Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews

Saturday, December 31, 2011 § 0

Joan Miró: The Personal Mytho(poetics) of a Surrealist Painter whose Poem/Paintings 
Abstract the Human Form into Metaphor

A Book Review by 
David Detrich

Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews (1992) edited by Margit Rowell is a collection of essays, interviews, and poetic writings by one of the most imaginative artists of the 20th Century with poetry that develops the literary themes and personal mythology of his artwork. Joan Miró followed the Surrealist movement from his days in Montroig creating an intuitive approach to the Surrealist object with conceptual sketches, pencil drawings, oil and mixed media paintings, and tableaux-poèmes. He was influenced by ancient history in his drawing of small metaphorical creatures, abstract animals, fanciful astronomical constellations, with appreciation for eroticism, and love for the human form. Joan Miró made numerous pencil drawings and oil paintings which express a Surrealist sense of humor in the abstraction of the human figure, and the childlike forms of a simplistic perspective. Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews shows that Joan Miró followed the literary trend of Pablo Picasso, Jean Arp, and other artists who were inspired by The Diary of Anaïs Nin (1931-66), which was an outstanding example of creativity in the middle decades of 20th Century literature. Joan Miró developed poetic writing in his diaries which are expressed as literary titles and concrete images which enhance his drawings, sculpture, and paintings with the thoughtful intertextuality that makes his Surrealist works interesting to the 21st Century reader.

In 1917 an exhibition of modernist paintings in Barcelona introduced Joan Miró to the work of his contemporaries, and his early pencil drawings show the influence of the Cubists. At the Dalmau galleries Joan Miró learned of the avant garde painters and writers of his time.

Here Miró saw his first French Cubist paintings and encountered Dada, which he would always say was a major influence in his life, representing a kind of freedom he had not imagined possible before.
                                                          Joan Miró: Selected 
                                                          Writings and Interviews
                                                          Margit Rowell

Joan Miró was inspired by poetic phrases which he used in his Tableaux-Poèmes (Poem-Paintings) 1924-27, constructing a painting around the poetic phrase that he wished to express. Here he developed his personal mythology into poetic thought in the Surrealist genre of poetry/paintings.

                 Stars in the form of Snails' Genitals
                 Photo: This is the Color of my Dreams
                 The body of my dark-haired woman
                 because I love her
                 like my pussycat dressed in salad-green
                 like hail
                 it's all the same
                 Oh, one of those gentlemen who did all that!
                                                         Poem-Painting 1924        
                                                         Joan Miró
The poetic writings of Joan Miró reveal an original approach to the Surrealist text and poem with his development of a complex Surrealist object, and the use of metaphor that takes the meaning of the sentence to its limits: where the surreality of logic verging on non-sense occurs, which creates a sense of the marvelous, the childlike, and the magical. In his Notebook of Poems 1936-39 Joan Miró has developed the erotic themes which make up a lifetime of experience into a poetic work which develops the Surrealist esthetic of characterization.

                     rose petal salad...
                     rosy pink yoghurt
                     ...a frog 
                     sits down beside the conductor.
                     A beggar picks up
                     blue coins from the sidewalk
                     and a naked dancer with red hair
                     runs after violet fish
                     in the deep blue Seine.
                     That, my good man, is life.
                                                          Paris, 26-XI-36
                                                          Joan Miró

Joan Miró has an enlightened attitude towards life, and his poetic work is a philosophical interpretation of the themes which create an inter(text)uality with the present. The narrator feels a sense of envy as he reads about the erotic experiences which create the psychogenesis of a young person's creative identity: a summarizing of life. This is an idea that Arshile Gorky developed in his erotic painting Summation 1947, where life is a summation of romantic experience.

In Paris Pablo Picasso was writing his poetic works in the 1930s following the example of Anaïs Nin, whose The Diary of Anaïs Nin (1931-66) and Cities of the Interior (1959) were significant events in the development of 20th Century literature. Joan Miró joined the trend with his Notebook of Poems 1936-39, a series of poetic works which show an original approach to Surrealist writing.

The flaming tree of the peacock's tail that bites the snouts of bats smiling before the charred corpse of my grandmother who was buried by a dance of transparent glass nightingales with rocket wings who dance the sardana around the phosphorescent carcass while pecking with the gold of their pincers the metal seeds of silver cypresses rushing down in waterfalls from the grandmother's big toe.
     soaring flame of passionate love spiral whirling towards the ether of the inaccessible ideal tragedy of man.
                                                            Joan Miró

Joan Miró is writing in a style similar to Pablo Picasso, Jean Arp, and other artists who followed the trend of poetic writing in the 1930s, while developing the themes of death, the idea of a carcass, and the idea of a waterfall, which we see in the works of Raymond Federman and my own Surrealist novel-in-progress The Convergence of Two Narrative Lines Ascending. Joan Miró is teaching contemporary writers not to feel too disturbed by the idea of death, and to consider the metaphysical significance of life.

The style of Miró's poetry echoes Surrealist poetry at its best, in particular that of Benjamin Péret and Robert Desnos, the two poets to whom Miró felt closest and who reciprocally had immediately understood his paintings of the 1920s.
                                                          Notebook of Poems, 
                                                          Margit Rowell

In an interview with Georges Duthuit for Cahiers d'Art 1937, Joan Miró expresses his esthetic theory of the poem/painting, an idea which has produced the long intellectual poetic titles to his paintings which exemplify the Surrealist trend of the marvelous.

I'd trade in a thousand literati for one poet! And I make no distinction between painting and poetry. I have sometimes illustrated my canvasses with poetic phrases, and vice versa. The Chinese, those great lords of the spirit—isn't that what they did?
                                                          "Where are You 
                                                           Going, Miró?"
                                                           Georges Duthuit

Joan Miró: Selected Writings and Interviews (1992) edited by Margit Rowell is a collection of letters, poems, and interviews that reveal a creative approach to Surrealist writing by Joan Miró, an artist who took the themes of inter(text)uality seriously, even calling himself by the female first name Joan, a concept that originated with Rrose Selavy, the alter-ego of Marcel Duchamp, where an artist creates an imaginary identity that may cross the lines of gender, so that he, or she, can explore the idea of trans-sexual role playing.  

What fascinates the readers of innovative fiction are the contributions of Joan Miró to the genre of Surrealist writing, with the assemblage of ideas into a composite Surrealist object with the use of dashes, and the long titles to his paintings, where the poetic thought expresses the conceptual theories that accompany the artwork. 

Finally if one wishes to continue the study of Joan Miró's poetic writing there is Joan Miro: Catalan Notebooks : Unpublished Drawings and Writings (1977) by Gaetan Picon, where the personal mythology and abstract images of the artist/poet are developed into Surrealist artwork by one of the most intelligent, original, and prolific artists of the 20th Century.

David Detrich lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he has just completed The Convergence of Two Narrative Lines Ascending, an ultramodern Surrealist novel written in minimal squares. This year he is working on Dream the Presence of the Circular Breast Starfish Topography, a monumental Surrealist novel written with innovative typographical design. His first novel Big Sur Marvels & Wondrous Delights (2001) is available from Amazon. He is the editor of Innovative Fiction Magazine and Surrealist Star Clustered Illuminations.

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