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Poet, painter, self-described funny guy, idiot, failure, pickpocket, and anti-artist par excellence, Francis Picabia was a defining figure in the Dada movement; indeed, Andre Breton called Picabia one of the only "true" Dadas. Yet very little of Picabia's poetry and prose has been translated into English, and his literary experiments have never been the subject of close Poet, painter, self-described funny guy, idiot, failure, pickpocket, and anti-artist par excellence, Francis Picabia was a defining figure in the Dada movement; indeed, Andre Breton called Picabia one of the only "true" Dadas. Yet very little of Picabia's poetry and prose has been translated into English, and his literary experiments have never been the subject of close critical study. I Am a Beautiful Monster is the first definitive edition in English of Picabia's writings, gathering a sizable array of Picabia's poetry and prose and, most importantly, providing a critical context for it with an extensive introduction and detailed notes by the translator. Picabia's poetry and prose is belligerent, abstract, polemical, radical, and sometimes simply baffling. For too long, Picabia's writings have been presented as raw events, rule-breaking manifestations of inspirational carpe diem. This book reveals them to be something entirely different: maddening in their resistance to meaning, full of outrageous posturing, and hiding a frail, confused, and fitful personality behind egoistic bravura. I Am a Beautiful Monster provides the texts of of Picabia's significant publications, all presented complete, many of them accompanied by their original illustrations.


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Poet, painter, self-described funny guy, idiot, failure, pickpocket, and anti-artist par excellence, Francis Picabia was a defining figure in the Dada movement; indeed, Andre Breton called Picabia one of the only "true" Dadas. Yet very little of Picabia's poetry and prose has been translated into English, and his literary experiments have never been the subject of close Poet, painter, self-described funny guy, idiot, failure, pickpocket, and anti-artist par excellence, Francis Picabia was a defining figure in the Dada movement; indeed, Andre Breton called Picabia one of the only "true" Dadas. Yet very little of Picabia's poetry and prose has been translated into English, and his literary experiments have never been the subject of close critical study. I Am a Beautiful Monster is the first definitive edition in English of Picabia's writings, gathering a sizable array of Picabia's poetry and prose and, most importantly, providing a critical context for it with an extensive introduction and detailed notes by the translator. Picabia's poetry and prose is belligerent, abstract, polemical, radical, and sometimes simply baffling. For too long, Picabia's writings have been presented as raw events, rule-breaking manifestations of inspirational carpe diem. This book reveals them to be something entirely different: maddening in their resistance to meaning, full of outrageous posturing, and hiding a frail, confused, and fitful personality behind egoistic bravura. I Am a Beautiful Monster provides the texts of of Picabia's significant publications, all presented complete, many of them accompanied by their original illustrations.

30 review for I Am a Beautiful Monster: Poetry, Prose, and Provocation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eddie Watkins

    Upon reading the introduction, and feeling linguistically lazy at the moment, I conclude that Picabia was an asshole. But the poems I've read are fantastic. Note to would-be poets - don't let being an asshole stop you.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Walter

    Francis managed to stay insane for decades. That takes skill. And: “Life doesn’t like magnifying glasses—that’s why it holds up its hand to me” That toss away line from a catalogue included in this wonderful book of prose, poetry and drama, sums up Picabia’s focus, and distance from, art, poetry, and life itself, and in that contradiction is the man that you can almost find in this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Barry

    For my review, see http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071105/schwabsky.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    Francis Picabia = painter, poet, collagist, singer, accuser, "funny guy, idiot, failure, pickpocket," intellectual revolutionary, actual genius; someone I adore and truly admire. The only collection of his that I'm aware of, beautifully curated and containing almost nothing not valuable. Worth owning. "Singing, sculpting, writing, painting, no! My only goal is a silkier life and an end to my lying, to be the crowd that believes in its actions, that is to say, do evil, a genital emotion and Francis Picabia = painter, poet, collagist, singer, accuser, "funny guy, idiot, failure, pickpocket," intellectual revolutionary, actual genius; someone I adore and truly admire. The only collection of his that I'm aware of, beautifully curated and containing almost nothing not valuable. Worth owning. "Singing, sculpting, writing, painting, no! My only goal is a silkier life and an end to my lying, to be the crowd that believes in its actions, that is to say, do evil, a genital emotion and catastrophe, philters and surgeries, odors and orthography, enthusiasms and caressing, to wear out furniture, contact with reality, real, great, and handsome profit, the word of the definition is absolute ALI BABA..."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lance Grabmiller

    Completely flabbergasted, in the best possible way. I have primarily viewed Dada as the connective tissue between Symbolism and Surrealism (two of my main interests) but this (to extend the impoverished metaphor) adds much more meat to those bones. Dada is a difficult proposition and produced little in the way of literature. What literature it did produce seemed to be either formalist exercises and/or provocation (and much of it was meant to be nothing more) but this adds an entirely new Completely flabbergasted, in the best possible way. I have primarily viewed Dada as the connective tissue between Symbolism and Surrealism (two of my main interests) but this (to extend the impoverished metaphor) adds much more meat to those bones. Dada is a difficult proposition and produced little in the way of literature. What literature it did produce seemed to be either formalist exercises and/or provocation (and much of it was meant to be nothing more) but this adds an entirely new dimension to my library. The introduction and notes by Marc Lowenthal are a treasure if information and insight. I will be returning to this book often in my life.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Bourne

    What a perfect object! Meticulous and complete, forty-some years from pen tip to bespeckled elderly pen tip, all collated and riddled with nerds-only biographical notes and cheese aphorisms! The cover doesn’t necessarily jazz me, but the layout inside is positively buttery; the extra-condensed, tall, stately letterforms, coupon-cut-out dashes, and considerate margins take you back to the nineteen-teens and twenties, sitting you squarely in Duchamp’s living room. Picabia is a coward, a fool, a What a perfect object! Meticulous and complete, forty-some years from pen tip to bespeckled elderly pen tip, all collated and riddled with nerds-only biographical notes and cheese aphorisms! The cover doesn’t necessarily jazz me, but the layout inside is positively buttery; the extra-condensed, tall, stately letterforms, coupon-cut-out dashes, and considerate margins take you back to the nineteen-teens and twenties, sitting you squarely in Duchamp’s living room. Picabia is a coward, a fool, a thief, an idiot, and admits wholesale to all of these estimations and worse. His paintings don’t juice me at all, but the poetry is risky and exploratory, anything but conservative, and he keeps the pedal to the metal right up until World War II. It’s striking just how contemporary the bulk of his stuff is; all of what these 2007 gonzo-bloggers and experimental-gradstudents and nerd-shock-baliffs put out was piping hot off of Picabia’s tap! How could we know? This shit just got printed in English for the first time two months ago. Have I mentioned sex? These poems aren’t erotic per se, but they are about sex, almost without exception. From my gleanings in the biographical notes, it seems that Francis was boning around as much as I daydream about boning around. This is all evident in the writing—his longing, often bodily, almost mechanical. I actually don’t find this terribly convincing, and the post-dada post-war poems attest to a sentimental, if not equally horny, reality. I’m especially interested in the prose morsel on page 252 wherein our narrator copulates nightly with the bottom half of a woman that sticks out from under a camping tent, while her upper half, snuggly retiring inside, calmly discusses inanities with her cuckold husband. Very cinemax, no?! I could go on and on about this book, about how the Dadas lashed out at eachother in what we would today call ‘zines, about purring poetry that can go on forever like a brook and just as inscrutably, but I haven’t eaten lunch.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Buddle

    Poems like nothing I've read before. The word "provocation" in the title is probably the best summation, as if Picabia is daring you to call him on his con. These aren't poems! Or, are they? What makes a poem? Shut up, you! Heaps of broken images, unattributed Nietzsche quotations, jokes, gags, manifestos. If Dada sprung out WWI to mock the absurdity of human endeavor, Picabia seems to be the right man for the job. Picabia claimed not to be a reader and despite his obvious dedication to a Poems like nothing I've read before. The word "provocation" in the title is probably the best summation, as if Picabia is daring you to call him on his con. These aren't poems! Or, are they? What makes a poem? Shut up, you! Heaps of broken images, unattributed Nietzsche quotations, jokes, gags, manifestos. If Dada sprung out WWI to mock the absurdity of human endeavor, Picabia seems to be the right man for the job. Picabia claimed not to be a reader and despite his obvious dedication to a certain German philosopher, maybe that's what frees these poems from convention, a complete disregard (and/or ignorance) of the poetic restrictions of his time. I can see the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets sprouting from Picabia, or conceptual poets who don't care as much for meaning as the do for mechanics, construction, the beauty of words. I guess you could say that Picabia's predecessor was Stéphane Mallarmé, who shattered the lines of poetry and saw the printed page as a field in which to play with language. Though most of his lines are more orderly than Mallarmé, Picabia is most definitely playing here, he's having a laugh. And if you're not laughing with him, the joke is probably on you.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stop

    Read the STOP SMILING review of I Am A Beautiful Monster (along with Vladimir Mayakovsky's Night Wraps the Sky). ...Another of modernism’s great egoists made a comeback late last year in an exhaustive edition, handsomely designed. Francis Picabia was the self proclaimed “genius, idiot, funny guy” — add to that autodidact, reactionary, nihilist — of French Dadaism. As a painter, he considered himself a rival to Picasso, and when he couldn’t paint, he wrote poems, aphorisms, manifestos and Read the STOP SMILING review of I Am A Beautiful Monster (along with Vladimir Mayakovsky's Night Wraps the Sky). ...Another of modernism’s great egoists made a comeback late last year in an exhaustive edition, handsomely designed. Francis Picabia was the self proclaimed “genius, idiot, funny guy” — add to that autodidact, reactionary, nihilist — of French Dadaism. As a painter, he considered himself a rival to Picasso, and when he couldn’t paint, he wrote poems, aphorisms, manifestos and diatribes, all collected in I Am A Beautiful Monster. Picabia, who flourished in the first three decades of the 20th century, seemed to demand from his contemporaries the respect of a 19th century bourgeois painter of the Ernest Messonier type (with all the roast beef that implies), all the while presenting a public face more or less like Popeye. “My head swells / enough to drive one mad,” he wrote. That swollen head of his got him in trouble with his contemporaries every step of the way. Read the review...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

    These poems of Picabia's are a real revelation, and long overdue in these incredible translations. He was a hidden genius there among the louder Surrealists. A kind of outsider's outsider... but prolific and creatively searching and active it seems all his life... Great poems, and I say, "God bless 'im"! Whynot! (my new catchphrase, sorry...)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nish

    Indeed, Picabia was probably an asshole. He plagiarizes much from Nietzsche, writes silly egotistical poems, and is ultimately a coward. A hack of the highest order.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Essential

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hamham

    I wanna read this book, because so beautiful

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tim Minor

    Amazing. Delicious. Conflated. Did I say amazing?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marcus

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shastin Grace

  16. 4 out of 5

    Osborn Meagher

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tráese

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fatih Yapar

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  20. 4 out of 5

    James Cook

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tom Barrett

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rose Linke

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jay

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kreh

    lovely dada's: francis picabia

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rama

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pierre Joris

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gorantitol

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Saw this at The Whitney in NYC.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ossian Ekman

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