The Burial of the Count of Orgaz by Pablo Picasso

Monday, June 6, 2011 § 0

Pablo Picasso's Unpunctuated Poetic Prose: The Syntactical Inter(text)uality of the Painter/Poet 

A Review by David Detrich

The Burial of the Count of Orgaz & other poems (2004) by Pablo Picasso is a translation into English of Picasso's poetic works, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris, with an afterword by Michel Leiris. This translation reveals the brilliant far reaching metaphor that defines the esthetic reach of Pablo Picasso as an artistic mind, with the literary visualization of images enlivened by verbal syntax in an unpunctuated style that adds further complexity and richness to a continuous text.

For the past five years, poets Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris have overseen a project to translate the majority of this writing into English for the first time. Working from Picasso’s original Spanish and French (he wrote in both languages), they enlisted the help of over a dozen contemporary poets in order to mark, as they note in their introduction, “Picasso’s entry into our own time.”
                                                                    Exact Change:
                                     Classics of Experimental Literature

The Burial of the Count of Orgaz & other poems exemplifies the decade of the 1930s, when Surrealism had become an international trend with a simple and classical style, and the early Cubism of Picasso had evolved into a more sophisticated poetics of language as an avant garde artform. Pablo Picasso conveys the vision of an oil painter and sculptor working with the concrete images which make up the daily inter(text)uality of the collective art consciousness.

nor the most distant memory that hammers around the cage and makes the goldfinch tell its troubles typewritten so wet and drenched on the moss of the piece of the old cobalt blue rag spoils the tale and drinks a shot of light to everyone's health
                                        The Burial of the Count of Orgaz
                                                                  & other poems
                                                                   Pablo Picasso

The most distant memories of Pablo Picasso inspire his poetic writings, and journal writing is a way of telling one's "troubles typewritten." The Burial of the Count of Orgaz & other poems is an artist's journal with each date written above the poetic unpunctuated prose. Anaïs Nin wrote extensive journals during the years 1931-1934, and Pablo Picasso may have been inspired to develop the journal as a way of expressing in language the ideas that enlivened his art.

love is a nettle we have to mow down each instant if we want to have a snooze stretched out in its shadow
                                        The Burial of the Count of Orgaz
                                                                  & other poems
                                                                   Pablo Picasso

This portrait of a black cat has the simplicity and elegance that defines the pencil drawings of Pablo Picasso, with the conceptual metaphor of a black cat stretched out in the "shadow" of love.

Ophelia goes searching at the bottom for a piece of paper and a pencil to start gradually doing her overdue accounts of the list of the stockings of the shirts and pants and the handkerchiefs soaked in the sound of the flower torn from the flute of the inner blue that covers the window
                                           The Burial of the Count of Orgaz
                                                                     & other poems
                                                                      Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso creates a narrative line which converges on the present moment of writing, where the novelist is writing his "window tale," or as Pablo Picasso puts it his "horse history," and with an allusion to Ophelia, a character from the play Hamlet by Shakespeare, Pablo Picasso portrays a still life of sorting laundry and calculating accounts. The journal parallels the novelist of inovative fiction, and creates a plot line which runs parallel to the curved lines of the waterfall with red hair.

A kind of psalmody in which the impossible is often signified, in which only the clusters of vocables count, brought into play and calling to each other, occasionally to the point of attack.
                                                                     Afterword
                                                                     Michel Leiris

Each reader may perceive an individual interpretation of the writings of Pablo Picasso, and Michel Leiris has defined the unpunctuated prose of Pablo Picasso as "a kind of psalmody," with the true spirit of post Cubist writing where what is signified is often "clusters of vocables," an abstraction which exists as an assemblage of significations true to the esthetic theory of metamorphosis.

Sometimes as in new versions the same thread of text is taken up several times, creating from one version to the next a new combination of elements in new order...
                                                                   Afterword
                                                                   Michel Leiris

Michel Leiris is the author of Aurora (1927-1928), a Surrealist novel which is written as an intricate series of metaphors which trace a subtle line of reasoning similar to the polysemantic verbiage of Pablo Picasso, where objects interact with gestural strokes similar to that of a paint brush.

the tempest which with its wing prolongs her caressing martyrdom aurora borealis evening-dress of electric wires and throws her in my glass full swing sounding her heart to pick the branch of coral fastened to the mirror that holds its breath
                                       The Burial of the Count of Orgaz
                                                                 & other poems
                                                                  Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso foreshadows the future with the "tempest," and his narrative line is a tangent to the "aurora borealis" of Michel Leiris, or to the waterfall with red hair, a futuristic style which becomes the wired fashions of "evening-dress," creating a multiplicity of nuances and richness of meaning that make this a masterwork of the 20th Century avant garde text.

The translation of Pablo Picasso's writings as The Burial of the Count of Orgaz & other poems is a momentous event for those who are interested in innovative writing at its best, and with Pablo Picasso we see objects evolving from ideas, transforming into subtle gestures of the brush, lines which imply a significant object emerging in a verbal gesture of life energies. This animation of conceptual play is what brings magic to 20th Century art, and the innovative writing of Pablo Picasso is among the finest expressions of unpunctuated prose that have evolved from the literary avant garde.

David Detrich lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he edits Surrealist Star Clustered Illuminations, and Innovative Fiction Magazine. He has written two novels Big Sur Marvels & Wondrous Delights (2001), and The Convergence of Two Narrative Lines Ascending (2013), an ultramodern Surrealist novel/essay/artbook written in minimal squares with variations in typefont exemplifying the trend in innovative typographic design.

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