Paris Between the Wars – “T” is for Tristan Tzara

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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Tristan Tzara, by Robert Delaunay

Tristan Tzara, by Robert Delaunay

Born Samuel Rosenstock in Romania, Tristan Tzara was an avant-garde playwright, poet, essayist, performance artist, journalist, art director, composer, film director. He is best known for being one of the central figures of the Dada movement, formed during WWI in Zurich in negative reaction to the horrors of war.

He moved to Paris in 1919 and joined the staff of Littérature magazine, bringing a skill in managing events and audiences, which transformed literary gatherings into public performances that generated enormous publicity. As the cohesiveness of the Dada movement in Paris was disintegrating, Tzara published Le coeur à barbe (The Bearded Heart).

From 1930 to 1935, Tzara contributed to the definition of surrealist activities and ideology. He was also an active communist sympathizer and was a member of the Resistance during the German occupation of Paris.

To Make a Dadaist Poem, by Tristan Tzara

Take a newspaper.

Take some scissors.

Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.

Cut out the article.

Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.

Shake gently.

Next take out each cutting one after the other.

Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.

The poem will resemble you.

And there you are – an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.




This makes me think of my great grandmother’s clippings book. She wasn’t creating, but she saved what struck her by cutting it out and pasting it into an old 1880’s Almanac. I’ve thought of making making a book of her book, but the copyright issues for all those poems and quotes daunts me.

I’d never heard of him either, but I love his ‘To make a Dadaist poem’. The last few lines are nice.

I love the “poem generating machine” he describes. I’m not sure how to do it with the digital online version of the paper I read. I may have to “kick it old school” and go buy the paper analog version!

Before reading your blog, I didn’t know much about Tzara at all! I’ve been to Paris but didn’t have a lot of history behind me, before I went. I’m glad I found you through the A to Z Challenge. Keep up the good work! Just one week to go.

I remember seeing a play about him – maybe by Tom Stoppard – a very long time ago (70s?) since when I had forgotten his name till now. Thank you!

I have heard of him, big name in the Dada movement. Influenced the Romanian big names of today, like Catarescu. Great post, Martha. A man of charming sensibility indeed.

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