord)

right over my ears a chute opens
-- an avalanche of inky paper

discarded colour separations
-- red forests -- yellow faces --
blue Ks smear my forehead

I breathe sharp edges
of darkroom air
elbow deep in the market's fierce poetry
drowning in half-glimpses
within reach of a K to finish my picture --

                      (and in Norway now a mountain goat
                      with a wad of moss in her teeth
                      is watching from her high meadow


Not Schwitters

One day Schwitters decided he wanted to meet George Grösz. George Grösz was decidedly surly; the hatred in his pictures often overflowed into hts private life. But Schwitters was not one to be put off. He wanted to meet Grösz, so Mehring took him up to Grösz's flat. Schwitters rang the bell and Grösz opened the door
"Good morning, Herr Grosz. My name ts Schwitters."
"I am not Grosz," answered the other and slammed the door There was nothing to be done. Half way down the stairs, Schwitters stopped suddenly and said, "Just a moment."
Up the stairs he went, and once more rang Grösz's bell. Grösz, enraged by thts continual jangling, opened the door, but before he could say a word, Schwitters said, "I am not Schwitters, either" And went downstairs again. Fints. They never met again.

- Hans Richter

I am not Schwitters -- not he
who wheezes at the tops of hills
Not Sturm und dung-wiping Schwitters
the delicate ego smeared on canvas
Not Kürtchen -- Mama's blond-eyed boy
Not Anna Bloom's snivelling lover
Not Schwitters
Not Pfc. Schwitters, Army corps
cacacacacacacaca cucu -- No
Not he
I'm not dada
Not anti-dada either
Not anti-Schwitters but definitely
not Schwitters
Not Huelsenbeck's nor Spengemann's Schwitters
Not Schwitters the ad man -- buy bye bye!
Not this quaint old easel-leaner
peddling landscapes to the tourists
Not Kurt the pharmacist's chessmate
Not that file they keep down in Oslo
No -- I'm not Schwitters
I'm Merz
I'm a gleam of sun over mountain peaks
reflected off the glacier
I'm a foehn wind howling down the fjord


Great Moments in Modern Art (3)

February 1933

    The Reichstag burns.
    Blaming Communists
    the Nazi party takes power.

       - In my pictures, the red shrinks to one round spot
          of light in the centre -- a cigar band --
          Havana, Cuba.

August 1934

    Death of Hindenburg.
    The Chancellor declares himself Fuhrer.
    Portraits of Hitler and Goebbels arrive
    at the Hannover artists' hall.

       - Here they are, friends.
          Shall we hang them or simply
          stand them against the wall?


Harlequin at the Chessboard

In Zurich Lenin played chess with Tristan Tzara,
waiting for revolution to come to him.

In Paris Duchamp retired from art
to devote himself to the science of chess.

Now I play chess as I do all things --
with part of me only, one eye on the window.

As always I rush in without weighing
all the escapes and the counterattacks.

Sometimes I'm caught with trousers down
(or, if playing my bishop, with cassock up).

But my endgame is strong, I never concede
and often salvage stalemate from defeat.

What I care for is the pieces' weight in my hand,
their smooth coolness, their symmetry.

The game doesn't obsess me, teaches me only
that sometimes the wisest move is to wait.


Election Day Ballet

ballot     ballot     ballot     ballot
                           bullet    bullet
ballot     ballot     ballot
ballot     ballot
                          bullet     bullet
             bullet     bullet     bullet
ballot     ballot
                          bullet     bullet
             bullet     bullet     bullet
bullet     bullet     bullet     bullet
bulletbulletbulletbullet bulletbulletbullet


Ask a Neighbour

I'll never believe what the folks of Hannover say
-- that Herr Schwitters' boy, Kurt, is crazy.
Why I've known him since he was a child
and he crawled under the hedge from his yard
to eat my berries. A scamp, I called him,
and promised to twist off his nose, but all in fun.
A child who never grew up, that's what he is,
and I don't mean that cruelly, there are too few
like him these days, if you want my opinion.

I remember he spent hours, as a boy, playing
with a few scraps of lace in back of his father's shop
-- old Schwitters was a dressmaker, you know,
owned a nice little shop on the Theaterplatz --
and Kurt still plays with scraps, only now
what he makes is hung in galleries all over,
so it just goes to show, don't discourage your kids,
even if it looks like they're wasting their time.

There never was such a proper couple
as old Schwitters and his wife, yet
there must have been something of an artist in him,
for the pride of his life was when Kurt took up a brush,
and he welcomed all his son's friends to dine
at his old oak table, in the room
with the wedding dance painted on the wall.

I still wonder what those Paris folk thought of him
-- the old gentleman and his hausfrau in their parlour
with its standing clock and crystal cabinets.
They must have been amused, I suppose, but
possibly envious too. After all, the old pair
raised Kurt to be the way he is -- funny and thoughtful,
a good son who'll never desert his widowed mother.
Those abstract artists, who are their parents,
and where? Nobody knows.

No, Kurt's a fine man, I've always thought so,
and no one said he was crazy till the Nazis came.
Now if you're not out in your garden
spreading manure on your strawberries then
you must be plotting against the state.
And if you know printing as Kurt does, if you publish Jews like young Lissitsky,
and make pictures the führer doesn't understand,
then you're either crazy or a traitor.
So it's because they like him people say Kurt's crazy.

Oh the Nazis are doing wonders, don't mistake me,
but about Kurt Schwitters I think they're wrong.
If ever he needs a reference to get his job back
he can count on me.


All Hail the Party

In the great and glorious revolution
I fought like hell
to keep politics out of art.
Now the Nazis sit in the Reichstag
and I'd better say no more.

But if I did -- just if
I did, mind -- change my tune,
I'd write an opera for the Party
and call it the Dance of the Terriers;
the Dance of the Rat Schnauzers.

Yes, in my new opera, the Dance
of the Tail-Sniffers, our Chancellor
will ferret out rats so fiercely
he'll chew off Goebbel's ear
then swallow Goering's stubby tail.

And when, in the second act,
the post-pisser barks out orders,
all the wiry hair will spew up
and tear out his throat
-- truly bloody rhetoric.

Then the grand finale --
his loyal, four-footed sharks
will lap up the bile, be crazed
with the bloodlust of power, and
in a yapping frenzy consume their fuhrer.

Yes, I might yet be converted
to the realism of patriots,
but now the Nazis have no more
use for the Reichstag, and
I'd better say no more.


For Ernst

At five you hammered nails into the Merzbau
-- "to help!" -- a pattern of holes and splinters
I saved for years
from the rigours of ideal form.

Merzbaum, you called it in those days,
and tended it like a tree
while you two grew up together.

Summer evenings, after rambling days,
you brought home twists of wire and cloth,
twigs and posters you'd torn down
to add to the grand design.

Now, my Merzboy, you tear down Nazi banners
-- not for art, but one last protest
the state can't take away.

I'm afraid for you-- your whole generation --
called up in childhood, at an age
when I cared only for girls,
to goosestep into a dusky future.

At sixteen you take from my junkpile
bottles, bricks, sturdy boards,
whatever you can find to argue with
in the streets where the tanks are rolling.


Great Moments in Modern Art (4)

April 1936

     Drunk on victory in the Rhineland the German masses
     listen bewildered to their radios:
     the Fuhrer is declaring war
     on abstract art.

       - Moholy writes from America,
          Arp from France:
          "Come away from there Kurt!"
          But the column that has become my skin
          has burst through the floor,
          has rooted here.

January 1937

     Passage booked for Oslo.
     The icebound coast of the fatherland
     rolls under earth's dome.

       - Cards from America.
          "For God's sake get your papers cleared
          and come to California."


At Freedom's Gate

Your passport please.

You are German.
A German citizen.
Born in Hannover.
                                 Not a matter of choice, I assure you.
You speak Norwegian very well.
                                 A little, not so well.
You are a spy, perhaps.
                                 Is that a question?
You have been to Norway before.
                                 Yes, often.
'36, '35, '34 . . .
                                 I spend summers on Möldefjord,
                                  I love it there.
It is not summer now, Herr ...
It is not summer now, Herr Schwitters.
                                 Yes. No.
Your stay will be a short one?
                                 I don't know.
Like the others?
                                 A holiday, yes.
But you don't know how long.
You are not seeking asylum?
                                 No, I hope to return home.
You are not a member of the Nazi party.
Any other party?
You belong to no party.
                                 Yes. No.
You will fill out these forms please.
You will report to the police, this address,
tomorrow morning at nine.
You understand, failure to report will mean . . .
                                 Yes. Yes. Yes.
Welcome, Herr Schwitters, to the land of freedom!


To Helma: Letters from Norway

October 1937:
                          It is dark now by six o'clock.
                          At five I clear away my tools
                          and begin to miss you.

March 1938:
                          The new Merzbau's shell is complete,
                          straddling the hillside with door above
                          and a window looking homeward.
                          Despite the cold I mix plaster each day
                          and build up a soothing image
                          of years I can salvage no other way.

September 1938:
                          Must you have gone home so soon?
                          Let the houses fend for themselves,
                          or abandon them -- we'll survive.
                          The furniture arrived intact, but
                          it makes no home without you.

January 1939:
                          Ernst and his bride are lovely together.
                          They treat me like their child, but let
                          my pets and playthings are all I have left
                          to fill my days.

September 1939:
                          I ached when you left, couldn't sleep.
                          Now I see it was premonition.
                          Keep safe, my dear.
                          Meet me again, somehow.

October 1939:
                          I play Bach on my grand piano
                          recalling evenings of friendship
                          around our warm hearth, but now
                          the cold winds blow from the south.

November 1939:
                          I fear for my Merzbau
                          now it's almost complete.
                          I never had a permit to build it,
                          unwelcome visitor that I am.
                          Now it must be suspect,
                          with its view of the sea, its window
                          from which I might signal
                          the enemy fleet.
                          Till now only children have found it,
                          and I chased them away;
                          but what are they telling their parents?

April 1940:
                          The worst has arrived.
                          We are packing for flight.
                          Take care, my love.
                          What more can I say?


A Toast in Goat's Milk

To Norway, the country in spite of its neighbours,
in spite of winter they build cities out of snow
light as a frost star on the window

To Norway, the contrary, who welcomes you needy,
but hasn't a moment to spare when you're able to pay

To the artists of Norway, respectably sawing off logs
since Ibsen and Munch sailed south

To the outports, where there's no hiding place
but a secret is safe with a child

To Norwegian rail, so ill-used
when the trains were safe to ride
even with German papers, even with none.

To the girls of Norway, they tie
wishes in their braids, yet don't flinch
at milking a goat to toast a stranger

To the gendarmes of Norway,
to their instinct for when to blink,
to their excellent manners

To this incomparable coast,
to its hidden coves and its caves,
to its prompt tides and its tardy
ice-clogged bays,
to its fish and its contrary ways,
discouraging to conquerors,
open-armed to strangers passing

To the deep cold waters of the north, its long spring days,
to the crusted hands of the fisherman on the oars,
to the Icebreaker Fridtjof Nansen.


Howler Monkeys in Midlothian Prison

Air raid sirens were howling
the day we stepped ashore in Scotland
-- a drill this time --
but we knew bombs were falling on London
while above us the night turned pale.

The young guard scowled when he locked rly cell
as if he didn't know
I had more than he to fear
from a German invasion.

In his cell across the way
Ernst laughed at the irony, laughed
till he brought me back to myself
-- howler monkeys in Midlothian prison
we laughed until we ached.

"Keep an eye on those two," the guard said
when the watch was changed.
" They're troublemakers, sure."
And just then the white mice
escaped my coat pocket.


Enemy Alien

Standing on a high mountain
I felt free
I danced to the music
the mountains make together

But while I dance
clouds hid the mountains

and when they cleared
I found myself in
this deep valley

where the clouds go walking
among ghostly tree

                kszzziss            saw
                kszzzziss          saw
                with the hiss of a sawblade
                death comes singing
                kszzziss            saw
                kszzzziss          saw
                        How about this one?
                        Not much left of him

                                Not Fantastic
                        They rarely come back
                        when they're this far gone
                kszzziss            saw
                kszzzzisss         saw

        Have your papers ready
Any rags, any bones, any bottles today
The same old question in the same old way

                                DIG FOR VICTORY
                ksszzziss            saw
                kssszzzziss         saw

        Midday was dim
        I saw nothing
                                Riverside 1698
        No mountains
        No way back
        to the mountains I had lost
                       Opened by customs
            Have your papers ready
                kksszzziss          saw
The round-faced official
with his rubber stamp

                       Edinburgh Manchester
                               The Isle of Man
                kkszziss             saw

                       Says he's an artist
                       That's how far gone he is
Pure Rich Milk
Nature's Finest



How My Life Has Changed

In Norway I had the sea
outside my blue window
I had the high mountains in summer
I had my health -- I would climb
to the heights over Moldegord
for the sheer exhilaration
of hurtling down.

Now in London I have the tick
of the gas meter, the creak of the stairs
under the neighbour lady's foot
the rattle of leaves down the sidewalk
and at night, even by day now
the rumble of bombs from the city.

In the ruins of the Reich
if nothing else scrap was abundant
and I hammered it into my pictures.
Now every spare nail, every rusty tin can
is collected for the war.
Now I buy bones from the butcher
let neighbour dogs gnaw them clean
then model with plaster, build
up from the inner form of bone.

Always I have gone on painting
as condemned men the night before the gallows
play poker in their cells.
At last I even had a show
at Jack Bilbo's, the art gangster's gallery
-- nothing sold. And at the party
I received a telegram -- Helma was dead
and my Hannover home struck by bombs.
Helma, my best friend for life
along with my life's work, both gone.

After that, the V2s, and my stroke
was not long in coming.
Sick in bed all day
I sip tea while the neighbour girl
holds the cup to my lips.
"Want tea?" she says, and smiles.
She can't see what is empty inside me
yet day by day she fills it.
Her name is Edith, she tells me,
but I will call her Wantee.


Wantee, to Her Neighbour


No, the older one. The big one.
What do you say, shall I go?

Just this morning. On my way out,
late for work, he stopped me on the stair

needing help with the geyser, so
I showed him where to put the pennies,

my hand trembling as I did. Yes,
dreams again, I don't know

when I've had a night's sleep.
You know he's German? Yes,

vetted of course. I don't know,
a professor or something, an artist.

But still, those big hands,
I keep seeing them holding a gun.

Well, I told him I would, and
he says he's bought a cake.

Chocolate cake, he said, and coffee,
won't you join me? Well of course

I know what he's after! But his smile,
the way he laughs makes me forget

he's German. Yes I'm going,
only, wait half an hour, then

if I'm not back, you
come down and knock on his door.


Roses. Two red roses. And you know
he had set his little table

with the cake in the centre, two plates,
and a white towel for a table cloth.

It was charming. And his pictures
are like nothing I've seen,

bits of cloth stuck down,
bits of paper, I can't explain

why I found them so soothing.
It's the way he described them

as if he loves those scraps,
each one for itself.

They can bomb a city to rubble,
he said, and I flinched

as if hearing a siren, but
no one can destroy the human mind.

Yes, he meant the Nazis,
they're his enemies too, but

he didn't dwell on that.
All at once he stood up,

you'd like coffee, he said
and started tearing off the bedclothes.

Well yes, I edged toward the door,
but he turned round again

a tin pot in his hand -- the coffee --
he had it wrapped up to keep warm.

Oh he's charming. The coffee?
With milk and a lot of sugar.

Yes, given time
I could learn to like it too.


Number Poetry Revisited

            Two     three      four
            Two     three      four
One      two
A poem I couldn't write
                        until I learned English
            their shapes and names
                        have thrilled me always
but never till now
                                               elemental joy
a nine-tone row
                                    of vowels


To Ambleside, 1945


for once again peace has won
the atom's smashed and now
there are four Germanies
equal to less than one
and nothing at all to go back to


to the land of lakes
and poets


and we'll find us a home
in what you English call mountains
and I'll dream there of the midnight sun
and a youth that promised never to dim


and we will play piano duets there
and I will make pictures --
"Green and Red" on corrugated box tops oh



To Spengemann, 1946

My dear friend,

You must tell me all, the best and worst.
My four houses, I know, are levelled.
They're damn good bombers -- the Yankees.
But really, the Merzbau, is there nothing left?

My life work -- it's all I can think of now.
If I came back, might I not sift through the ruins
like an old archaeologist? salvage fragments
to sell to Americans? rebuild it room by room
from the rubble of the house?

But ah, I'm too ill to go back.
I was months in bed with a broken leg;
high blood pressure; asthma on the heart.
If I walk for five minutes
I have to lie down for two hours.

Do this for me please -- go to the zoo
and feed the deer, thinking of me.
That will be my trip to Hannover for this year.
Meanwhile, I study the photos you sent
-- nothing -- is there nothing left?


Asthmatic Poem

uh    uh
uh    uh
once I made poems out of sneezes
uh    uh    uh
they were famous
in drizzly Hannover
uh    huh
home of symphonic sniffles
sneezes of
Wagnerian proportions
uh    uh    uh
in London too
uh    uh
they understood
uh    my artistry
uh    huh    uh
now here I am    uh
in the land of lakes and hills
uh    uh
in water colourists' heaven
uh    huh    uh
where Wordsworth thought nothing
uh    uh
of walking ten miles
uh    to post a letter
uh    huh    uh
composing blank verse
uh    all the way
wheee    uh    uh
and I'm inspired too
uh    uh
with the poetry
uh    huh    uh
the poetry of asthma
uh    uh    uh    uh



As long as he was able, Kurt loved
to climb the fells above Ambleside

picking up roots or branches, water-worn
stones that caught his eye.

Winter and summer we climbed for hours,
though winter days were short, and once

we found ourselves high in the fells at dusk
far from the track. Just a long

icy path round a frozen tarn, or else:
"Let's cut across the ice," he said,

and before my terror let me speak
he found a long pole for each of us.

"Carry it like a tightrope walker, then
if we fall through it will catch our weight."

O it's common enough in Norway, this
blind faith in a sheet of ice

and it was cold enough in England that day
but O, I just shut my eyes and followed

thinking of what the doctor had told me
before we left London for the north.

"Don't go with him," he said, "he's dying
and you're too weak to save him.

"In a year he'll be gone and you will be left
with nothing, no work and no friends."

He was right of course, though Kurt lived
that year and two years more.

"But Doctor," I told him, "I'd follow him anywhere."
And not till that blood-freezing night

with Kurt's back in front of me, death an inch below
did I know what a truth I had spoken.


Ambleside Landscape, Early Spring

Frost on the hillside --
a picture is no more than this --
no copy but a distillate of nature,
thing of a moment, air frozen into form.
Not one abstract could I have drawn
without years of study -- snowflakes, crystals,
tree roots, sand dunes, fibrillations
of mould on bread.

I never was under the influence
of Mondrian -- only for a time
I accepted his right angle
as hypothesis.

A lot of paint went down then, smooth as a wall,
and just sat there --
little tombstones in primary colours
leaning against my studio wall --
till one day I heated my glue pot,
put a new blade in my knife,
cut off a corner of "Yellow Square"
and pasted it onto "Red and Grey."

Movement! doubt! surprise!
By the end of that day
my floor was littered with shreds of canvas,
patches of colour for merzbilden to come.

Now I have no use for right angles
any more than clouds have -- "Windswept"
"Striations" -- no more knives or scissors for me
-- I'm tearing paper now,
sliding the pieces about with eyes half closed,
dreaming over the sweep of distant hills
or unraked leaves blown under the hedge,
the feathery line of snow on the blacktop road.

O sea, O mountain, O wave-washed stone!
let me mold in clay again, let me
dip my hands in cold grey earth
and smooth it onto a surface;
let me raise a plaster column
on a hillside in Westmoreland
so the wind can go on sculpting it
years after I am dead.


Hausmann Remembers (3)

Now they're saying we "paved the way"
for Hitler, "unleashed the irrational."
Only the tiredest clichés will do
to truss up their scapegoats.
Not the deputies and generals
who sacrificed millions for a plan,
but we young who protested, are to blame;
they only erred in their calculations, but we
broke the rules of the game, refused
their worm-eaten logic.

Now they're saying we "gave up"
on the long heroic tradition
that marched orderly columns of boys
down the throat of the Somme;
that we planted destruction
with abstract art, not they
with their politics of retribution,
not they who built and sold the bombs
-- they were only making a profit
on their shareholders' behalf.

Perhaps if I had been Kurt
I would have given up -- quickly aging
in the bombed-out streets of London,
unable to go home for fear,
hearing months after of how his wife died
in a Nazi hospital, and how
allied bombs struck his Hannover home,
making rubble of his column and all
the beloved work of thirty years
-- all that Hitler hadn't already burned.

But in himself, Kurt never grew old,
never admitted a final defeat.
In the bleakest post-war days
when foul "German" crimes
were turning up in the ashes,
he was beginning again -- a new love,
a new home in the mountains,
plans to rebuild the Merzbau, to print
a new magazine -- right up to the end
Kurt was beginning --


Ernst Replies

It wasn't that way. Mr. Hausmann
has his own axe to grind, my father

was never part of that struggle.
Like me, he saw the future

as some kind of socialism
and dreaded it, though my mother

thought the party another church
giving food to the poor.

"All the beloved work of thirty years"
-- all she could carry Mother

brought with her to Norway,
summers, folded in her dresses,

telling customs exactly what
it was -- worthless rubbish.

The day of his stroke he rode
the bus to Cylinders, where

he broke the ice crust on the pail,
mixed plaster with stiff cold hands

and for a few dim hours he peered
at the stone wall he had chosen

to bear his last images --
paint, stone, plaster, a coil of string,

a broken wheel, an empty can, a branch,
and from above, a column of light.


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or translated in any form by any means, except for brief passages quoted by a reviewer, without written permission of the publisher.

The author thanks the Canada Council for support in writing this book.

The publisher thanks the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for financial assistance in producing this book.

Some of these poems have appeared in event, Canadian Forum, Anthos, and Noovo Masheen, and have been broadcast on CBC's Anthology, CHEZ-FM, and CKCU-FM. "Anna Bloom." "W," "Ursonate," and "Critics" are adaptations of works by Kurt Schwitters, published by permission of Ernst Schwitters and DuMont Buchverlag. Epigraphs to some poems are from Hans Richter's Dada: Art and Anti-Art (copyright Harry N. Abrams, Inc.) and Kate Steinitz' Kurt Schwitters: A Portrait from Life (copyright University of California Press); reprinted by permission.

The cover illustration, Merzbild Rossfett, as well as (Drucksache), Das Kotsbild, (Mai 191), Siegbild, and Counterfoil, are by Kurt Schwitters; reprinted by permission of Ernst Schwitters and Cosmo Press. In the Footsteps of Kurt Schwitters is by Colin Morton.

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data

Morton, Colin, 1948-
The Merzbook: Kurt Schwitters poems
ISBN O-919627-46-3

1. Schwitters, Kurt, 1887-1948, in fiction.
drama, poetry, etc. I. Title

PS8576.o746M47 1987 C811'.54 - c87- 090033-l
PR9199.3.M67M47 1987

Designed by ECW Production Services, Oakville, Ontario. Typeset by Walford & Foy, Calgary, Alberta. Printed and bound by Hignell Printing Limited, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Published by Quarry Press, Inc., Box 1061, Kingstoll, Ontario
K7L 4Y5

[text from back cover:]

The Merzbook: Kurt Schwitters Poems is an innovative, narrative poem loosely based on the life and art of the renowned modern German collage artist, Kurt Schwitters. Selections from The Merzbook won 3rd prize in the CBC Literary Competition.

Colin Morton lives in Ottawa, where he is a member of the performance poetry group First Draft and publisher of Ouroboros Press. For his previous book, This Won't Last Forever, he won the Archibald Lampman Poetry Award. The Merzbook is his third book of poetry.

Colin Morton's "achievements ... are considerable and multi-faceted."
- Tom Wayman

"Innovation is what Colin Morton is all about. He has never been afraid to experiment and take risks.
- Lorna Crozier

Colin Morton's poetry "offers convincing proof that the experiments of modernism and postmodernism can still yield fascinating results."
- Douglas Barbour
Back to the CAPA homepage